Jean and Peter Watts, a retired professional couple who live in Berwick-upon-Tweed, have tried to provide VoiceoftheNorth followers with as honest and factual a ‘polite’ guide to the EU referendum debate as two LibDems can. In Part One they outlined the Leave case . in Part Two they made the Remain case. In this final part they outline their own choice and the reasons behind it.
BOTH camps in the EU Referendum debate are alliances. Their conflict boils down to a series of issues with vote-winning potential, but to what end?
Neither Leave nor Remain are ends in themselves: they both aim to secure ‘a better world’ in which to live, they merely have different views on the means of achieving that society.
Leavers have an advantage. Ignoring the personal ambitions of some leading Brexiteers, they are driven by frustration and anger and by the certainty of their cause. They have strong feelings of doubt – with some justification – concerning the EU’s future.
Many Leavers have difficulty adjusting to rapidly increasing changes in jobs, skills, technology and communications and to rapid changes in the population. They see income and wealth sky-rocketing for those at the top while, in real terms, their own material position has barely improved for a decade.
They also see politicians giving slippery answers, ducking issues, manipulating figures, abusing expenses, scattering election promises and prioritising party advantage.But despite their discontent they are not part of the apathetic Won’t Vote camp
They feel that the system has proved unable to control the forces which threaten their lives: primarily bankers, out-sourcing of jobs, big tax avoidance, immigration and climate change. Not surprisingly, many want to hit back.
In doing so, they sometimes risk democracy itself. Mistrust all major political, judicial, economic and media institutions and you end inclusive public conversation. If you automatically blame and even abuse those with whom you disagree, you inevitably blinker your own views.
You reject trust, respect, reason and facts. You fall back on populist authoritarian leaders like Trump who ‘know they are right’, pander to prejudice, claim to be outsiders and promise the impossible. You encourage force and violence, not joint effort.
There never was a Golden Age and even if there had been no one can put the clock back. Even if they win, Leavers will fail to control those major global forces. And In the process, they will have destroyed a democratic system which, for all its variations and faults, aims to include all of us in civilised conversations about steadily developing an imperfect but better world.
To counter the Leavers and their powerful feelings, the Remainers need, equally passionately, to understand them, recognise their validity and commit to doing politics differently.The case to Remain is more than benefits to business or even to jobs or public services or personal prosperity. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, about what sort of world we inhabit. It’s about controlling those powerful forces we mentioned earlier, about the methods used to do so fairly in a democracy and about how we share the benefits more evenly.
For all its past imperialism, the UK tries to move away from selfish, ill-informed, irrational certainty maintained by violence. Our (sometimes justified) claim to be open, tolerant and fair indicates growing humility.
No-one has perfect answers. For that better world, we need the EU (and others) and the EU wants us. And we will NOT do it the Putin/Trump way.