- the EU is cool,
- the EU is broken, but we're better off fixing it from the inside,
- the EU is broken, so we're better off getting out.
Either of the last two options is reasonable, people could quite justifiably have voted In or Out, so I'm not going to bash people whichever way they voted. In that respect it is very much like a personal relationship with problems - some couples choose to try and make a go of it, other couples go their separate ways. It's impossible for a bystander to say that one course is correct, and the other wrong. Furthermore, as I was growing up, the EU (or the European Economic Community, as it was then) quite happily split all the main parties down the middle. Tony Benn, on the left, and Enoch Powell, on the right, quite happily campaigned for a No vote in the 1975 referendum.
Other Labour stalwarts such as Michael Foot also came out against. These were honourable men, so it is particularly disappointing to hear the Labour Party of today, and its supporters, talk as if every Brexit supporter is a mindless racist.
My own view of Europe is more aligned to Tony Benn's, so I supported Brexit. I won't go into his whys and wherefores, because they're probably on YouTube, but broadly, he was against on the grounds of democracy. I'm not sure whether he also talked about the sovereignty issue, although I can imagine a UK Member of Parliament might. I must admit I have no preference whether I'm governed from London or from Brussels, as long as I'm governed by someone who was elected democratically. And I don't see a lot of difference between the UK and the EU in that respect. I live in a very safe Tory constituency, but don't vote Tory myself, so I have no voice in the UK parliament. I see leaving the EU as a start-point toward all-round reform, not an endgame in itself. In fact, I believe (you might have guessed) that the single most important issue that we face is electoral reform, even Brexit is on a lower level from that. But I was asked for my opinion specifically on the EU, so I gave it.
So let's think it through. Democracy is important to me, but things like immigration aren't, in fact I very much like being in a diverse community. Also, the standards enforced by the EU, for the most part, protect things (and people). So if I look, say, at the Irish border question, I can see that there is a border there already for many things, a line where if you step one foot either side, different rules apply. Today. Things like laws, taxes, currency. The two big exceptions post-Brexit will be goods and people. Neither of which bothers me. If anything, I can see a relaxation of standards more likely to come from the UK rather than from the EU, so Ireland should probably be wary of dodgy British imports. For people who do consider immigration an issue, then I foresee a problem. How do you keep people out without a hard border? Possibly, you let people in, but you restrict services such as health care and social security, just on the grounds that economic migrants might be more likely to seek help from the state? You can place restrictions on employment, say. Although much of this exists already, but in a half-baked form. To do this properly, you need to check people's identities, so you're possibly talking about Identity Cards once again. What a banana skin that was for New Labour, only ten years ago! Plus, of course, you still have all these people running around the countryside so, if it is merely their presence to which people object, the problem still exists. And simply "wishing" for there to be no border, as I'm hearing from the Brexit negotiators, is not enough, not if Brexit was driven mainly by immigration, as we're told. But there again, I don't see that war is a foregone conclusion either. A resumption of the Troubles is only one possible outcome, of many. I think the Good Friday Agreement is something of a fudge, but the numbers who voted for it showed clearly to me that both Irish and Northern Irish people were fed up with war. So I think it was a relatively small number of people who were responsible for all the violence. But then, that is usually the case, in any conflict. And there are still conflicts.
Anyway, I want to wrap this up as we're getting a bit long. I just wanted to quickly add a couple more things - first, that because of Brexit, I allowed my membership of the Green Party to lapse. It may well be that I vote for them in future elections (they still want electoral reform, which was their main attraction to me in the first place), but I wasn't comfortable staying a member. As I've already said, I see nothing wrong with people holding a view either for or against, and a party should accommodate this. But the Greens are overtly pro-EU, and every time they say this, it makes me uncomfortable. There are honourable reasons for supporting Brexit, plus of course one could easily ask why the Greens (or anybody who is pro-EU) aren't crying out about reforming the EU so as to make it more democratic.
Very lastly, I just wanted to deal with a couple of issues very quickly. For me, economics comes a firm second to democracy - I think you sort your foundations first, then worry about the rest of thehouse. So economic arguments don't sway me. And, I think I made my mind up about the EU in about 1990 (Maastricht), so to now claim that the result was null and void because of overspending, or dodgy Facebook campaigns, in 2016 is not something I take seriously. I wouldn't particularly mind another referendum (although my mind hasn't changed on the basic question - I haven't heard a peep from the EU about how it improves itself for the people of Europe, even since the referendum), as long as its purpose wasn't just to overturn the result of the first. That basically says that there's no point in ever having a referendum again, because we'd just have another to overturn the result, so why bother at all? Just keep the status quo and spend the money on something else! Certainly, no point taking part in one - a waste of energy. So I think any referendum should ask a different question. Indeed, it seems quite sensible for people to make a decision based upon the terms of the deal - but this I see this as a three-way question: to accept the deal, to reject the deal and to leave, and to reject the deal and to stay. Of course, it could be argued that we have already decided the leave/stay aspect.
I mean, if I learn anything from this whole process, it's that issues are often quite complicated, far too complicated to be settled by a simple Yes/No question.