Former editor for National Collective David Aitchison says explains why he's voting to stay in the European Union
I THINK it’s pretty clear with 22 days to go before polling day that the EU referendum has failed to inspire many people to get involved in the campaigns on either side.
What this is down to is up for debate in many places other than this column (the decision being framed within a debate over who runs the Tory party, campaigns bereft of any enthusiasm or new ideas and the lack of concrete understanding among the electorate for what the EU actually is all being important factors within this).
Despite this, I’ll try and offer my thoughts on why I am voting, somewhat reluctantly, to remain in the European Union.
The reluctance no doubt stems from the disillusionment with the debate itself, as well as on some level having less of a bright-eyed interest as I did prior to 2014 and the Scottish independence referendum.
The reluctance no doubt stems from the aforementioned disillusionment with the debate itself, as well as on some level having less of a bright-eyed interest as I did prior to 2014 and the Scottish independence referendum.
I’ve found enthusiasm for politics hard to come by having faced up to the British state in that vote, as well as events since, ranging from, but certainly not limited to, more bombing of the Middle East, a complete failure to help those fleeing our bombs and foreign policy exploits, and revelations over cover-ups and corruption at the very heart of British government from the Panama Papers to Hillsborough.
The UK Government is culpable for these failings yet we in the British public don’t seem to care quite enough to do anything about it. Which brings me back to the EU and the referendum in three weeks time.
I have no doubt there are leftwing arguments for leaving the European Union, and some of the reluctance that I have towards voting remain stems from things like the manner in which a democratic choice by the Greek people was ignored by Europe last year, Europe’s failings on the refugee crisis, and on individual issues such as TTIP.
There are many things that the European Union gives us as citizens, like important protections over matters such as the environment and working hours.
Yet a vote to remain within this framework seems in my mind to be significantly the lesser of two evils when the alternative is considered.
There are many things that the European Union gives us as citizens, from important protections over matters such as the environment and working hours, to those four central freedoms, the most important in my mind being the freedom of movement (not just because it makes travel easier, but because migration is an incredibly positive thing for all).
However, the key question for me in this referendum is whether or not the power to alter everything about our freedoms, human rights, responsibility towards the planet and towards each other should be handed over to Westminster.
It is at this point that a decision becomes clear, a decision that goes largely against the reasoning behind my vote on every other occasion I’ve put a cross on a ballot paper. On each of those occasions (albeit there are only five of them) I have voted for what I wanted, in my mind a positive change, not simply to prevent the bad guys getting in, but actually for something.
On this occasion, the decision is more negative, based along the lines of: we cannot allow Westminster to control everything, from our borders to maximum working hours; environmental regulation to our place in secretive global trade deals. A vote to Remain in the EU provides a buffer to allowing Westminster complete control over our lives.
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I campaigned long and hard in 2014 largely in order to create a more modern and equal state and society, which I could not see forthcoming at Westminster. I still cannot see this forthcoming at Westminster. Voting to leave the EU would give the (here comes the description like it’s summer 2014 all over again…) undemocratic, outdated, unrepresentative and quasi-corrupt British state control over the areas currently governed by EU law.
Whether that is on maternity leave, equal pay or through programmes such as Erasmus, the EU has set a benchmark in terms of providing us as citizens with rights we are entitled to benefit from.
There is no way of trusting a Conservative-led Westminster Government, with our unrepresentative voting system, unelected head of state and unelected second chamber, to give us these same rights or seek to improve on them, particularly when those who stand to benefit politically from a Brexit are the "nicer version of Donald Trump" in Boris Johnson and his equally detestable partner Michael Gove.
How can we trust the British Government to protect our rights when the seemingly pro-remain home secretary, Theresa May, already seeks to scrap the Human Rights Act? Or when the farming minister, George Eustice, calls for Brexit on the grounds that it will allow an end to "spirit-crushing" EU directives, such as the birds and habitats directives?
There is no way of trusting a Conservative-led Westminster Government, with our unrepresentative voting system, unelected head of state and unelected second chamber.
And on an issue like TTIP, giving the UK Government full power to gleefully implement a trade deal that harms the NHS and welfare state is not a wise move. This kind of dangerous policy can be prevented as a part of Europe, not by a British state that has systematically dismantled itself and everything it owned since the late 1970s.
It is rather sickening to be voting for the same result as David Cameron, George Osborne and Theresa May, but it feels like a painful necessity in order to prevent a resurgent far right-wing group from increasing their own power, not merely within the Conservative party, but over our laws, too.
I spent a long and memorable part of my life campaigning to weaken the power of Westminster. I’d rather not see this power increased, no matter the ills at the heart of Europe.
The CommonSpace opinion section is an open platform for anyone who wants to voice their views and does not represent the editorial position of CommonSpace itself. If you'd like to have a piece published, email CommonSpace editor Angela Haggerty at email@example.com
Picture courtesy of European Parliament
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