In just over a week’s time, our nation will be called upon to decide whether to remain within the EU or leave.
There has been ample opportunity to listen to both sides of the debate, and to draw one’s own conclusions about which argument carries the most weight.
It is imperative, it seems to me, that every eligible person should exercise their right to vote in the referendum, because a great deal hangs upon its outcome.
The various academic analyses of the economic advantages of staying or leaving, as distinct from the scaremongering and bluster which has been all too prevalent in the media, have suggested that the balance between them is relatively small.
Besides which, forecasting economic developments is notoriously difficult, given all the possible variables involved. The fact that the CBI and some leaders of large companies have pronounced in favour of remaining in the EU carries no real authority, since they have no special insight into the issues involved, and indeed they were the same people who argued that the UK should enter the euro zone which, as we all now know, would have been disastrous.
Rather than focussing on the economic aspects, therefore, it might be more appropriate to consider some of the wider political factors.
For example, the EU is supposedly governed by the principle of subsidiarity, that is, the idea that decisions should be taken as close to its citizens as possible.
How far has this been put into practice? If the elite at the top of the EU structure remain determined to achieve ‘ever closer union’ between the member states, then their tendency is to move toward the removal of powers from individual nations in favour of greater and greater centralization.
Secondly, how truly democratic is the EU? The European Commission, certainly, is unelected, and there is a question mark over the actual power wielded by the European Parliament, and the extent to which it is connected with the European electorate.
Thirdly, does the EU have the capacity to reform itself in those areas which David Cameron highlighted in his Bloomberg speech of January 2013, but which he seems subsequently to have forgotten, which included, the greater transfer of powers back to member states and a greater role for national parliaments?
It is a matter of personal judgement as to how far the EU has shown a capacity for dealing with the kinds of problems which so alienate many people, but in the case of the duplication of the European Parliament’s buildings and resources in Brussels and Strasbourg, and the multiplication of intrusive regulations in the lives of EU citizens, matters which could quite easily be resolved, there have been no obvious signs of progress.
June 23 is a day of decision. Let us consider the issues well and make a choice which is based on reason rather than fear.