AS YOU PROBABLY know, on the 23rd June 2016 the United Kingdom will have a vote on whether to leave, or remain a part of, the European Union. This referendum was promised in the Conservative 2015 manifesto, and they are now delivering it.
The announcement of the date followed a dramatic renegotiation between Cameron and the European Council that went through the night and the following day. With this renegotiation complete, Cameron has announced the date of the referendum and recommended a remain vote; and an honest and rational debate over the pros and cons of membership has begun.
Or perhaps not.
Instead we have been confronted with ‘Project Fear’, so-called because of the scaremongering routinely committed by the remain campaign. In the interests of balance, I will note that the leave campaign makes their fair share of groundless assertions and misrepresentation of facts. Nevertheless, it is the remain campaign, spearheaded by the Prime Minister, where such unsavoury tactics have been most prominent.
For example, it was recently claimed that holidaymakers could be stranded in Europe. This is patently nonsense as we don’t immediately leave the EU – there are up to two years of negotiations first. Besides, are the airlines suddenly going to stop flying? Border arrangements with France are currently governed by the Le Touquet treaty, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. Claims regarding expats being threatened are also nonsense, as residents will have ‘acquired rights’ as stipulated by the 1969 Vienna Convention. They won’t suddenly become illegal immigrants. Trade would not suddenly cease if we were to depart from the EU, nor would war break out because we dared to leave a unique institution. I could go on, but you get the picture.
There is a positive case to be made about the European Union and its contribution to our environment, our universities. Its consumer protection laws, its work in facilitating development. The many opportunities free movement gives us, the good an engaged Britain could do in the EU. The ideal of a Europe which is working together in concert for peace and prosperity. The strategic need in an uncertain world to have a stable and secure Europe. All good arguments, but being made by few.
I am not here to argue one way or the other; I only wish to have a reasoned debate. This is something that we are not getting at the moment. Cameron’s scaremongering is embarrassing to us all because it is transparent and foolish. It is demeaning the office of Prime Minister. The remain campaign repeatedly acts as if the electorate is stupid, and incapable of seeing the truth behind the claims; it is making out as though the country (and its government) are useless incompetents without the benign touch of the EU.
If the consequences of a leave vote are so terrible, has Cameron not been dreadfully irresponsible in granting us this referendum? We still have over three months until the referendum date – with the scare stories that have already been published, what will we hear in the coming weeks? Let us hope we see an end to Project Fear and the return of reasonable, rational debate in this most important of referendums. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on it.