Neverendum: a choice between frying pan and fire
One thing I’ll say about this EU ‘neverendum’ is that there’s not a lot of apathy about.
It’s claimed that eighty percent of voters are evenly split with the remainder doing the hokey-cokey.
The choice as to whether we would have a Welsh Assembly was never this polarised. At least, I don’t remember so many people holding a fixed opinion or such a determined willingness to share it with you.
I have Facebook friends who can’t manage their personal overdraft but who rattle off macro-economic arguments for leaving like demons.
Then you have the Remain proponents who insist Brexit will bring about fire raining down from the skies as the mountains collapse into boiling seas.
Being a slightly cynical so-and-so, I’ve never regarded this promised referendum as anything more than a ploy used by David Cameron to secure a second term.
It worked as a means of keeping his troops in line but the downside is that he has created a political monster eager and willing to swallow him whole.
For all the tory infighting and whatnot, it’s worth mentioning that we’re not in Europe by accident. We actually voted to join.
Of course it was a different arrangement then. Afterwards it became a tale of two cities named Maastricht and Lisbon, where our politicians made their own choices instead of consulting the people on, firstly, monetary union and then the decidedly dicey political kind.
Yes, the EU is an expensive complex bureaucracy theoretically answerable to a flaccid democratic body operating in its own remote translation bubble. Big surprise, eh?
Yet to me the options of staying or leaving come across as the difference between the frying pan and fire – and I’m not inclined to jump from one to the other.
I’m especially loath to listen to right-wing politicians who now espouse the principles of liberty but have been dead keen to diminish personal privacy, free assembly and trade union membership at every opportunity.
I entirely get it that people feel empowered by this referendum. We are finally going to have a say over things such as immigration and the like without having to consider any of the actual complexities.
Or are we just getting embroiled in the hang-ups of an overcrowded south-east England?
The thing is, and maybe I just don’t get out enough, but I've never met anyone in the Swansea Bay region who can give me an example of how they've been disadvantaged first-hand by Britain's membership of the EU.
The Leave camp label the arguments to stay as "Project Fear". They’re damn right.
I'm fearful about taking a leap in the dark for no more than vague and contradictory promises of jam tomorrow from people who I implicitly distrust.
It’s like standing in front of electrified fence with someone nudging you in the back telling you to ignore the warning sign.
Sorry and all that, but when the Bank of England, Sir Terry Matthews and a small cast of Nobel prize-winning scientists collectively talk about exercising caution then my instinct is to listen up.
I have no idea what will happen if Britain leaves the European Union and that’s the problem.
I’ve gone through life avoiding unnecessary risks. I’m not about to start now.
The sovereignty thing
One comment I hear a lot is that leaving the EU would “stop the country being run by foreigners”.
The examples most thrown up are decisions by the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights – although it’s worth pointing out that the second body is nothing to do with the European Union and was created by a separate convention which the UK can leave at any time.
The other reference is to “Brussels bureaucrats” who go around imposing despicable regulations to scrap data roaming charges, improve air quality and protect the environment.
While I can’t foresee the full impact of leaving, I can safely predict that you will see unscrupulous sellers (many with well-known brand names) all hiking up prices and claiming it’s an unfortunate economic side-effect, whether it’s true or not.
And just how long to do think all those consumer rights previously “imposed” by Brussels over the years would last?
Money and magic beans
One thing is certain; leaving the EU ain’t going to be a cheap option overall. Nor do I believe we would see much benefit here in south west Wales.
In fact, it worries me how glibly some folks claim a UK government will take up the lost EU funding support.
I mean, how the hell do they think we qualified as one of the poorest regions in the first place?
I’ll tell you. When the old nationalised industries were closed in the 1980’s, the government ideology was that any new investment would extend only as far down the M4 as Bridgend. Anything west of that point could go hang – and it did.
We may have new devolved governments these days but the purse strings are still firmly held by the same old Treasury.
So as the social media message puts it, if you seriously think leaving the EU will mean an extra £100m week going into the NHS, then I have some magic beans you might want to buy.