|(Pro-EU demonstration in Kiev, 2013 ~ Evgeny Feldman, Wikipedia)|
Last night my wise friend and I spent the evening investigating why we should, or shouldn't, stay in the EU. I have been very confused by the arguments on both sides and realised recently that I had little idea what we were voting about! Having spent some time trawling through lots of information, I felt that what I found might be of value to someone here.
I have always felt inclined to vote to stay in, as I have no heart for further division in any aspect of life, but it seemed wise to put some proper research into it. It's always wise to have a proper independent think. We listened to a bit of Nigel Farage (ugh!), lost heart before we got to David Cameron, and admired the honesty of Jeremy Corbyn, who said what I think too, that the EU has much wrong with it but that we are still better in it than being at the mercy of the Tory Government.
Last night we particularly looked into the human rights aspect, as I had heard that even if we vote to leave we would still be subject to the European Court of Human Rights. And that is true, because that comes under the Council of Europe, which we would still belong to, not the European Union. Many people who are planning to vote leave have mentioned that the ECHR in Strasbourg 'wastes money' but they do not seem to realise, understandably, that tomorrow's vote has nothing to do with our membership of the Strasbourg Court. What it would effect is our connection to a second court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which if we leave the EU we would no longer be subject to. And that is the one with the power to compel our Government to give us our rights. This is the court which oversees workers', disability, and childrens' rights, amongst other things. The ECHR can only note that we are refusing to comply, the ECJ can force us into it. If it is this bad now imagine how it would be without that court providing us with access to justice. I know that in practice it probably isn't that simple but it still makes me think that we are better off in the EU.
We also researched what environmental and wildlife groups are saying about the EU Referendum. They are ALL saying that in terms of the environment and protection of the wild we should stay in the EU. The EU has schemes to protect bees and is in the process of banning the pesticides which harm them; our Government resists these bans at every turn but at least they are under some pressurewhilst we remain in the EU. The EU has rules about the treatment of wildlife which has so far prevented the Government from gassing badgers, which would be far crueller even than what is already happening. The EU protects our beaches and our birds and protects our landscape in so many ways. Our Government could choose to keep all these protections even if we left. I don't trust them to choose well and, for me, it isn't worth the risk. Our wild doesn't get to vote so we have to vote with it in mind and not just for self-interest.
We then looked at some sites based in the Balkans, and others, and read about the fear that is gripping those who are here from other countries at the thought of a vote to leave. Although many here seem to hold the view that migrants come here just to claim benefits, 87% come with a specific job to go to and many more soon find one. I still believe that this is one of the most tolerant countries in the world and I am proud of that. I don't believe that those who plan to vote leave are racists, and I do understand many of the arguments, but were we to leave it would be a huge encouragement to those who ARE racist, and to the Far Right. We have such a tradition of welcoming others. We more or less wrote the Convention on Human Rights. Let's not be the ones to cause all of that to crumble through fear or greed.
Which brings me to the economy. I can't pretend to understand all of the ramifications of leaving or staying, and to be honest it isn't where my heart lies, but it does seem that the leave campaign's claims about how much money we give to the EU are wildly inaccurate. Last night we watched someone who was planning to vote leave on the Channel 4 News. He seemed like a nice man, and was certainly not anti-immigration, but he said that he was voting leave because of austerity. Austerity is an ideology of our Government and the global elites who wish to grind us into the dust for their own gain. I am sure that there are those in the EU who agree with it but the EU as a whole is not responsible for their goings on. Voting to leave will not save us from austerity and will potentially make it worse as our Government would then have greater power to remove our rights at their own whim.
I am also mindful that it seems to be mainly older people who disproportionately plan to vote to leave the EU. Our young people, who will after all have to cope with the after-effects of the vote for far longer than the rest of us, are massively planning to vote to stay in. That in itself is enough for me.
I am certainly not going to tell anyone how to vote but I have been confused, and I'm sure that others are too, so I thought that I would share what we learned. I may not have understood everything that I have written about here completely but I have certainly given it my best and I am content that I know more than I did before. I still think that the EU is unwieldy, often undemocratic, and a bit scary at times. Despite all of that, and because for me a vote to stay in is a vote for peace, inclusion, and hope, I am voting Remain. The things that I care about ask that of me. I wish us all wisdom and brave heart for the vote tomorrow and in the days to come.