A quick straw poll down the pub last night revealed that at least two of my mates think that Britain should be less than an independent self-governing country and that they will therefore vote for Britain to remain in the EU (they didn’t quite phrase it like that). The conversation did not dwell on the topic and I did not say much—I find it difficult to talk about the EU with friends, for it very quickly becomes apparent that I know about 50 times more than anybody else and that tends to be the end of that—but I was both mildly impressed and disappointed in equal measure.
Impressed because one of my friends (one of the Remainers) ventured to say that, “The likelihood is nothing much would change” in the event of a leave vote. How he discerned that from the barrage of garbage from the Prime Minister and the “big leaves” is beyond me. Another friend (an undecided) then ventured that, “there will have to be a gradual transition”, which once again left me wondering where he has been getting his information because that is certainly not the message coming out of the legacy press. I didn’t ask but my gut tells me that, in both cases, this was just their latent common sense speaking. This did, however, give me the opportunity to say that, “Britain’s governance is far more integrated with the EU than most people understand; the EU institutions have a say in an enormous number of policy areas”.
Not exactly a killer point, but an important one nonetheless. I do not think that most people have any conception of the fact that, unlike every self-governing nation-state, Britain does not have an independent trade and industry policy, which means no right of reservation or veto at the global top tables like Codex, UNECE and the ILO, where industrial standards and labour participation rules are codified. Furthermore, Britain, host to more than 60 percent of “EU waters”, has to conform to a Common Fisheries Policy decided in Brussels, with input from countries that do not even border the sea. Finally, adherence to the Common Agricultural Policy means that food and land management strategies cannot be easily adapted to address local ecological and environmental needs in Britain, which are different enough in Scotland, Yorkshire, Somerset and East Anglia, without also having to devise one-size-fits-all measures for our rural counterparts in France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovakia.
What followed was less edifying. The Remainer followed up his “no change” comment by saying that, “They’re not going to just kick ’em all out, so some people are going to be upset no matter what”. The undecided concurred, “Yeah, I’m surprised that my dad, although he is a bit ‘old man racist’ is in favour of leaving, given that he spent so much of his career working in Belgium for a Belgian firm”. The other Remainer kept his own council, as did I, for the most part.
This is probably not a fair sample, but I think that these are interesting comments in as much as they scratch at the surface of the underlying irrationality of the Remainers’ position. For all of their claims to be desirous of facts and evidence, when offered (by me, at least), the response is to clam up and stop communicating. No. In the case of these young professionals, two with young families, the “remain” position is the one that flatters their vanity; it is the reasonable, pragmatic, sensible choice, opposed to the reactionary and racist choice.
That is at least as much a failure of the “leave” campaign and one that we need to do everything in our power to address as we enter the crucial stage in which those who have an open mind will be looking and wanting to be convinced by the evidence that we present. However, they will be reluctant to do so unless we can provide an emotional cushion that flatters their ego, too.