In a couple of weeks, Britain will decide whether to stay or leave the EU. You may have heard about it on the news.
After months of mathematical bickering, lame personal point-scoring and uncomfortable displays of xenophobia masqueraded as English patriotism, people will vote to determine Britain’s geopolitical and economic future, as well as the small matter of how the country is perceived around the world.
For the sake of egotism and party politics, David Cameron has put the country on the line by granting a referendum to a British people blatantly unfit to make a sound decision on the remarkably complex issue of Europe.
One of the campaign’s core talking points has been the constant and over the top self-admiration of British parliamentary democracy. It’s been the most popular argument from Brexiters, who argue EU bureaucracy is a danger to the British way of doing politics. And in fairness, it is a nice addition to the long list of bullshit politicians can safely rely on to collect cheap claps on Question Time (‘we want our country back‘, we’re looking at you).
In a country which in 2016 still has a monarch and a House of Lords, and where over 2m UKIP voters are represented by just a single MP, now is the time people supposedly get precious about sovereignty and control. Go figure.
BUT the very concept of referendum is contrary to the principle of parliamentary democracy the Brexit camp somehow managed to claim as its own. Referendums are populist and crude, in this case characterised by an idiotic stream of Nazi referencing and passport brandishing. They are arguably a real threat to the system many of us value. We can’t decide major issues like this. What next: should we bring back the death penalty? Come on.
This sort of thing is precisely why we have and need a parliament! I don’t mean to diss the British public, the problem is the same everywhere, as is the solution: however flawed, politicians exist because they have the time and experience to inform themselves, and engage in a way the public mostly cannot.
Here’s my point. It’s not really okay to say it, but it’s true: most people are dumb arses. And those who aren’t are busy, often too much so for politics. How many more times will people drop that line about how no one’s telling them the facts? (ermm hello, not true!) How many more times we will hear how ambiguous and dim both sides are?
Yes it’s true, politics are complicated and require a level of intellectual input and research beyond checking one’s Facebook timeline. That’s why we get the right to vote when we reach an age deemed mature enough to do this. It’s not simple, it’s complex.
But how can we ever again mock America for buying into Donald Trump’s comical demagoguery and simplistic rhetoric if we follow Nigel Farage’s lead in not believing 90% of experts – that’s how overwhelmingly ‘Stay’ political and economic observers are. Never trust an expert? What is this, fucking primary school? Brexiters admit they don’t know what the repercussions of leaving the EU would be, and how could they?
Yet they argue Britain would be better off out. That doesn’t even make sense. This isn’t a Saturday night casino trip after a few pints, it’s the future of our country. It matters, we can’t just down our drinks and roll the dice. Referendums should be managed very carefully as an ultimate resort, not handed out to decide essential decisions most people don’t comprehend.
I’ve been in this country for 8 years now. I’ve been educated here, it’s my culture: I too listen to the same 5 BBC Radio One songs on repeat, I love British history and would argue I speak English better than many too. I watch Eastenders for crying out loud – talk about trying to fit in. I even put aside my very French inclination to dislike the monarchy, although that’s mainly because of Kate Middleton. Jokes aside, this is my country too, and I really love it here.
Yet on June 23rd I like many, could become an outsider literally overnight. For what? This is not serious, nor right. This country is much better than this.
A ‘Leave’ vote won’t mean a severing of all ties with Europe. But to think it will be without consequences is not just stupid. It’s also ignoring all the great things union secures us, from workers’ protection legislation to tight food quality standards, free trade agreements (which by the way are obviously more vital to our economy than vice versa), freedom of movement which helps create employment and cater needed support for an ageing population and a strong united front to tackle global challenges like climate change and terrorism.
And of course, there are implications for the UK itself, which would most likely break up as a result of Brexit. So I ask, for what? Pushing for such a profound societal change MUST come on the back of unequivocal evidence that the alternative way is better, not just a tempered and unassumed dislike for immigrants coupled with irrational scapegoating caused by years of frustrating Tory austerity. Where is this overwhelming evidence that 90% of experts allegedly ignore?
Finally, what message does this send to those of us non-British Europeans who love this country deeply, and do so much to help it prosper?
So let us learn from this, whatever the outcome. And let us never again put the economic and political future of our wonderful, tolerant nation in the hands of racist Karen from Little England. So we can keep on making fun of America, even if for nothing else.