So today is the day that the UK public will finally vote on whether to leave the European Union. By some time on Friday we will know whether we have voted to ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’. Being the recipient of a postal vote, I have already submitted my ballot paper and so I won’t be off to the local church to use the tradition stubby pencil to mark my ballot paper.
The debate has been long – what will the news be covering now I wonder – passionate, nasty and generally loud. Names have been called, accusations made but also friends made over their traditional political difference. Whether any of this can be undone will remain to be seen. The ruling Conservative party has always been split on the issue of Europe, and this vote was granted by the Prime Minister as a way of holding his party together during the last General Election campaign. Whether the Tory party would be better split in to two halves, time will tell.
In the meantime, I know that readers are likely to be on both sides of the debate and so may disagree with my personal ‘Remain’ decision.
There I said it, in public, and I feel better for it. Good friends don’t agree and they will vote their own way when it comes to it at some point today.
Personally, I am a bit of an idealist – someone who thinks that we have more in common with Germany or France than with much of the rest of the world. At a time when we look back at the two World Wars, honouring those that served and died, we forgot that they fought not just for their own country, but for a vision of Europe living in peace.
Practically, much of my civil rights and equal treatment rights have not come from various UK Governments, but rather from Europe, either the EU or the European Court of Human Rights. I personally would not trust this current Government to protect me if we were to leave the EU. The constant complaints about regulations – and yes there are some things I wouldn’t do if I were in charge at the EU – but there are some jolly good protections in the areas of Health and Safety, employment rights, and Data Protection. I know that big business doesn’t like these – why would they want anyone to redress the balance of power in the employee/employer relationship. We are promised a UK Bill of Rights, the contents of which are still unknown, and which could contain no guarantees for any minority.
In truth, it will be the simple things we will regret. Longer queues at the non-EU line at airports in Europe, the possibility of needing visas before being able to pop across the channel to France, or Germany or Holland, where we have taken it for granted that we could just turn up at the airport and travel. I like being protected if the airline cancels my flight or downgrades me – all through EU legislation.
My current passport expires in 2018 and I wonder whether its replacement will be a UK or EU one?
Whatever the outcome, the vote appears to be close. We know that at the last general election people misled pollsters about their voting intentions as they were embarrassed to say they were voting Conservative. That could be the case here too. The geographic split within the UK will be interesting and could well lead to a call for a further referendum in Scotland to leave the UK. The age split will also be telling – older, rich, pensioners are voting to leave we are told. Young people, wanting the chance to work in Europe, are voting to Remain. What will happen to the million UK nationals living in the sun in Spain? Their government has already indicated that they will lose their right to work.
There are huge questions to be answered over the two years it will take us to leave and I no one knows the consequences. One side saying it will be awful, and the other that it will be like the glory days of the 1950’s. (Glorious only for some, of course, not so good for women, minorities or gay people). I am sure that the pound will collapse against both the dollar and the Euro next week if we vote to leave – and it is likely that in the short term the UK poor will get poorer and the rich will be richer.
Whichever version of the future you prefer, please go out and vote. I am glad I will be able to say that I did when asked in the years to come.