I’ve just voted. I voted for the UK to remain in Europe.
Why? Well, here’s been a lot of partisan opinions and dog whistling on both sides of the debate- the level of discourse has been a lot like a mud wrestling much- both sides have smeared each other in so much muck that you can’t really tell them apart, and you stop caring.
That isn’t surprising. We have a government right now built on the principle public relations is more important than policy, that what you say and how you appear saying it is far more important than what you do. Sentiment over substance. Both sides of the Tory schism have led the same way, into farce. The whole thing has descended into an Eton schoolyard spat, with Nigel Farage the slightly odd kid no one plays with suddenly joining in, shouting “get him Boris” and other, more racist, things that make everyone uncomfortable.
So I’ve ignored it completely; maybe you have too. Instead I turned to social media, and through my own research made a decision to Remain, based on facts and figures and nothing else.
What’s my conflict of interest? Full disclosure; I am the son of a non-EU immigrant (who is voting Leave FYI), I was state educated and trained and am a junior doctor in the state run NHS. I pay my taxes, vote left of centre, and have a cat from Latvia. As a junior doctor no one despises Cameron, Osbourne and Hunt more for what they are doing to the NHS.
So why on earth would I side with them?
As a doctor I like facts. Cold, hard, rigourous facts. I don’t like subjectivity, vagueness or b******t. I also like human beings. I don’t like discrimination, inequality or suffering.
So here are some myths and some corresponding facts that changed my mind. Maybe they will change yours.
Here are some great sources – read them for yourself.
1) Europe is undemocratic and run by faceless bureaucrats
2) Europe costs £350 million a week
- No. This is the gross payment to Europe, but we rebate nearly half that every year- to farms and universities. So the ‘cost’ is variable, but much less – from £168million/week to £250million/week.
- £250 million sounds like a lot/ week- but it works out about £4/person per week, or £16/person per month.
- For £16/month we get easy access to a market of 500million people, which means many small businesses in the UK can sell to the EU as easily as to customers at home. This is a very good thing. We send ~45% of our exports to the EU.
- Renegotiating all the deals would be possible but: we would have p****d off Europe, we will have pound less strong against the Euro, and we would still have to allow free movement of labour.
3) We could spend that money better on health, like the NHS
- This is wrong, but I welcome the support.
- The NHS is drowning with Tory underfunding- but it’s the fault of our government, not the EU or immigration.
- In 2008 illegal and fraudulent banking practices crashed the world economy.* As a consequence our Tory government decided that the way to repair the economy was to cut public services, and they took £20 billion out of the NHS in assets, and froze the budget, despite rising demand. They plan to take another £20 billion by 2020 (including their proposed ‘extra’ £10 billion), and create the least relatively funded decade for the NHS in it’s history. The same banking practices have already started to return by the way, although what this means isn’t certain.
- The economy will recede again if we leave the EU – I don’t really see how it can’t. Economists worldwide agree : but ignore that fact for the moment. A market we export 40% of our goods into, have extensive trade links and agreements from selling into, and have been a part of for 40 years just disappears from our economy overnight. Yes, perhaps we can recover – maybe we can trade more with Brazil, and China, and the US, maybe we can set up the same agreements again with the EU. In the meantime, which will be years, not months, Britain could lose as much as 10% of GDP – that’s around £180 billion, or 1.5 x the budget of the NHS.
- During the last period of austerity, worldwide it is estimated 250,000 cancer deaths occurred that otherwise wouldn’t have if the financial crash hadn’t occurred. Let me reiterate that – 1/4 million people DIED, because of financial fraud, in health systems dependent on employment for health insurance. This didn’t happen in the NHS, because of it’s public nature. But if there are further cuts to public spending, further austerity, the NHS will collapse. It might anyway. Money in healthcare means lives- don’t underestimate austerity as merely an exercise in ‘saving pennies’. It saves money from the most vulnerable in our society, and some don’t survive. It’s a crime too big to see.
4) We have to stop immigration and take control of our borders
- 330,000 people came to this country last year. Half came from the EU, half came from non-EU
- We already ‘control our borders’- we have full control over non-EU immigration, and all EU migrants have to present ID and passports to enter the country.
- The arguments over immigration are flawed – read this
- a) Essentially, leaving the EU won’t alter immigration from non-EU, which may increase
- b) immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take out: they help us survive periods of austerity and economic downturn, like right now
- c) 1.2 million British people live in the EU, and around 3 million European citizens live in the UK. If we deported everyone, and all the Brits returned, our population would fall, but we would have replaced 2 million working people with mostly retirees, who will draw a pension and use extensive healthcare and contribute less to the economy than the working migrants they replaced. Good idea?
5) Other rambling
- We have to bail out the Eurozone all the time. No we don’t – we opted out.
- The EU is a capitalist wet dream designed to oppress working people. Maybe – but look at the government we have now. (see next point)
- We must leave the EU to escape the threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This clandestine trade agreement between the EU and the US has been negotiated for the past five years in total secrecy – public, press and even politicians involved aren’t allowed to look at any materials. The whole thing was recently leaked – and has many scary and ultra-neoliberal proposals for companies to essentially sue governments on issues that affect it’s profits – like health and safety regulation, or state-provided healthcare. The government recently backed down and exempted the NHS from TTIP – but we haven’t seen the detail yet. To be honest I was planning on voting Leave if I thought we would escape TTIP legislation – but remember who our government is. Cameron basically invented TTIP and would sign up to it ‘in a second’. If we leave Europe we will be left with an even more far-right, ultra capitalistic government, and TTIP would just be imposed under a different name.
I may not have convinced you – but that doesn’t matter. Politics in the digital age is changing, it’s up to us to take the responsibility for how it changes. Will it become a divisive society of online echo chambers, neither listening to each other except to engage in Twitter trolling? Or will we grow up, critically seek out and appraise the facts for ourselves, escape the influence of newspapers trying to sell us sensationalist politicised rubbish, and see the world how it really is.
Remember people literally died for your right to vote. Whatever you do today, go and VOTE.
*How? Well, watch The Big Short, but essentially banks were selling mortgages to people who couldn’t afford to repay them, and then selling those debts bundled together to other banks, who then bet on those bundles to never fail, which they obviously, spectacularly did. Imagine your friend set fire to a bit of paper, and said to you “Here, buy this bit of paper, and keep it with your other bits of paper.” Which obviously started a bigger fire, and then you said to another friend “Hey, buy this fire I just started and keep it in your house.” And then someone came along and said to HIS friend : “I bet you £1 billion that house doesn’t burn down.” Sound stupid? This is actually exactly what happened.