Letter published in the Shepton Mallet Journal on 25th May 2016
A way through the referendum debate
I suspect your readers are fed up with all the arguments about Europe (both in your Opinion column and elsewhere).
Can I offer a simple, non-party-political, statistics-free way through?
Everybody agrees that, in or out of the EU, Europe will always be our biggest trading partner. That’s an indisputable geographical fact, as well as an economic one.
So would leaving the EU enable us to do more European business or less, and on better or worse terms as regards everything that goes with the EU?
Nobody knows the answer, because it depends on negotiations that haven’t yet happened. We have to make an educated guess.
Imagine the body language round the negotiating table. Will the EU negotiators radiate bonhomie, gemütlichkeit and a sincere desire to optimise Brexit, to encourage anybody else thinking of leaving? Or not?
That, fellow voters, is the big question. It’s as simple as that.
But what of the row about immigration?
Well, the people in Calais hiding in lorries and jumping on trains aren’t doing it because we are in the EU. Leaving the EU won’t stop the immigration muddle. For that, there needs to be sensible, workable agreement between the countries of Europe.
So another question for us voters is whether we are more likely to get agreement from inside the EU, with a vote, a veto and a seat at the table, or from the outside, with none of these things?
We voters must make up our own minds, but for me that goes to the heart of it. The EU needs to be reformed, not abandoned.
Half of the countries in the EU did not exist as independent nations in 1900. Over half have experienced political upheaval since 1950 (including France, Spain, Portugal and Greece as well as the former soviet bloc countries). The EU is an engine of security and stability, as well as (when it works properly) of prosperity.
At the Cenotaph each year we remember the human cost to Shepton Mallet of instability and insecurity in Europe over the last century.
So, whatever you decide, you owe it to the names on the Cenotaph to cast your vote on June 23rd.