The great and the good of the political establishment have finally broken their silence over the great Brexit debate. As we head into the final stretch of the EU referendum campaign it truly has become Project Fear vs Project Let’s-Cross-Our-Fingers-And-Hope-For-The-Best.
The Justice Secretary Michael Gove made a very articulate and thoughtful case for Brexit at a Vote Leave event recently - in fact I used one of my social media platforms to call his case “sterling”. These aren’t words I thought I would ever associate with a man who has been utterly disastrous for our education sector. The reaction from my circle of friends was rather interesting. The resulting debate led a friend of mine to challenge me to provide a reason for Britain to leave the EU that will stand up to scrutiny - a challenge I have gleefully accepted.
That said, I feel it’s important to point out from the outset that the Leave campaign has been fractured so far, I would go as far to say that it’s been a complete shambles. There have been remarkable similarities between this campaign and the rows depicted in Monty Python's "Life of Brian." You know the scenes I’m referring to. Douglas Carswell and several senior Tories chose to back the People’s front of Judea (Vote Leave), whilst Nigel Farage and Arron Banks set up the Judean People’s Front (Leave.EU, later succeeded by Grassroots Out). The petty squabbles and struggles over the designation have led to a great sense of frustration that no one has actually told the British public what a vote to leave will look like.
I will also concede this - convincing my friend to vote to leave is highly improbable. This is because there are undoubted risks attached to Brexit. But I am certainly one of those that is convinced that a vote to leave will ultimately be in our national interest.
The fundamental reason I want to leave the EU is because I think the Union is failing its citizens. I've come to the conclusion that this referendum is about more than just our supposed relationship with the rest of Europe. This is a chance to hold the bureaucrats of Brussels to account and actually influence, shape and lead Europe as we have done in the past.
The people who are going to be affected the most by our decision on June 23rd are the youth of Europe. Youth unemployment rates are absolutely unrelenting across the member states. In March 2015 Spain, Greece, Italy and Croatia had an average youth unemployment rate of 46.5%. This was over double the EU-wide average of 20.9% and almost treble the rate here in the UK of 15.7%.
But the failures of union go further than the impact on the youngest Europeans. The debt EU countries are running as a percentage of their GDP is quite simply eye-watering. The debt-to-GDP ratio amongst all member states was running at an average of 86% in the third quarter of 2015. Britain was just above this average at 88.6%, but the telling statistic here is that of Greece. The home of democracy itself is in a frightful mess - their debt-to-GDP ratio in the third quarter of last year was almost twice the size of ours, at 171%. Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and Belgium were all running above 100.
Then there is the hot potato of British Politics - immigration. You remember the pledge Dodgy Dave made on immigration, right? He pledged to the British people, that “no ifs, no buts” he would reduce immigration into Britain to the “tens of thousands”. His words, not mine. The Prime Minister didn’t stop there on immigration either, he even had the audacity to spend over £9 million of taxpayers’ money on a brochure containing spurious claims about immigration to try and convince the British public to remain inside the EU.
In this brochure the government has attempted to tell us we can “control” immigration as a member state of the EU. There is no way to describe this claim other than calling it a gargantuan lie! One of the founding principles of membership of the EU is the idea of freedom of movement. Now, I will concede at this juncture (even as a staunch advocate of Brexit) that Britain does not have an open border. To get into the country legally you will require a passport. You can’t just simply walk in. But, if you have a passport near you, take a look at it. What are the first two words on it? “European Union”. With this document you have the right to work and settle in any EU member state. This is not to say all of those with an EU passport will come to Britain, but it doesn’t change the fact that they have the right to come.
Now, you may be a supporter of freedom of movement, but if you are like me and would really like to see Britain implement an Australian style points based system to control immigration into Britain, you simply cannot support membership of the EU. If we are going to be a member of this political union, we simply won’t be able to set our own rules. David Cameron discovered this when he went on his trip to renegotiate our relationship and secure what he called in the brochure a “special status”. He never really asked for any serious treaty change, because ultimately he knew he wouldn’t get it. For me, the deal he has offered the British people is quite simply pitiful. He hasn’t addressed any of the major concerns over our relationship with the rest of the Union.
Perhaps the biggest risk of Brexit is this: what are the odds of the world’s fifth largest economy negotiating a better trade deal than it currently enjoys through EU membership? If you believe President Obama, then Britain may well find itself at the back of the queue when it comes to trade (a revealing insight into our supposed “special relationship” with the USA). It seems Britain is good enough to serve their illegal wars and occupations across the globe, but at the first sign of Britain voting to leave a broken European Union, we are shafted to the back of a seemingly lengthy queue.
So let’s be the turkeys that will vote for Christmas, sack our British MEPs and send a clear message that this political union has failed us. That’s the real reward for taking this great risk. At least then we will only have one bunch of politicians left to hold to account!