Each of us has made decisions in the past which have had profound and sometimes unexpected consequences. The subjects we chose to study at school or at university can have an influence on the job we end up doing. The people we meet, the person we fall in love with all change how our life turns out in ways that we cannot guess. When I fell in love it meant I had to make a choice. I had to leave what had been familiar and move somewhere that was unknown. I didn’t know how it would turn out. There were dangers that had to be faced. But I knew that I had to go, simply because I loved. Moreover, I knew that if I did not go I would regret it forever. I realised that there might be tough times ahead, but I also knew that it would be worth it.
As a country the UK has often had to do things that are difficult. We didn’t have to fight either in 1914 or in 1939. We could have chosen to stay out of those wars. We were not immediately threatened with attack. Instead we chose to do what we thought was right and what we thought was in our national interest. We faced great danger and uncertainty, but were willing to do so as we thought it was the right thing to do.
Whatever we choose to do this year with regard to leaving or remaining in the EU there will be risk and uncertainty. But focussing too much on plusses and minuses is liable to overly cloud the issue. What matters most of all is our duty to ourselves and others. We should be willing to go through some uncertainty and even some loss of wealth in order to arrive at the position that we want. We should be willing to take some risk too. After all every person who sets up a new business accepts that there is a risk. But he considers that it would be worth it if he succeeds. Then he would have his own business. He’d be working for himself. There would be no boss, but himself.
What matters fundamentally is that the UK at the moment is not its own boss. Compare and contrast this with the United States. The highest court in the US is the Supreme Court. The clue is in the name. The judges who work there are all Americans and they are all appointed by democratically elected US politicians. The United States would not accept a foreign court telling it what to do. It would not accept that its own laws were subordinate to the laws of another organisation. No other free country would accept this. They wouldn’t accept it for the sake of mere trade.
On this everything hinges. If we vote to remain in the EU we will be saying that we accept, probably forever, that our Parliament will be overruled by people who we didn’t elect. We will also be saying that from time to time what we want in the UK will be overruled by the majority of other countries in the EU. We will have chosen this and that choice will reverberate into the future. Who knows what the majority will choose? But we will have to go along with it. On the other hand if we reassert that the UK parliament is supreme, then fundamentally we will be saying that while we may agree with our fellow Europeans, we also may disagree. This decision too will have long lasting consequences. We do not know what decisions we will make in the future, but we know that if we chose to leave they will be our decisions, made by people we elect. Alternatively they won’t.
There will be a tricky couple of years if we vote to leave. But in the end we will come out of it in no worse a position than Australia, New Zealand or Japan. They all are able to trade with the EU without being a member of it. It isn’t necessary to be subordinate to the will of other countries in order to trade freely with them. Free trade is a matter of mutual self-interest. Everyone loses if barriers are erected.
The UK is perfectly capable of doing well economically without being a part of the EU. Countries much less powerful economically and much less successful than us exist quite happily without being part of an organisation like the EU. Two thirds of the UK population dislike the EU. I suspect the vast majority of Brits would prefer that we could go back to something like the Common Market. But we don’t quite dare to grab this chance, because we fear uncertainty. What happened folks? We’ve been through tough times before without a murmur. I suspect that most of us agree that it would be worth it if we could just trade freely with the EU but not be a part of it. But we fear the extraction, like a child fears the dentist. A Common Market exists for those European countries that don’t want to be in the EU. Tiny Iceland with a population like that of Aberdeen is a member. With a little pain, a little uncertainty we could be a part of it too. Do you want to be a Brexiteer or do you prefer a rather meeker role?
Some people in Scotland are inclined to vote to remain because they have been cowed by SNP threats to have another independence referendum. Do they really suppose that the SNP will give up its desire for independence if we vote to remain? Far from it, it just gives them a chance to wait until they think they can win. This is the worst possible time for Scottish independence. Moreover, the condition for the possibility of Scotland leaving the UK is that the UK remains in the EU. It would be impossible for the SNP to argue that all the nice things that we like about the UK would continue after independence, if Scotland is in the EU and the UK is not. How could you have a currency union (a shared pound) if one country’s laws are subordinate to Brussels while the other’s are not? How could you have an open border, if that border were the border into the EU? How could Scotland’s financial services industry exist if it were in the EU while its main market was out of the EU? How could Scotland survive without being subsidised by the UK Treasury? The SNP have recently proved themselves desperate to retain the subsidy, desperate to remain dependent. The risk of Scotland leaving the UK is far higher than the risk of the UK leaving the EU. A few brave hearts may want to go for independence come what may. But the SNP will threaten and then not act on their threat. This is perhaps our one chance in the near future to weaken them.
The SNP is the main strategic threat to the continued existence of the UK. Brexit lessens that threat and may nullify it entirely. It may be the only thing that could do so. The other main dangers we face are another economic crisis and uncontrolled migration into the EU. Both of these dangers have been caused by the leadership of the EU. The problems with the Euro have not gone away they are just sleeping. At some point unless and until the Eurozone allows money to be transferred freely from the rich countries to poor countries there is going to be another crisis. Greece may once more find that it cannot pay its debts, but eventually so too might a larger country like Italy. This would be bad for the UK whether we were in the EU or not. But so long as we remain in the EU what is to stop Mrs Merkel and friends demanding that we in the UK help bail out one of these countries that can’t pay its debts? Are we certain that this could never happen? On the other hand if we leave the EU they would be no more able to force us to share the burden than they can force Australia.
It is tragic to see millions of displaced, desperate people. Unfortunately there are more than Europe can safely accept. How many people in the world live in poverty or in countries that are oppressive? There are more than the whole population of Europe many times over. We cannot let everyone come. So we have to make a limit. We have to accept that even some deserving cases will have to be prevented from coming. If we don’t do this, then not only will the EU cease to exist, but so indeed will Europe.
How is the EU doing in managing the migration crisis? Firstly it has been exacerbated massively by the decision of Mrs Merkel to at first open Germany’s borders to allcomers and then try to close them. Secondly it has made worse by the existence of the Schengen zone which allows border free travel throughout most of the EU. Already, over a million people have reached the Schengen zone. The EU predicts that another three million will arrive in the next year or so. At what point will the EU demand that the UK takes its fair share? There haven’t been many demands up until now because we are having a debate about leaving the EU. But if we vote to remain, how long will it be before Mrs Merkel tells Mr Cameron that it’s time to repay his debt. After all, she was most accommodating in helping him to “renegotiate” the terms of the UK’s membership. On the other hand if we vote for Brexit we would have absolute control over our own borders. The EU could no more tell us who we must allow into the UK than they can tell Australia or the United States.
The main strategic threats to the UK are alleviated by Brexit. There is of course uncertainty no matter what we do. But a little bravery now may protect us from far greater dangers ahead. Above all, we will be better able to control events and make the right decisions if those decisions are ours to make.