The EU Membership Referendum: My Thoughts



First, I’m sorry my posting has been sparse lately. I’ve had exams this month and also been hospitalized (I’m okay now, thank you), and so I haven’t really had time to follow and write about politics as much as I’d like (I’d love to post every day).

So here’s your British politics update: David Cameron, Prime minister of the UK, has promised that there will be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. The referendum will be an in or out referendum (ie no third option, just a “should we stay or should we go”-type of question).

I’ve long supported such a referendum, as regular readers of this blog will know. I am against the EU and for the nation state. I would like the entire union to be dissolved, and I see a UK exit (“Brexit” as it is commonly called) as a great first step: The UK is one of the relatively strong economies (note: relatively) in the union, and a net contributor to the organization. If the UK were to leave, that would deal a huge financial blow to the union.

Another reason why I’m so keen on the UK leaving the union is because I believe that once one country shows that leaving the EU is possible, then more will follow: It’s a taboo that has to be broken.

However, I am not so enthusiastic about this referendum. This may be confusing, as I do want “a” referendum. So what is wrong with this one?

1) It’s too late. This referendum, according to current plans, will not be held before (likely quite late in) 2017. That is, four years from now. The reason is obvious: In most cases, referendums are held as soon as possible so that the government can gain the people’s approval and move on. That is, if the government expects to win the referendum. So what does it tell us that the government has promised a referendum, but not until four years from now? That they know what everyone knows: If the referendum was held today, they would lose. And it wouldn’t even be close – a poll published less than a week ago showed 50 % would vote to leave, and only 36 % to stay. And we know turnout will be higher among those who want to leave (as they are the ones who want to change status quo). In fact, if there were to be a referendum in every country in the EU on whether or not to leave the EU, I believe the only country left in the union would be Luxembourg. That’s how little popular support the EU has among the European public today.

What Cameron and his tories are hoping for is that by the time the referendum is held, the Eurozone crisis will be resolved. This is just wishful thinking of course – the Eurozone crisis has only just begun – but the fact that they want to postpone a referendum until they think they will have a better chance of winning it, shows that the Tories still don’t get it. They are the same corrupt quislings they have always been (or at least since Thatcher retired). They’re not holding a referendum because they realize that this is an issue people should have a say on, instead, this is all political strategy. This is what we’ve come to expect from them, but it still makes me angry.

2) It depends on the Tories’ re-election. This referendum is in no way set in stone – for it to happen, the Conservative Party (commonly known as the Tories) must first be re-elected in 2015. Now, I’m going to give everyone a crash course in British politics: The Tories are currently in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The liberal democrats are, as the name implies – liberal democrats. They are the most left-winged party in British politics. In the middle we have the Labour Party. If you want to understand the difference between Labour and Liberal Democrat, think of the difference between Hillary Clinton/Andrew Cuomo and Dennis Kucinich/Barney Frank democrats. The Tories in this analogy would be moderate Republicans (think Lindsey Graham/Arlen Specter) while my party – UKIP – would be more radically conservative (think Bobby Jindal/Paul Ryan).

What is a (moderately) conservative party doing in a coalition with a bunch of Barney Frank Peace n’ Love hippies? You’d really have to ask David Cameron (the current Prime Minister and leader of the Tories), but basically they were really desperate to get the Labour Party out of power.

So what’s the problem? Well, for starters, the Tories have not led in any opinion polls since the 18th of march 2012. That’s 9 months without a SINGLE poll, not even an outlier, showing the Tories leading.

What about the Liberal Democrats? They appear set to be annihilated, having lost over half their support since the last election. We have to remember that elections are not proportional. It is entirely possible for a party to get 10 % of the votes, without winning a single seat in the parliament. This is because, like in the US House of Representatives, what really matters is winning a plurality of votes in the districts. If you get 10 % of the votes in every district, you won’t win a single seat. That is why, in the last election, the Tories increased their number of seats in the House by 50 %, even though their share of the national vote only increased by 3.7 %. A Party in general needs about 10 – 15 % of the national vote before they can expect to win any seats at all (it all really depends on the distribution of their votes – a 5 % party with all votes concentrated in one region will get more seats than a 10 % party with its votes spread out).

Labour and the Liberal Democrats both oppose the referendum (they, like the Tories, support Britain’s membership in the EU). Unless some kind of miracle happens, they will be able to stop the referendum from happening after the next election.

David Cameron is no idiot. He knows this. The reason he called this referendum is to satisfy the Eurosceptics within his own party. He wants to be able to say after the next election that “Well, I tried, but we didn’t win. Gosh I would have loved holding a referendum, but what can you do when people don’t vote for you”.

Also, David Cameron would like nothing more but to destroy the UK Independence Party. Which brings us to my third point.

3) The referendum – a lethal threat to UKIP. According to recent polls, UKIP is set to win about 12-16 % of the popular vote in the next election. We only received 3 % in the last election (2010), so this is great news even if the election is far away (2015). I dare to say that without UKIP, there would never have been any talk of Britain leaving the EU, and there would have been no referendum. So how can this referendum be a bad thing? Isn’t it our greatest achievement ever? Well, yes. But remember: The referendum will only happen if the Tories win the next election. Like I said above, they are extreme underdogs.

But why are they in that position? Why have the Tories lost so much support? A big part of the answer is definitely UKIP. While UKIP does draw support from all parties, it is no secret that most of our new supporters are former tories, fed up with David Cameron and his eurolovers.

The addition of UKIP to British politics is bound to cost the tories seats. Therefore, by running in the general election, UKIP may be said to be decreasing the probability that a referendum will in fact happen, as UKIP’s presence makes it less likely that the Tories will be re-elected (which is necessary or their will be no referendum). And this is exactly what the Tories are counting on: They want UKIP voters to defect to them in order to get a referendum (which UKIP voters support).

So should UKIP run in the general election? My answer to that question is Yes. The main reason is simply that the Tories can’t be trusted. They promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty after all, and whatever happened to that? If UKIP were to fold, or if UKIP were to fail to win seats in the election 2015, then I am absolutely certain that the referendum will never happen. Or at least it won’t be an “in or out” referendum.

However, even though I still support UKIP, I know many eurosceptics will be satisfied with the promise of a referendum and vote for the Tories to make it happen. This may then result in UKIP not winning any seats, which would be a huge disappointment that quite frankly would be hard for the party to recover frmo.

The other reason why UKIP should still run is because UKIP is far from a single-issue party: Even though the media would have you believe otherwise, UKIP really does have policies that are not related to the EU. Introducing a flat tax, reducing immigration (especially from non-European countries), increasing defence spending etc (our manifesto can be found here).

There is another issue as well with this referendum: David Cameron has promised that he will attempt to “renegotiate” the UK membership. Exactly what a renegotiated membership agreement would look like is hard to tell, but it is clear that he seeks to repatriate certain powers from the EU to the UK. Cameron has been talking about this for months, and so far he has been met with nothing but ridicule from his European colleagues. The other European countries have so far seemed unwilling to give Britain special treatment. However, if the referendum draws close and polls still indicate that the British will in fact leave the union, then you can count on the EU to give Britain some hollow “guarantees” that will be framed by Cameron and his partners-in-crime as a “renegotiated membership”. How do we know this is going to happen? Because it happened before, in 1975, when the Brits first voted on the EU (which was just a common market back then). Many brits had reservations about the Common Market, fearing that it would take too much power away from the country. Then, right before the referendum, the political elite assured the population that Britain had just received some “guarantees” that would make sure the country wouldn’t have to cede any significant amount of power to the EU.

And it worked. Of course, all those guarantees were just cheap talk, and the UK has ended up giving up as much power to the EU as any other country. But the point is that it worked, which is why they will try it again.

To summarize: It’s great that the Tories have had to cave and promise a referendum – it shows how strong the Eurosceptic movement has become. However, there is little else that is good about the referendum – it will potentially stop UKIP from winning seats in the 2015 election, it won’t happen for four years, and it most likely won’t happen at all as the Tories are unlikely to be re-elected.

I will most likely write about this again in the near future. This will do for now. Thanks for reading.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Tysoe/711623798 Matt Tysoe

    Who do you think you are kidding Mrs Merkel?

    If you think we’re on the run…

    We are the boys who will stop your little game!

    We are the boys who will make you think again!

    ‘Cause, who do you think you are kidding Mrs Merkel

    If you think old England’s done?

    Mr Farage goes off to town on the 8:21,

    But he comes home each evening and he’s ready with his gun.

    So who do you think you are kidding Mrs Merkel

    If you think old England’s done?