James Pearce is UK Feature Editor at The Critique. He is a PhD student at the University of Hull studying Political Theory. He is specialising in theories of citizenship and civic participation.
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However you choose to vote in the EU referendum on June 23rd, consider the UK’s future and the prosperity of the next generation. Avoid emotive arguments that manipulate your fear and uncertainty. Instead base your decision in reason and humility.
What this article does not intend to achieve
As was discussed by Phil Mayne in his article ‘Fear, Confusion, Frustration: Being an EU Referendum Voter’, this referendum campaign has been blighted by fearmongering and scare-tactics. In some ways the campaign has been defined in these terms, each side prophesying more and more catastrophic outcomes. The referendum campaign has also encouraged many people to look backwards and has led to some emotive pleas with the public to remove their rose-tinted glasses. This article does not aim to criticise either side of the referendum campaign (that ground has been well trodden). Nor does it aim to patronise the public into voting one way or the other. I merely intend it to be an honest request that, when you stand in your polling booth, you turn your eyes to the future of this nation.
On the face of it this may seem a ridiculous request. Of course you’re looking to the future. You’re looking to the promise of economic success, political stability and wide-reaching national influence, whichever way you intend to vote. I have found in the run-up to this referendum that decided voters on both sides tend to be intensely passionate about their decisions, and steadfastly confident in their justifications. This kind of passionate political engagement is by no means a bad thing. In many ways it is what one would hope for in a referendum campaign. However, passion is useless in political decision making without a solid foundation in reason and consideration, especially when a decision is binding to future generations.
Looking to the future
We are repeatedly told that this vote is a once in a generation opportunity. This is absolutely true. Voters must recognise that once this decision has been made, there is no going back. This statement is not intended to scare the voter and shouldn’t be dismissed as fearmongering. It is political fact.
As I intend to be honest with the reader, I will make clear my voting intentions. I am voting to remain. I have a number of reasons for making this decision, and I truly believe it is the right thing for me to do. However, there are two main considerations that I found necessary to establishing my current voting intentions. In my opinion both of these are given greater weight by the finality of this referendum decision.
The UK is in an advantageous position within the EU. Firstly, we are located firmly outside (and will remain outside) the Eurozone. Furthermore, we are no longer obligated to assist Eurozone countries financially. Secondly, we are not part of the Schengen area and therefore maintain a degree of control over our borders. Thirdly, we receive a rebate on the money we send to the EU, and therefore do not contribute as much financially as other EU countries.
If we were to re-apply for membership of the EU at any stage after a leave vote on the 23rd, we could not expect this advantageous position to be restored. We are currently the 5th largest economy in the world, and the 2nd largest economy in the EU (by nominal GDP). Although this ranking is not solely down to EU membership, the close trade relations and the mutual benefits of EU membership have certainly contributed to it. Can we afford to gamble this position on an uncertain future outside the EU? This is the first consideration.
After voting to leave on June 23rd, where would we find ourselves in relation to our closest trading bloc? Let us quickly take a look at the relationship between Norway (non-EU state) and the EU. Norway, although not an EU member state, is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and is therefore subject to EU regulations with negligible influence over their implementation. In order to trade with the EU as a bloc, the UK would likely have to accept a similar arrangement. Despite being a non-EU state, Norway is still a member of the Schengen area and therefore must maintain free passage to EU citizens. Likewise, the UK may face a similar demand. Norway also makes considerable payments to the EU without the benefit of a rebate.
Can we really expect to jump straight into the saddle as a major player in international trade? Can we expect the EU to bow down to our demands in trade negotiations without insisting on compromise? This is the second consideration.
Impact on the Young
Whichever way you choose to vote, have the wellbeing of the next generation at the forefront of your mind. After all, you, the voting public, have their prosperity in your hands. Despite what both sides of the campaign say, and what you read in the print media, the world will not end whatever happens on June 23rd. However, your decision will have an impact, and it will bind the next generation for the foreseeable future. I humbly urge you to distance yourself from the toxic campaigns of fear and uncertainty, and come to your position through reason rather than emotion.