Archive for June, 2016

Cutting off our nose to spite our face

June 22, 2016

The EU referendum has been fought by two tribes of idealists. There’s Leave, who see Britain as a plucky outsider who needs to shake off the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels. There’s Remain, who see Britain as a lynchpin of international affairs and whose leadership within the EU is essential to make the world a better place.

They’re both valid viewpoints, but only a minority cares that much to hold one of them. I mean, the latter is the reason I’m voting In, but then I’m a nerd. The fact is most voters who haven’t made up their mind yet either sympathise with both positions or don’t care either way. They’re going to vote on practical grounds –asking themselves, will I benefit by leaving?

My gut says the majority of the UK will have something to lose and won’t want to risk leaving the EU. They have a job that could disappear, a mortgage that could become more expensive, or a pension pot that could take a battering.

But my head, after looking at polls, media coverage, social media etc, says that there are enough people with either no chance of losing what they have – gold-plated pensions, more than one house – or nothing to lose in the first place, to feel at ease in taking a risk.

It’s that second group, living in safe seats, who have got angrier at politicians after decades of failure to benefit from wider growth with no way to change things. This referendum is the first real outlet for their anger – an opportunity to cast a protest vote that will actually do something. The politicians leading the Leave campaign have long invited these voters to blame immigrants for their problems and, now we have this referendum, offered them some cheap soundbites about taking back control.

They’re going to be disappointed.

Whether or not a Leave victory causes an immediate recession, no one will really know how our relationship with Europe will look for years. Businesses will just stop investing until we figure that out. That means no new private sector jobs for all those disenfranchised voters toying with Leave.

On immigration, we’ll either retain freedom of movement, which will piss off much of Leave’s constituency, or we shut the borders and starve the UK of workers.

This is the thing about immigration. It’s good. Immigrants pay taxes, which helps fund the NHS, pensions and schools that most Leave-leaning voters rely on. As more indigenous Britons retire, then subsequently live for another thirty years, immigrants will become even more essential.

The reason for the widespread resentment is the failure of the UK government to build enough homes and fund the NHS and schools properly. With the supply of workers cut off, we won’t be able to build all the homes we need or staff our hospitals adequately. We’ll have fewer taxpayers supporting our ageing population, creating greater pressure on the public purse and our communities.

As Osborne’s mate Danny Finkelstein points out in the Times today, a government shut off from the Single Market will slash regulation in order to entice investment. That means making it easier to exploit workers and sell shitty merchandise. That’s the Race to the Bottom that Remain tentatively used as their catchphrase for, like, one night.

Who will Leave voters blame for their problems once our divorce is complete? What will be the next outlet for their anger? The Johnsons, the Goves and the Farages? Or their neighbours? I’d rather not find out.

Instead, we should stay, keep the economy on track and elect a government who will actually do something to ease the pressure on public services and the housing market. Funnily enough, there isn’t a single EU Directive that is stopping this.

Now, if that doesn’t convince you to vote Remain, then here’s another reason: we won’t be talking about Brexit in a few weeks’ time. If we vote Leave, we’ll hear that fucking word every day for a decade.

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