Are you prepared to take the risk of leaving the EU?

To be honest, I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to the EU referendum until after the Scottish elections had passed. Being an expat – or migrant, if you want to put it another way – in a country outside of the EU, it seemed, from a distance at least, that while the rest of the UK would support remaining, England might have a temporary moment of madness during the campaign but would come to its senses in time for the actual vote.

But it was a Facebook post from Scottish Lib Dem stalwart Sheila Richie which really jolted me. She described herself as being “scared” about the potential outcome in a way which she didn’t feel scared about the Scottish independence referendum. I know what she means.

I have a daughter. I’m scared what a vote to pull out of the EU means for her and for her ability to find jobs or higher education in a country which suits her. If she returned to the UK, she wouldn’t automatically have the right to go and work in France, Spain, Germany or wherever (and yes, I know that the UK could stay in the EEA and have the same right of movement as we currently do, but the main aim of most of the Brexiters seems to be to stop immigration so realistically that’s not going to happen.) It would also mean her opportunities for spending time on programmes such as ERASMUS, or even having the opportunity to study for her degree in an EU country, would be at best made difficult by visa regulations, and at worst virtually impossible.

I’m scared because of the potential effect to the UK economy. The EU has the world’s largest economy, equating to 24% of the world’s GDP in 2015 according to the ONS. We currently have unfettered access to this – what would happen if we don’t? In 2014, 44% of our exports – cars, whisky, and the like – go to the EU. Indeed, one of the key reasons Nissan chose to locate in the North East of England is that there was access to the EU market. If countries put duties in place on this (and they could be different from country to country, requiring different accounting points) would it not make export, and therefore the trade of goods more difficult?

I’m scared because leaving the EU means regressing not just 43 years to when we joined in 1973, but over 100 years, to a Europe where barriers to movement of people and goods were common, and where right-wing ideologues ruled the roost. Our ancestors fought to stop right-wing, racist ideas taking root in the UK, yet we have seen supposedly mainstream politicians make comments which could easily have been said by Enoch Powell and can generously be described as borderline racist.

I’m scared because this isn’t the future our young people want. People of my age and younger have grown up with the EU. We know and see its potential; we understand the benefits of being able to work, study or travel abroad without hindrance, whether it is setting up a small business in France, studying at the University of Maastricht, or spending two weeks in Marbella. Many of us have friends and partners who are from other EU countries or further afield. We don’t want to be restricted in the scope of our ambition because of the fears and prejudices of our elders.

To the people who want to vote to leave I ask you this. Are you making this decision based on information, or just your own “knowledge”? Have you thought about the consequences of your vote, not just on you or your own prejudices, but on your children or grandchildren – have you even talked to them about it to get their views? Have you considered the fact that the very thing you claim to want to protect – the United Kingdom – could actually face a bigger threat to its unity if England drags the others out with it? Martyn Lewis, while remaining balanced, pointed out that “A vote for Brexit is unquestionably economically riskier than a vote to remain.” Are you prepared to take that risk?

* Keith Legg is a former councillor and activist in Fife, who moved with his family to teach in an international school in Cairo in August. The views above are written in a personal capacity.

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  • Richard Easter 9th Jun '16 - 10:48am

    I have considered voting to leave, because I fear the EU will not reform, and some of the behaviour of the officials over the Lisbon Treaty, and now TTIP is abhorrent and shows a complete lack of willingness to listen to the voters.

    There is also this push within the EU for more privatisation and market liberalisation of things that really are better provided by nation states nationalised – such as railways and postal services. My concern is that in the longer term, the EU may push for such moves with health. There is a great deal of corporate lobbying within the EU after all. Having seen yet again G4S commit criminal acts and Southern trying to crush trade unions and sack all guards making trains less safe, purely to send profit overseas, it proves to me that in monopoly public services should not be in the hands of unaccountable corporate power, where there is no possibility of a genuine market.

    On balance I think I will vote to Remain, but the idea that the EU is some wonderful panacea filled with well meaning paternal Commissioners who want what’s best for us all, is just as rubbish as the idea that Brexit will turn Britain into an impoverished nation of Bernard Mannings.

  • Richard Easter 9th Jun ’16 – 10:48am………….. as rubbish as the idea that Brexit will turn Britain into an impoverished nation of Bernard Mannings…………..

    Well, the leader of Brexit has a ‘Bernard Manning’ history; he of the “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”.

  • Are you making this decision based on information, or just your own “knowledge”?

    Way to get people on side, by implying that if they disagree with you they must be stupid.

  • Richard Easter 9th Jun '16 - 11:07am

    Expats. There is no leader of Brexit, just as there is no leader of Remain. There are utter scumbags on both sides, and principled people on both sides. The media just concentrates on this as a Tory war. Cameron and Goldman Sachs do not represent the view of Farron (although Goldman Sachs may represent the view of Clegg…)

    A Farron or Corbynite EU would be a very different beast from a Cameron / Osborne EU.

    A TUSC or David Owen Brexit would be very different from a Boris / Farage Brexit.

  • I’m certainly not scare for students. England is full of students from all over the world mostly from not in the EU. I’ve got friends and relatives who have studied in China and the US, who have worked everywhere from Australia to Mexico. Visa’s are not as problematic as they are being made out to be. They are a mild inconvenience.

    Have I thought about my children? Yes. Am I prepared to take the risk. Yes
    What I find really odd about a lot of these articles is that they carry an implicit fear of Britons, especially the English, and of the electorate especially if they not cosmopolitan, the old, and weirdly of Europe, which is portrayed as so fragile and petty that it will punish nations that try to leave. Personally. I’m far more worried about staying in.

  • Yes

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jun '16 - 11:28am

    I never wanted this referendum because I knew that I wold never be able to make a truly informed decision. It has been worse than I could imagine with each side pushing their own propaganda.

    Fortunately, I have promised my 16 year old grandson that I will vote Remain as a proxy for him, thus relieving me of further need to follow the arguments.

    I am not entirely at ease with the decision though. The inability of the EU to deal with the migrant crisis in a humane way, the behaviour of some of the countries in the EU towards some migrants, and the shabby deal with Turkey, has dented my confidence that it is a union that I want to be part of.

  • Glenn – have you asked those students what they pay in terms of tuition fees? If a student goes from the UK to, say Maastricht, then they pay exactly the same as the local student – same as the student who comes from Amsterdam to Edinburgh. A student who comes from the US or China, for example, will pay over £10,000 per year.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Jun '16 - 11:30am

    Also see Economist 4/6/2016 page 32 “Pity the Brexpats” and page 27 “If it were done
    The Leave campaign “breathtaking in their breeziness” says they “have nothing to fear” from leaving the EU.
    Apply for German citizenship? A no-brainer. “..stimulants to trade, promoters of British culture and values, vessels of wordly contacts and knowledge. Not deserters.”
    Spain’s PM said on 1 June that leaving the EU could cost Britons the right to live and work in Spain.
    Every member state of the EU would have a veto on the terms after Article 50 were invoked. They would be reluctant to encourage more countries leaving. Some do negligible trade with UK, such as Romania and Slovenia. There fore Leave campaigners are wrong to forecast that Germany would be able to do what they forecast, even if it wanted to.
    Repealing the 1972 European Communities Act would be contrary to international law.
    Not invoking Article 50 would be ineffective, there is no legal alternative. The simplistic assertions of the Leave campaign should not be accepted.

  • Expats,
    Boris Johnson was also praised in on LDV for supporting an amnesty for illegal immigrants and was actually the mayor London for two terms. Personally, as someone in the exit camp I don’t see anyone as leader anymore than I think the Remain see themselves as inherently supporters of George Osborne, Tony Blair or David Cameron.

  • @ Richard Easter After a lot of cogitation I voted remain by post, Richard – even though I agree with you on all the issues you mention. The trouble with some of the modern Lib Dems is that many of the so called ‘economic liberals’ don’t agree with the issues you raise. Sarah Wollaston’s switch seems to me to be an interesting straw in the wind.

    Frankly, I’ll be glad when this referendum is over. It’s becoming completely tedious… a bit like I imagine a John Knox sermon was that went on for innumerable hours.

  • This obsession the “remain” side have that anyone voting “leave” is just being selfish is daft. All the people I know who are voting – either way – are doing it for the future of their families. Yes, I know that most young people would like to stay in the EU, but last time I saw a poll there were still plenty who want out. It may be the over 40’s who want out, but perhaps sometimes parents and grandparents know best.

  • There’s no doubt British children will be struggling to find decent jobs if we stay in.

  • I find it odd that a liberal democratic party is opting to vote against the same free trade agreements that are enjoyed by say USA or Canada. It’s also odd that they are appealing to a small group of people that want to work in the EU and villa owners over the people that are living in this country. It’s also odd that they want to tie our SMEs to more regulations than they need. Then there’s this free movement of labour that seems to hit the poorest the hardest.

    I wouldn’t mind if they had highlighted the reforms they wanted and campaigned on them. Lib Dem policy is like a hollow shell – all EU on the outside but nothing on the inside.

    As I say it’s all very odd. I don’t know about leaving the EU i think i want out of the Lib Dems!

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Jun '16 - 1:34pm

    “There’s no doubt British children will be struggling to find decent jobs if we stay in.”

    And what evidence do you have that they’ll find it any easier if we leave?

  • Richard Easter 9th Jun '16 - 2:23pm

    @ David Raw – I agree. I think there is a massive difference between a regulated sensible competing market where it is suitable, and outsourcing monopoly public services over to corporations or even foreign governments, where competition is not physically possible or suitable. Especially when it seems the same old bunch of hated cowboys of the G4S / Serco / Capita ilk get them every time. On railways alone, British Rail’s Intercity service was 100 times better than Cross Country – run by the German state government.

    @Jane – If you are referring to NAFTA and the like, there is nothing to enjoy about them. Lowering tariffs is eminently sensible, but the corporate rights and dreaded ISDS are sovereignty killing machines, and take power from governments and the people and put them in the hands of multinationals and creative trade lawyers. I believe Farron is against iSDS from something I read a while back, so I assume a Farron led Lib Dem style trade deal would be far preferable to the NAFTA / TPP / TTIP terror!

  • @ david. no doubt in your world we’ll be introducing child labour and sending them up chimneys._

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jun '16 - 4:31pm

    “Are you prepared to take the risk of leaving the EU?”


    “To the people who want to vote to leave I ask you this. Are you making this decision based on information, or just your own “knowledge”?”

    Does this question work equally well in reverse?

    “Have you thought about the consequences of your vote, not just on you or your own prejudices….”

    Return to the supremacy of Parliament.
    A shock that dislodges peripheral EUrope from the euro and ever-closer-union, which permits;
    The original EU six + optional extras to now get on with the fiscal & political union necessary for the euro to survive, and in consequence;
    Further accession of states on the periphery of europe to the EEA.
    Permitting the [whole] of europe to thrive in harmony with one another for another generation.

    “….your children or grandchildren – have you even talked to them about it to get their views? ”

    No. At fifteen months old, i think that kind of a conversation with my son would be premature. What…. you presumed I was collecting my bus pass?

    The EC/EEC/EU was a net positive for peace and harmony up to Mastricht, beyond that point it has been a net negative. This is the best opportunity to return the world to balance, given that the thing the EU is best at is stasis if the last ten years are any judge.

  • The other thing I find disconcerting is the readiness of my fellow liberals to accuse people turning in Bernard Manning, wanting to send children up chimneys etc because they disagree about the blummin’ EU. On top of this there seems to be an unshakable belief, in some quarters, that upon Brexit the population of Britain will descend into a dangerous mob because of course the only thing keeping us civilised is Europe. The EU as we know is less than twenty five years old, it’s history dating all the way back to the dim distant dark ages of 1994. It is has not been keeping the piece since WWII. It hasn’t even keeping the piece since the beginnings of rave culture. Freedom of movement was ratified the early 2000s. It is in short 22 years old!

  • Jane – I really like your description of Lib Dem policy as “a hollow shell – all EU on the outside but nothing on the inside.”

    The EU has already proved to be a disaster for most of the people of Greece and southern Europe, but its problems continue to mount and spread northwards. Now I support the idea of a European Union – just not this EU, organised and run in this particular way. That is why I have tried to argue for around 25 years that major reform is needed.

    Perhaps the party establishment senses the eggshell fragility of its stance fearing that any crack will be instantly fatal and expose the inner emptiness or perhaps its deepest ambition is only to be invited into the existing establishment irrespective of the cost to principle. Whatever the reason (and it’s not limited only to matters EU), the party cannot go on like this. It has demonstrably lost touch with the voters on issues of national policy (a loss long concealed by strong support from the ‘non-of-the-above’ vote). Now it’s becoming equally clear that it’s also lost touch with many of its actual and potential supporters as membership becomes increasingly limited to a rather odd subset of a subset of British liberals.

    The case for EU reform is stronger and more urgent than ever but if Lib Dems only shill for a failed establishment then what is their point?

  • Richard Easter 9th Jun '16 - 5:46pm

    @Glenn arguably rave culture kept the peace better – as anyone who knows how chilled football fans on certain disco biscuits can be!

    And yes the accusations thrown at Brexit supporters of being “racist”, “uneducated”, “far left / right” and whatnot are disgusting. It has certainly made me question how to vote in this.

  • paul barker 9th Jun '16 - 6:17pm

    Does anyone know if theres some way to register how I voted in The Referendum ? Is anyone counting the millions of people who have already voted ?

  • The OP waxes lyrical about his children living in a world without borders, while deciding to move to a country which routinely uses lethal force to protect its own borders – against people trying to leave as well as trying to come in. I’m sure Britain would still be a pretty welcoming country even under a Boris/Farage-style points system. Much more so than Egypt, anyway.

  • I’m a fan of Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Eagle, but they messed up their tactics tonight big time. People may not rate Boris, but most people like him and I’m sure there will be a lot of sympathy for him after those rather angry, personal attacks. It also allowed the two ladies from the “leave” campaign to get a rather easy ride and they looked very professional and calm. Overall a bit of a disaster for the remain camp and the first debate I’ve seen for a long time where Sturgeon has disappointed.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jun '16 - 9:25am

    @malc “I’m a fan of Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Eagle, but they messed up their tactics tonight big time.”
    For Nicola Sturgeon, if the vision is an independent Scotland inside the EU, then she might be happy to be seen by her domestic audience publicly attacking a posh English Tory brexiter while simultaneously generating sympathy for him south of the border. Probably more of a cock-up by Angela Eagle and Amber Rudd.

  • I think of my children’s future. I see the university I attended rammed with the scions of rich, overseas, non-EU families. I see the office where I work populated largely by bright EU graduates who can’t get work in their own country because of the sclerotic Euro-zone economy. I see every school around me with bulge classes in every year and their playing fields built on because successive Governments (including the Coalition) took the EU workers’ taxes but didn’t spend on new schools (or other infrastructure) to cope with them. I see decisions on the minutiae of UK life – guising as free-trade measures – developed by make-workers and taken for me by representatives of Croatia, Malta and Estonia. And I hear myself told that this country is too feeble to survive on its own and that if we vote to leave, there’ll be no change anyway because all the alternatives have the same bad features as the EU – plus some more. Some democracy! Some institution worth defending! Topped off with rank intellectual and social snobbery against Leavers – campaigners and voters alike – that should shame those indulging in it.

    I shall vote Leave standing on my feet, not Remain in supplication on my knees.

  • Roger Billins 10th Jun '16 - 11:39am

    It will be a disaster both for the country and I suspect for me personally if we vote leave. Dealing with the personal issue. I am trying to set up a new business and potential investors are deferring the decision until after the vote and will not invest if Brexit wins. Similarly, with the run on the pound, I suspect the Internet on my mortgage will go up by several hundred pounds a month. Dealing with the general:

    1. The democracy argument used by Brexit is ludicrous. We live in the pretence for a democracy in the U.K where our government is elected by 23% of the electorate and our upper house is unelected. Contrast with the E.U where the Parliament is growing in power and reflects all shades of opinion.
    2. Immigration. The unpalatable truth is that immigrants are not taking ‘our jobs’ but there are hundreds of thousands of indigenous people who do not want to do hard work. My wife is a head teacher and the attitude of many in the white working class is driving her more and more working class.
    3. A Brexit win will lead to a Johnson, Gove government who will destroy what remains of our civil liberties Ann’s workers rights and abandon the climate change policies built up by the coalition. By 2020 I will be moving to the continent and leave the U.K to its brave new world !

  • Roger Billins 10th Jun '16 - 11:41am

    Two errors for “internet” read ” interest” and the second “working class” should read “right wing ” apologies!

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Jun '16 - 12:53pm

    Idealism colliding with reality?

  • Roger,
    I think you will find that there are millions of people all over the world who do not want to do hard work. Hard physical labour can be extremely bad for you. Working with heavy machinery sent my Dad deaf, ruined his back, gave him arthritis and lead to early and extremely unhealthy retirement.
    I also wonder why it is so acceptable amongst people who nominally claim to be progressive to resort to class bigotry and stereo-typing as long as its aimed at poor white people? Actually, immigration is not a driver of unemployment. Unemployment has in fact consistently fallen since the 1990s. What it does do, at least in it’s present form, is help to destabilise jobs leading to short term contracts, increased agency work and zero hour employment or what some people dress up as “flexible” working practices. Unfortunately it also plainly leads to societal tension as is amply illustrated by politics here and in the rest of Europe.

  • I live five miles from the border with Northern Ireland in County Donegal. I am assured in the breeziest of terms by Brexiteers that the border will remain open in the event of Brexit. All 292 crossings between Muff and Kileen. All the open fields. When the Republic of Ireland remains, and my local country road becomes the frontier between the UK and the European Union, will the drawbridge cut off or limit cross border trade, workers or tourists? The period between 1922 and 1992 was characterised by a greater or lesser level of restrictions up here, ranging from ROI motorists needing bonds signed by NI ratepayers to bring a car over the border to 1965, to the petty everyday harassment of ROI customs until 1992 and the single market.

    Where will the Brexiteers be then when our everyday life is screwed over by them?

  • @Con Logue – “Where will the Brexiteers be then when our everyday life is screwed over by them?”

    Everything that goes wrong following Brexit will be someone else’s fault according to them, despite plenty of people telling them exactly what will happen. Your border issues will the ROI’s fault. The lack of an instant free-trade deal with the remaining EU will the German’s fault, the post-Brexit recession will be down to a conspiracy of the remaining EU countries and foreign financial institutions jealous of the City of London etc.

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