EU Vox Pops: the Romanticism of Brexit or the Perils of Nationalism?

The Economic Argument Is Over But Democratic Concerns Remain

The economic argument surrounding the referendum appears to be over. Only conspiracy theorists of the ‘Neil Armstrong didn’t walk on the moon’ variety can believe that every major economic forecasting body in the free world is colluding to present us with a false picture. I will ignore as plain silly the ‘if we stay in we will be overrun by Turks’ argument that the now desperate Brexit side are peddling - perhaps IDS should have remained ‘the quiet man'.

This leaves us with the other major issue, namely the lack of democratic accountability within the structures of the EU. This is where Cameron should have concentrated his negotiations with the other EU leaders. Like many others, I am unhappy that after being members of the EU for so long that more progress has not been made. I would like to serve notice on our political leaders that if, in another decade, matters have not improved substantially then I would push for another referendum. However, today to take a leap into the economic wilderness would be foolhardy.

  • Stanley Robinson from Edinburgh, retired company director, aged 67.

A morass of bureaucracy and mediocrity

So far, key issues being hurled at us from the government on the referendum are that businesses will fail, and that criminals will escape justice and disappear. My knowledge is pretty sketchy but that seems to have been happening for many years and the UK has consistently retained EU and non-EU nationals at prisons all over the country. Farmers are divided on whether to stay, which surprised me because they do receive EU subsidies, but some would like us to leave the EU so that they can farm what they like and when they like, and that anything farmed doesn't have to be a particular shape for the shops. New Zealand managed very well when we dumped them.

The wealthy and business owners (probably the same people) seem to be very worried but as I don't own a business or more than one home, I'm not likely to be a target for whatever these people think is going to happen. The US doesn't want us to leave apparently, but Donald Trump will nuke anyone and everyone, so why worry?

The cost of living is extremely high. Very few people can afford a home in London, let alone in the suburbs and the countryside. France and Germany own our energy companies. Remain have said that prices will go up with Brexit but they do any. Every year! And best of all, apparently, we will have to police our borders without French help.

More catastrophic issues will probably make headlines as voting draws near. I want to leave because I don't want to dragged down into the morass of bureaucracy and mediocrity, and those who meddle with our laws and constitution. Human Rights? What about mine? And yours?

  • Joanna Moody from London, Legal PA, 44.

Europe's recent past is testimony to the perils of nationalism

It strikes me that one of the most important votes in recent history will be a monument to voter apathy. We'll not so much crash out of Europe, or confidently stride forward with a renewed mandate, as slip pusillanimously to the next phase. 

Luckily, I know which way I'm voting. My company operates in France so an exit directly and negatively affects my bottom line: I can't vote to leave.  Philosophically, I believe in greater unity, not further division - so an exit is against my beliefs. Logically, being a strong partner in something big is better than being an outsider arrogantly expecting an audience.  As a history student, Europe's recent past is testimony to the perils of nationalism: to leave is to open the doors to the worrying tendency that's noticeably rearing its head in Austria and France at the moment. From a broader perspective, an exit can't fail to damage worldwide trust in our economy and that of our likely closest trading partner.

Yet there's a romanticism about our island. A pride born in the lines of Shakespeare and Churchill that revels in being separate, isolated, defiant against the odds. I share the romantic ideal, but I can't get away from the fact that going against the odds is usually a bad idea. It's the kind of thing you do when the stakes are truly, dangerously, way-of-life threateningly high - and 2016 is not even remotely comparable to 1939.

I await the result with a somewhat hopeful, slightly pessimistic and partially detached interest - because if we leave I'll need to make do. Life will go on and, whatever happens, it probably won't be as bad as anybody is making out. I hope common sense will prevail, that we'll not leave Europe, but common sense is becoming ever more an oxymoron.  Even worse, the 500 year trend line would suggest Europe is far better at self-destruction over nation-state nonsense than it is at sacrificing its cultural minutiae in favour of broader and unifying themes.

  • Ben Wire from Durham, company director, aged 39.

We are an island. We can survive by ourselves

I am 100% in favour of leaving the EU, the reasons being the fishing industry over the last twenty years. As part of the EU, the days we allowed to be at sea are restricted: a £2 million trawler is only allowed to be at sea for fifteen days per month. EU quotas mean that often fishermen have to throw back into the sea dead fish that they have caught. Spanish fishermen are allowed to fish in our waters but we cannot fish in theirs.

Iceland [which is not part the EU] has a 200 mile exclusion zone for Icelandic fishermen. The EU means that Britain cannot do something similar. I’d want to see maybe a small - say, 25 mile - zone in our seas for British fishermen. The EU has meant the demise of the British fishing industry.

We are an island. We can survive by ourselves. They need us more than we need them. We traded with Europe before we joined the EU. We went on holiday. We can go back to the way things were before we joined.

I have no time for David Cameron or his renegotiation. The campaign he has led has fear mongered about the implications of leaving the EU. Around here the local debate has been informed. I’ve learned a lot. Everyone has their views but everyone I know - old people, young people - is every single one, voting to get out.

  • Andy Fitch from Cleethorpes, fish monger, aged 52

Everything that I have seen come from the EU has failed

Trading within the EU’s regulatory framework is a bureaucratic nightmare adding hours each month to administration procedures. Silly - nay - pathetic regulations hampering innovation and growth and, of course, the EU's restrictive practices.

Everything that I have seen come from the EU has failed: whether it is the agricultural policies, the fisheries policies, the Schengen agreement, the Dublin Regulation, the Euro. Fail, fail, fail.

Trading outside the EU is straightforward, no-nonsense and, frankly, considerably more profitable. Modern banking practices make trading in foreign currencies easy.

I am voting to leave the EU, a decision is based on my experience running my own businesses for over thirty years, I have suffered several recessions and still survived.

I am approaching my retirement and although worldwide trade will probably not be a major priority in later life it would be rather nice to retire in Great Britain (and yes, I still believe we are great) rather than in an EU annexe.

On a personal note, I have nothing against Europeans, I just don't want to be ruled by them. They do not like the British: I am one of those old enough to remember how Charles De Gaulle try to veto Britain's membership application.

He warned France's five partners in the European Economic Community (EEC) that if they tried to impose British membership on France it would result in the break-up of the community. Oh halcyon days. 

  • John Greves from Thanet, small business owner, aged 63

More about the author

About the author

Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).

A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.

Follow Graham on Twitter.

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