Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Britain Should Remain in the European Union

If I was voting with just my head tomorrow, I would vote Remain.

It should be enough that the UK pound and financial markets have taken a battering on just the fear of leaving. It should be enough that so many major economic leaders and institutions advise us to stay. That in spite of the popular myth to the contrary, actual data shows that immigrants are net contributors to the benefits system, not net takers. That millions of British retirees in other European countries are likely to be victims of Brexit, as well as younger working-age people in Britain. That stories about freeloading European countries taking Britain's money and Britain getting nothing in return are so easily debunked. That surveys demonstrate that "average British beliefs" about how much of our tax money flows to and from the EU are utterly misinformed. That I and my children can live and work in so many places from Ireland to Greece, and that's not something we would risk lightly.

But the referendum has clearly not been about voting with our heads. We're voting with our hearts as well. Would I vote differently?

The Remain campaign has looked lacklustre. It doesn't get people whipped up or nearly so passionate. As a parent I understand that: it's hard to make "Don't risk hurting yourself just to prove your independence" an inspiring message. If you show a picture of what hurting yourself might look like, you're scaremongering. If you don't, you're just being a wimp. But if I can explain that to a child about jumping down the stairs in a pillowcase, it shouldn't be so hard to explain it to grownups voting about their political and economic future. Perhaps my heart isn't immediately excited about staying in the EU. But is excitement really the point?

By contrast, the Leave campaign has looked ugly. Pictures of how wicked foreigners are. How we're being either overrun by underling dark-skinned swarthy types, or overlording light-skinned calculating types. About how everything is "us" versus "them". About how all the "them" must be kept away from "us". Not facts, not data, not research, not all the boring nerdy stuff that should go into actual policymaking. Just appealing to the idea that I should belong to a tribe, and feel threatened by every other tribe. The Leave campaign, and nearly all the material I've seen shared and circulated to promote it, does stir my emotions. It makes me ashamed that anyone would think that this is what being British should mean.

If I was voting with just my heart tomorrow, I would vote Remain.