As Kettle's Current Affairs Editor and Managing Editor, I'm used to having an opinion on pretty much everything, much to my friends and colleagues misery, but there's one thing I don't have an opinion on, and that really I should, and that's whether to vote for 'Brexit' or 'Bremain'.
And it's not that I don't care, I do care. I know this is one of the most important, profound decisions we are likely to make about our country's future. Unlike a general election where we can change our mind every 5 years, this is forever, a generation at least. This is not something to be taken lightly, and anyone who thinks it is, or doesn't care about voting, as a friend of mine said, if you don't care enough about your opinion to vote, I don't care enough about your opinion to listen.
The actual problem is, despite reading endless amounts of information on the subject, I don’t think I know enough, but to be honest, I don’t think anyone really does. We're being bombarded with information from two sides who are proving the old saying, 'there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics' more true than at any other time in British politics.
On one side we have the smarmy idiots in the Bremain campaign, supported by the Government, using public funds to print off leaflets telling us to stay, warning of an economic apocalypse if we leave, and on the other, we have the shrieking idiots of the Brexit campaign warning of an immigrant rapist criminal apocalypse if we stay.
And with the argument between Boris Johnson and the Bremain campaign recently descending into 'what Hitler would have wanted', I’m beginning to feel it’s been lost by both sides anyway.
So if you're not a shrieking or smarmy idiot, and you don't want to vote based on what Hilter would or wouldn't have done, what are the issues?
Fundamentally it boils down to the following:
This biggest one. Bremainers say we risk falling into recession with years of stunted growth and increased prices by leaving, Brexiters argue we will be flourish economically by use of our own agency without the pesky Eurocrats interfering.
The trouble is, both sides could be right, or they could be wrong, no-one knows. Economic predictions are just that, predictions. Ask George Osborne who in his 2010 budget said the books would be balanced by 2015, and look how that turned out. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer with access to more information than any of us can't get it right, then who can?
The truth about economies is they are unpredictable. They are more temperamental than a hungry toddler before nap time and twice as difficult to stop going into melt down once they start. Terror attacks, natural disasters, leadership battles, what China might do, all completely unpredictable and all guaranteed to send an economy off on a wobble, and their unpredictable nature means no-one can factor them in to any economic forecast. So anyone telling you that leaving or remaining will definitely cause the economy to grow or falter is lying, because you just can't predict the impact of the unpredictable.
The Brexiters will tell you that we should not have our laws dictated to us by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, that power should remain in the UK, we know best how to govern ourselves. But given that last year the House of Lords had to step in to over throw some of the most punitive cuts to the benefits system ever seen, can we really trust the UK government? Do we really want to give them more power? We might mock Brussels mercilessly, and some of their legislation does seem ridiculous, but the EU has protected workers rights and improved working conditions for UK workers in away that probably wouldn't have happened had UK self interest been allowed to take priority.
We all know how corrupt UK politics can be, how it is increasingly being led by big business needs to support economic strategy, and the EU provides some protection from this. Perhaps this quote from Rupert Murdoch proves the point best when he said, "When I go to Downing Street they do what I say, when I go to Brussels they take no notice."
The other biggy. The Bremainers say the Brexiters are little more than poorly disguised racists, the Brexiters say the Bremainers are selling the country out to have it over run with terrorists and rapists. For every claim of EU immigrantion putting a strain on public services and driving down UK wages, there is a counter claim of immigrants paying more in tax than they take out and that access to the single market, if we left, would still require freedom movement of EU citizens. With half of UK trade conducted within the EU, we will need to access that market, meaning we will have to abide by their rules, which, as a current member, we can have some say over. If we leave, there's no such courtesy.
The trouble is, the campaign has started to become about personalities. Part of me doesn't want to vote for either side, because I don’t believe either side will tell me the absolute truth and I can't bear the thought of the smug, victorious faces of Farage, or Cameron, or Johnson, or Osborne whoever wins. The thought of giving any victory to any of them makes me want to pierce my eyeballs with hot needles, and that itself just shows how poorly this campaign has been run. No-one trusts what's being peddled by either side and, the politics of spite is beginning to win.
Like the EU itself, the decision is ridiculously complex and made up of conflicting priorities. And just as with the economy, no-one can actually tell us what will happen whatever way the vote goes. If we leave, how long will it take? We know how long it should take, 2 years, but how long will it really take to negotiate our way out, and what happens in the interim? What happens to all the UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living here? What would the EU’s attitude to us be if we left, would they essentially stick two fingers up at us and tell us we could go whistle as far as any trade agreements are concerned. Would we be left in an economic wilderness, or would we forge much stronger ties with emergining markets, but would we actually want to tie ourselves closer to countries where quality and standards may be significantly lower?
But if we stay, then what happens? Does the referendum fundamentally fracture the UK/EU relationship? Regardless of what Cameron has agreed, will we eventually have to become part of a more inclusive EU, what does it mean if we do, and is leaving the EU any worse than the current agreement not to become more closely integrated with it?
I can't tell you who to vote for, you have to make that decision. And whilst my inner anarchist would love to see us leave just to watch the disarray and pandemonium that would ensue, the grown up in me, generally a fairly small voice in my decision making process, knows it's a more important decision than lighting the touch paper and standing back for the giggles. But what side I will eventually cast my vote for, at the moment, I just don’t know.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments below.