Sitting in the BA lounge in Singapore, for a brief stopover before heading to Sydney, I can’t help thinking and praying for the country we have just left behind. Today is a momentous day for the UK, which will shape our future for generations to come. If we ‘Remain’ as I am pretty sure we will (55-45 is my prediction) then the political elites are going to have to come good on their promises, if they want to avoid a complete disconnect between them and the rest of the people. Europe will need to be reformed, Britain will need to deal with its problems and the billions of investment promised (and indeed all the other promises will need to be fulfilled). There will need to be a healing – not of things that have been caused by the Referendum, but of what the referendum has exposed as already being there – the class and social divisions which will rip this country to shreds.
If we Leave then for me is it a period of great danger and great opportunity. This is like the Scottish Referendum, although I predicted a 55-45 victory for ‘in’ (for the same reason as I do with this one – the don’t knows almost always go for the status quo), I still remember that Friday morning in Edinburgh – dreich and grey and the sorrow that came over my heart. Scotland had blown the one chance we had to be free. I thought then that the SNP would join the Establishment, become a party of government, rather than a party of change – and so it has proved to be. What else can explain Nicola Sturgeon campaigning alongside Cameron and Osborne to keep them in power and Scotland in an EU which opposes Scottish Independence, the raison d’etre of the SNP?
Tomorrow I suspect I will wake up with the same feeling – disappointment that once again the ‘conservatives’ (political elites, Guardian readers, SNP, Liberals, the Bullingdon Club, Richard Branson and his pals, the City and the Eurocrats) will have won and the opportunity for real change gone. But I’ll get over it because to be honest, my hope is not in an independent UK any more than it was in an independent Scotland. The only hope we have is the Gospel…and that is I believe the only thing that will heal the UK and prevent its inevitable decline and dissolution. The Lord is Sovereign and he is gracious. He has greatly blessed our islands many times in the past, and we pray that he will do so once more – not because we deserve it, but because he is merciful. I hope and pray that Christians of all political opinions and none, will unite in prayer and seeking his face after today. And I pray that non-Christians will come to see that it is true that everything out of Christ is hopeless.
Sitting in the lounge I can glance up at the newspapers and see the differences that sum up the two campaigns and options. The Mirror has a Project fear story about grocery bills going up by £580 per year if we leave! The Telegraph urges us to choose between fear and hope. If you havn’t voted – get out there and please vote for hope (at least in a political sense!). This could be our independence day.
The following is my article in the West Highland Free Press that sums it up from a Scottish perspective.
In 1975 the Western Isles, along with Shetland were the only areas of Britain to clearly vote No to the EU. Come June 23rd I hope that the people of the Highlands and Islands will continue that proud radical tradition and not be browbeaten by fear and prejudice into supporting the Establishment status quo. I am a pro-European who is opposed to the European Union. Why?
1) I Want to be Free – this is by far the most important argument. The late great Tony Benn argued that if you cannot vote out those who make your laws, then you do not live in a democracy. The SNP cannot explain why they want Scotland to be free from Westminster rule but subject to Brussels rule. The slogan, repeated ad nauseum by their MPs and MSPs (who of course cannot say anything else because they have signed an agreement not to go against party policy on anything), is ‘an independent country in an interdependent Europe’. They don’t seem to grasp the inconsistency of asking that Scotland should become a nation independent of Westminster whilst at the same time arguing that it should be a nation dependent on Brussels. I know the argument that we would have our voice and say, but that voice would be tiny; one commissioner in 29 and a handful of MSPs in the European Parliament. We have a far larger influence in the UK parliament than we would ever have in the EU. Furthermore, by any standard, the EU is much less democratic than the UK parliament. The notion that a people should determine its own policies is surely one that is core to basic democracy. Scotland’s fishermen, farmers and industrial workers should be governed by Scotland’s politicians, not those of either the EU or the UK. It is a strange kind of postmodern ‘independence’ when you are not free to make your own laws or your own trading agreements.
As a nationalist sympathiser I am appalled that the SNP seems to have given up on the idea of independence. By campaigning with Osborne and Cameron they will ensure that if Remain win the whole question of Scottish independence is put on the back burner for another couple of decades. It’s a phenomenal price to pay in order to support an EU that is opposed to Scottish independence anyway.
2) I want economic justice – Despite the desperate attempts of Gordon Brown and other Labour ‘remainers’, the fact is that the EU is an economic union for the benefit of the ‘haves’ and not the ‘have nots’. It is quite evident that the Establishment in most countries are mostly keen on the EU, whereas many of the people, especially the poor are not. This is because the EU has become a club of the corporations, in hand with government establishments ensuring that whilst there are banks ‘too big to fail’, manufacturing industries like steel are left to go to ruin. The fact that self-styled progressive parties like the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Liberals who are supposed to be on the side of the poor, are standing side by side with Osborne and Cameron, together with their friends in the city and the big American corporations desperate to get a TTIP deal, is something that should be challenged, not celebrated. The EU is a politician’s and bureaucrat’s dream and a democrat’s nightmare. We have been bought and sold for Brussels gold.
And lets not forget the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership proposed deal. President Obama came over here to interfere in our referendum because he is desperate to have it as part of his legacy. It is fundamentally a deal which hands over power from elected governments to undemocratic corporations.
Ah but don’t we need trade agreements? Well of course they are helpful. But what most people don’t seem to know is that we don’t have a trade agreement with the US, and we never have, and yet somehow we manage to trade with them. Furthermore if we were an independent country we might get some proper trade agreements (rather than the corporate deals favoured by the Americans) somewhat quicker than if we stayed in the EU who have for seven years been trying to get a deal with India but seem to be stuck at the moment on the question of Italian tomatoes!
In all the confusion about figures one basic fact stands out – we pay £13 billion into the EU treasury each year and get £4.5 billion back (that is with our rebate – without it we would be paying £18 billion). Those who are worried about the fact that their subsidies and grants might be lost should realise that there is no necessity for that to happen. Indeed we would have more money to spend. Of course there are risks in leaving, but what seldom seems to be mentioned is that there are as many if not greater risks in staying. The Italian banks have a 360 million Euro black hole, the Greek economy is still devastated and Spain and Portugal are not much better. The EU is a declining market – from 36% of the worlds GDP in 1973 (when we joined) to 17% now. Why should we tie ourselves to the EU in this way? Why can’t we more less Eurocentric and more Internationalist?
3) I want more immigrants in Scotland – Scotland should be in charge of its own immigration. This is not said from any anti-immigrant xenophobia but precisely for the opposite reason. We need more immigrants in Scotland not less. But we need to control our own borders and not have them controlled by an unelected EU Commission. The recent case of the Australian family in Dingwall facing deportation indicates the kind of nonsense that an overcrowded England is now forcing to be applied in Scotland as well. We want a Scotland where people are welcome from all over the world, not one where only those inside Fortress Europe get privileged access.
4) I want peace – One of the good arguments for Remain is the argument that the EU has brought us peace – although it could just as easily be argued that the EU is the result of a peace brought about by war weariness and NATO. But with the rise of the extreme right in Greece, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, the EU is no guarantor of peace. Indeed our disastrous intervention in Ukraine and non-intervention in the Balkans indicates some of the dangers of seeking to create a European Super-State.
5) I want power to be returned to the people – The Establishment think we are stupid. They warn us about World War 3, economic collapse and the return of the plague in their hope that Project Fear will work again. I have yet to hear an argument from a pro-EU group that is not funded by the EU.
Finally a vote to stay in the EU is not a vote to Remain. The EU will not stay as it is. In 1975 we were voting for a Common Market – a trading agreement – yet it is now far beyond that. The Treaty of Lisbon brought in foreign policy and military arrangements. If we vote to ‘remain’ we are giving carte blanche to an EU superstate. Scotland will be voting on June 23rd to become a sub-region of a region within a European Super State, or we can vote for freedom.