Brexit: the worst ‘debate’ ever?

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The UK has been embarrassing itself during this seemingly never-ending campaign on the referendum on membership of the European Union.

Whilst British citizens appreciate having the chance to vote on the matter, they also wish it was all over and done with either way.

This is because the standard of the so-called debate on the issue of EU membership has been disgustingly poor. Largely negative and mostly focussed on immigration, the media is filled with scare stories from both sides predicting doom if the other should win.

UK prime minister David Cameron wants the UK to stay in the EU but he is so desperate to win (after all his job is on the line) that during visits to the UK various world leaders such as US President Barack Obama and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe have been pressured by 10 Downing Street to wade into the argument in favour of a vote to remain.

Cameron has even gone so far as to say there could be the possibility of war in Europe should the UK leave the EU.

Arguments to leave have been equally as bad with their spokespeople making out the EU is the source of all the UK’s ills – from poor economic performance to increased immigration – and that somehow Europe is taking money directly out of the health service, when in fact all these problems are mostly the fault of the UK government and its policy of austerity.

It is hard to find the fact from the fiction. The campaign to stay in has failed to highlight the benefits of what the EU offers the UK in terms of trade, workers’ rights, business opportunities, and the free movement of capital and labour. Meanwhile the leave campaign has not shown what opportunities the UK will have outside of the EU and what the new freedoms will bring.

On the defence side, if the UK was to leave the EU will suffer from losing one of the most capable European military powers from its stable. However, a unified EU military force has been slow to develop and European defence remains solidly with NATO or with more ad hoc arrangements when situations arise. A UK exit would definitely sound the death knell for any meaningful deployable EU force.

For industry based in the UK, leaving the EU would undoubtedly harm companies that have large volumes of trade on the continent. At the Eurosatory exhibition in Paris (see show news), companies are pursuing procurement programmes that EU legislation says must be put to competition. Would it be easier or harder to British companies to compete for them?

BAE Systems has come out in favour of continued EU membership even though it does not have much business remaining in Europe. It is more concerned that Scotland will push for independence from the UK should the UK as a whole vote to leave the EU.

Overall being in or out will make little difference to most peoples’ lives on a day-to-day basis.

The wider issues are whether the UK will be vulnerable to unfair trade deals with larger states like the US and China or when negotiating with larger trading blocs if it is on its own; if the NHS would be put under more threat from privatisation and workers’ rights removed without EU legislation to protect them; and if the UK stays in then whether it will get dragged along a route towards an EU state without democratic accountability or the ability to reform itself.

So, a lot to think about then! But it seems the best way to get information is to avoid the mainstream media at all costs and ignore the hyperbole of the politicians and commentators.

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