Every Friday during the EU referendum campaign, we will be asking our panel of four undecided voters for their verdict on how the previous week’s campaign has gone. Here are their first verdicts:
I’m findin most of the campaignin increasinly annoyin and depressin (sic). And I’m not talking about fortune-teller figures or legendary negativity for negativity’s sake. It’s the overriding boxing-ring refusal to countenance any intellectual rigour behind any opposing view. And an exhausted descent to ad hominem tactics instead of bothering to counter what’s being said. I do get what’s going on with all that, but surely there must be more room for nuance on something as important — and complex — as this.
To me, the referendum’s question is difficult and divisive. Neither Brexit nor Bremain offers predetermined results; Europe faces volatile change over the coming years; and few of us agree on the ideal relationship between state and individual, never mind supersedences of that. So how can there be a ‘correct’ answer? Being undecided doesn’t mean being unengaged, and it doesn’t mean being equally in favour of both sides. Rather – because it’s good to keep reassessing your views, and because I don’t want to campaign for ‘in’ or ‘out’ – I have no need to make a definitive choice until I have to.
To be honest, teams of fixated politicos (no matter how much I usually like some of them individually) wearing loud T-shirts and repeating PR phrases, are unlikely to sway me either way. Good writing, however, just might. In terms of what I’ve read this week, this and this are sensible, these updates are respectively amusing and insightful, the first half of this is interesting, and this is great.
Verdict: Win for neither camp. Overall, both are disappointing; technically, I’m still undecided.
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Raffy Marshall is a history student.
Former French President Giscard d’Estaing accidentally made the best case I’ve heard for Brexit so far. Europe, he explained, was destined to increasing irrelevance. Federalisation would manage that decline by pooling resources. Giscard offers death and taxes. By contrast, the gallant Brexiteers offer a life of adventure on the high seas of international free trade.
Europe’s preferred response to any crisis is more federalism. The worse the EU performs, the more powerful it will become. Brussels promises us an opt-out from the coming bursts of integration. But are we to bet Britain’s future on a half-hearted guarantee, extracted with difficulty from an organisation notable for mendacity?
Ultimately however our sovereignty, our greatness, and our global influence are paid for by our economy. Labour Chancellor Hugh Dalton compared Britain’s 1940s economic floundering to ‘watching a child bleed to death’. We’ve already lost too much blood to play economic Russian roulette now.
And yet many Brexiteers seem to treat the economy as a vulgar distraction. Concerned experts are dismissed as not just wrong but also corrupt. The IMF’s warning is to be disregarded because the EU gave it €168,138 last year. Can a multi-billion dollar pillar of the global economic system be bought for less than a London bedsit? The Prime Minister’s warnings are occasionally hyperbolic but I deeply respect him and take his concerns seriously. Leave must stop sneering at the PM’s army of experts and start rebutting them.
We seem to face a choice between an intolerable economic risk and an intolerable constitutional risk.
Verdict: narrow Remain win.
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Yet again, the discipline and strong messaging from the Remain camp means that they have had a good week and are slightly ahead in getting my vote.
Cameron and Osborne started the week with a large dose of economic messaging (via huge cracked lettering on the Treasury website and dreadful DIY puns by the PM at B&Q’s HQ), arguing that we will fall into recession if we leave. It’s hysterical and likely overstates the case, but I feel this doom-mongering works. It was used to powerful effect in the Scottish Referendum and in the General Election last year and will probably work again. Leave’s response though was underwhelming, mainly arguing about methods, rather than the issues, with a joint letter signed by a few MPs (but not Boris who was too busy and pp’d it) about the use of Government websites.
Tim Montgomerie wrote yesterday that if there were no perceived economic benefit to staying, the country would vote to leave. That may be the case, but Vote Leave haven’t presented a strong, independently supported view on the economic benefits for Brexit, I can only conclude that there will be a cost to leaving.
Voters need to hear the economic benefits to leaving (presuming there are some). Until that point is made, then self interest, including my own, will see Remain hold onto and probably increase their lead.
It feels like this week, like most others in this campaign, Vote Leave have been merely responding to Stronger In’s messaging.
Verdict: Remain win.
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Chris Whiteside is an economist, and a Conservative activist in Cumbria.
A bad week.
Low point on the Remain side: Alan Johnson calling Leave supporters “extremists” and appearing to question their sanity.
The former Chancellor said: “We are the reasonable people… the Leave side are the extremists on this”. He added that they have a “certain mentality that is not rational and not balanced”. Such insults are unfair and counterproductive.
Low point on the Leave side: Boris Johnson blaming the EU for the fact that “unelected judges” have interfered with deportation decisions.
“Unelected”, yes but neither set of judges are anything to do with the European Union. The judges who held up their deportations of Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza for years sat on the European Court of Human Rights which is nothing to do with the EU. More recently deportations were challenged by British judges on our own Supreme Court. Leaving the EU would have zero effect on the ability of either set of judges to affect deportation decisions.
Two more poor arguments were preposterous suggestions from leave that remaining might put Britain’s seat on the UN Security Council at risk – change requires amending the UN charter, which Britain could veto – and that we might be forced to take part in a European army. Again, we could veto this.
There are positive cases for Remain and Leave but neither is cutting through the negativity and nonsense.
Verdict: Remain, Poor, Leave, utterly dire. So Remain did less badly this week. But frankly both deserved to lose.