“Brit-In” or “Brit-Out”?

I’m worried, seriously worried.

This Thursday, our nation will go to the polls to decide the future of this country, and possibly even that of the entire European Union.

I like to believe that I’m an a measured voter, weighing up both sides of the debate to determine the best outcome for what I think is the right thing to do for our country, my family and for the future.

In the case of the upcoming European referendum, I’m concerned that people are going to vote with their hearts and not their heads, and that Leave’s campaign of fear is swaying the result.

The key battleground has been on immigration, but the agenda is much wider than that. There are a number of areas that we must weigh up before casting our votes. Here are some observations and topics that I would implore everyone to consider before heading to the polls:

Branding. With the referendum widely referred to as “Brexit”, the Leavers had a head start from the beginning. Why didn’t it start with “Bremain”, “Brit-In”, or something more neutral? The constant reference to Brexit means the population has been conditioned to consider the Exit before the Remain.

Scaremongering. The Remain campaign is using all sorts of tactics that are designed to shock us in to staying. World War III? Come on. Please treat the voters with respect. You have a point, but don’t be patronising – focus on the positives for staying, not the negatives for leaving. Is immigration that bad for us? In the NHS, the proportion of foreign nationals making up professionally qualified clinical staff (14%) and doctors (26%) has prompted the British Medical Association (BMA) to observe that without the contribution of non-British staff, "many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients". This country needs immigration to flourish – this is not a European issue.

London elections. At the recent London mayoral election, 46% of the electorate decided to cast a ballot. Encouragingly, that is up from 38% in 2012, but these elections arguably had the highest direct impact on our social and economic welfare than any other recent vote affecting the capital. Where were the others? Where were the workers who can thank London for providing a thriving, evolving and dynamic work and social environment? I suspect they were complacent, or too busy to vote. I sincerely hope we don’t see a low turnout and, thankfully, figures in general elections are on an upward curve. In 2015, 66.1% of UK voters turned out – it was as low as 59.4% in 2001. London workers must not be complacent on the European referendum as we owe so much to Europe for the cultural diversity of our own city. Its proximity to other major European cities plays a vital role in its positive economic trading relations. With a proportionately high number of Remain backers thought to reside in London, if the capital doesn’t vote in solid numbers then it could tip the balance.

Upside. I’ve tried to come at this from an economic and social angle, considering our potential departure from a risk/reward perspective, much as I would a decision for any business I were leading. What would we gain by leaving or staying? Would our risk profile increase? Would we save money and be better off? Would our children have more or less opportunity? So far, I haven’t heard a single coherent argument or positive for leaving, just more unknown risks ahead. Don’t we already have enough risk in our lives?

Control. The Leavers cite “control” as a key reason to leave. Control over what, I ask? Our currency? Our taxes? Social policy? Immigration? As far as I can see, we have adequate control over those already. If anything, we’d lose more control by leaving as we become subject to greater market forces and wider uncertainty in isolation. In my personal experience, if you want to shape an agenda and look out for your interests, then it’s much better to be front and centre than on the fringes – don’t run from your perceived challenges.

Authority. Which politicians and world leaders are more credible? David Cameron, Barack Obama, and Angela Merkel, or Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and Neil Hamilton? A poll commissioned for the Observer and carried out by Ipsos MORI, which drew responses from more than 600 economists, found 88% saying an exit from the EU and the single market would most likely damage Britain’s growth prospects over the next five years. Or look at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, whose analysis suggests GDP in 2019 could be between 2.1% and 3.5% lower as a result of a Brexit. A hit to GDP of this magnitude would imply a hit to public finances, after taking account of the reduced EU contribution, of between £20 billion and £40 billion in 2019–20. Need I say more?

Reality check. Let’s take the other side for a moment and consider departure. How long do we realistically think it will take to negotiate an exit plan, and how much will it cost? At work, any medium-to-high complexity contract can take a minimum of 4-6 months to negotiate, while also costing a large amount money. Imagine how difficult it will be to actually leave, and how high the final total of associated costs will be? I can only suspect that we would need more than the proposed two years to complete negotiations – I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a decade – and the bill will run into billions, with lawyers, auditors and others employed for years. Who will want to negotiate with a leaver? And to set up new trade arrangements? Let’s get real about these claims of having more money and more time.

Security. Do we really think we’ll be safer on the outside? I don’t feel unsafe at the moment and appreciate our “special” relationship with the US. However, that would be at risk too as they clearly see a strong UK in Europe as important to this relationship. Not a UK alone. If Europe is no longer our security partner and the US becomes disinterested, who then? If we’re out of the EU, who will provide the budget to link our intelligence systems with France, Belgium, Europe, etc? I can’t see how we’d be safer by leaving.

Sovereignty. Has anyone given any thought to the 1.3 million Brits living in Europe? Will their tax status and access to local benefits change? How will the people of Gibraltar, Malta, or other countries with large concentrations of British ex-pats be affected? This is not a one-way street. 

I’ll admit that I’m one-sided, so I could carry on, but if you scratch beneath the surface then the facts do all the talking.

Hopefully everyone will take the time to consider in detail all the points, not just one or two. Let’s think about future generations, what’s on the other side, the benefits and costs, and what’s right for this country, before making a decision.

But, most importantly, let’s use our votes. There are millions around the world that would cherish the opportunity to have such a big say in their future.

Oh, and did I forget to say? Vote “Brit-In”.

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