I’ve been puting this together for. Few days, but events are movig so fast I felt I needed to publish it and come back to it in furhter posts, not quite as developed as I wanted. So a few days ago I indicated on Facebook that I would be voting to leave the EU, based on my understanding of the EU structure and process and the direction it has moved in. Specifically, that austerity and privatisation is the policy of the EU.
I had a few conversations with people about it, both prior to and following my post. I had already discussed it with my wife, who was voting remain. I did no small amount of soul searching, because having started the campaign as leave, the actual debate, coverage, lies and lack of coverage of a clear left message for leave made me question my reasoning. I had to dig a bit, and reconnected with Trade Unionists Against the EU. Some friends were voting leave for the same reason, others recognised the reasons but were fearful of the timing, or letting the current government off the leash in regards to workers rights. Others were firmly for remain, for reasons including the funding of university research or arts and science. Others just had a sense of wishing to stay a part of the EU although couldn’t clearly articulate why.
For me however one thing was certain – this was going to be a once in a life time opportunity. One of my issues with the EU was the treatment of the Irish people over the Lisbon treaty – a member state said no, so changes were made so they said yes (a protocol arrangement on abortion, tax and military neutrality) – but because these issues had been the focus of the no campaign first time around, the larger points were ignored (much as we saw in the run up to the UK membership referendum – the economy and immigration dominated). So on the basis that this was the one time to reject the capitalist, forced austerity, TTIP embracing (and therefore NHS privatising) organisation.
Many people will not have heard this arguement. The media in the UK gave such prominance to the immigration and economy, to Farage, Gove and Johnson and there lies, that we didn’t talk about this. I believe it is possible to reject the EU but love Europe. To reject racism and welcome refugees. And we never debated or discussed the issues that under lie people’s concerns about immigration.
I met a man in the dentists a few years ago. It was the run up to Christmas. His son had just been laid off by aprinting firm and replaced by a Polish worker. The man believed he was being paid less than his son. He was angry at the Polish man for taking his son’s job. I didn’t get into a discussion, but inside I was screaming it is not the Polish man, but the firms boss who has done your son out of a job so he can retain his Profits.
As a leave voter I have been, indirectly, labelled as ignorant, racist and a ‘stupid f***ing cockle eyed bollockhead’ – so I see the debate standard is yet to rise. Many people have assumed all leave voters are UKIP supporting racists, and this is not the case. Some are, but analysis afterwards shows a broad spectrum of people voting for both sides.
One cautionary note was that votin g leave would legitamise the far right. This argument seems to stem from the fact that the dominent right wing press gave Farage, the legitimate face of facisim, so much air time/ column inches. The so called ‘Lexit’ message was lost – I had to search it out – and the TV debates focused on the economy and immigration (and in one I saw mobile phone tariffs). So my friends of all political persuasions who voted remain and are shocked and horrified never heard the socialist and internationalist arguement for leave. That is not to say they would have agreed, but it would have expanded the debate.
Farage/ Le Pen et al only have legitimacy if we allow them it. The result is an indication that we need people to reengage with politics, make it ours not there’s. And we need to win the argument through debate, not just by protest. And for me, unions have a huge job to do in that political education, so we must build the union movement. We need to campaign against racism. We need to join and become involved in political parties to shape what happens next. We are seeing a definate leadership contest in the Conservative part, possible challenge to Jeremy Corbyn and a possible early general election.
The referendum is not binding, article 50 must be triggered. David Cameron wants to leave that to his successor, the Lib Dems say they would stand ona remain/ rejoin platform. Much is happenIng, so it is time to get involved.
So lets be clear. I voted to leave because it was heralded as the one time to make the decision. I reject racism and the lies of the main leave campaign. I wanted to leave the EU. That is all. I accept there is now lots of work to do to unpick it, because the campaign was arrogant and ill-thought through. Time to step up.