Whatever your principled objections to the EU and your sound reasons for voting leave, the effect of a win for leave, as a result of the way the campaign has gone, will be horrible – to strengthen and encourage the worst far-right and racist tendencies in this country and also in Europe.
I don’t want to add to the welter of arguments and factual claims. I just want to add a consideration and two reasons which are important to why I am voting Remain, and a note on migration (as it has played such a large part in the debate).
The consideration is that, indeed, this is a very important decision, once in a generation. So all the short-term considerations seem to me to be beside the point; the horror of a Boris/Gove government in our immediate future, the immediate economic costs, short-term concerns over anything at all. A lot of the political reasons fall away too. The question is what is going to be the best choice for the next period of history, not just for this country, but for others as well.
A note on migration: of course this is not about refugees. There is no refugee crisis for us. Anyway, our obligations to refugees would be the same in or out. A friend persuaded me that there is a real downside for some people in relation to EU freedom of movement. He works in the London building trade and his experience was that recent Eastern European immigration had depressed wages and reduced work. Of course he’s right, one capitalist reason for freedom of movement in the EU was always so that it could be used to put pressure on workers’ wages and conditions (with the labour movement requiring minimum cross-European workers’ rights as a quid pro quo).
Indeed, our capitalist rulers have always used immigration for this purpose. Before we joined the EU, it was from Ireland and then the Caribbean. We can be sure that if we do leave they will carry on doing this in one way or another. All I can say is look at the upside – we have freedom to move and work all over Europe, which has in the past been a good thing for British builders and still is a very good thing for everyone: workers, students, and retired people alike. Just ask the two million of us currently living and working in Europe.
My first reason for wanting to remain is a question of a particular way (only one way) of looking at the project. War is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to human societies, though recently we in this country have mostly been lucky. It happens a lot, especially in this era of nation states, and its consequences are appalling. There has mostly been a war (or several wars) going on in Europe for hundreds of years, and the same is true of other continents. According to the Nuremberg judges, waging aggressive war is the worst war crime of all. The EU was conceived from the start as a way of gaining peace, by means of a close partnership of nations secured by economic advantage and dependency. It has been extraordinarily successful over sixty years. Other areas across the globe have tried to follow its example. Outside the territory of the EU, war is still the norm in many places. Looked at in this way, I think the EU project is hugely important for the world as a whole, as an attempt to solve a problem that must be solved if we humans are to survive. I think we should be part of trying to make it work.
Secondly, and even more fundamental; I have a lot of issues with the EU. It is undemocratic, technocratic, liberal capitalist in its roots, and currently wedded (like the UK) to noxious US-style neoliberalism and austerity. The experience of Greece this last couple of years made me waver. But these don’t seem to me to be good reasons to leave, rather than to fight to change it for the better.
If we leave, we are choosing to be one country instead of part of a continent. We are inevitably going to be strongly affected by Europe, but we will no longer be a player. We will be much more dependent on the US, culturally and politically, at the same time as having made ourselves much less important to them. It feels wrong. It is to choose the negative: isolation, rather than inclusion; refusal, rather than engagement; to turn away, rather than towards.