It’s a little over a week until the EU Referendum, and I, for one, am still undecided.
It’s not that I haven’t thought about it; it’s more a problem of how to weigh the arguments. I suspect I’m not the only one.
Like Jeremy Corbyn, who said recently he was 7/10 in favour of remaining in the EU, I find it hard to think in black or white, ‘in’ or ‘out’ binary categories. There are at least two sides to every debate, and some people seem destined to see both of them. It makes it hard to feel very passionate about anything. It makes it harder still to vote, especially when there are only two options on the table.
This particular debate is hard to get your head around for another reason. The main arguments for ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ are not the sort of thing you can place side by side, weigh, and get a gut feeling about. It’s not like buying a car, say, where your budget forces you to decide between alloy wheels and better audio. It’s more like, do you buy a campervan or a herd of cows, on the basis that a gypsy with a crystal ball implied that next year you might become a gigging musician, or was it a farmer?
What matters most? Do you want to ‘control our borders’ or ‘protect economic growth’? Do you want ‘freedom from red tape’ or ‘co-operation among European countries.’ Do you want a ‘global-facing UK’, or a UK that ‘welcomes diversity’?
Possibly most of us want most of these things; so the argument devolves onto questions of how we rank these competing ‘goods’, and which we would get in greater measure if we chose ‘leave’ or ‘remain’.
How are we to rank these ‘goods’? And how are we to know, even if we were agreed on their rankings, what would be the true effect of ‘leave’ or ‘remain’? There are plenty of voices out there peddling certainties – which are the very things in this complex debate which are almost certain to be wrong. Add to this the fact that many of the arguments on both sides rely not on evidence but on vague predictions, and our bewilderment is complete.
As in matters of religion, those who shout certainties are least to be trusted. I have some sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn – for his honesty and his nuance – even if it doesn’t help him as a politician. Perhaps the ballot paper should allow us to rank ‘remain-leave’ on a scale of 1-10. It would make space for the Euro-agnostics among us, the poor blighters who can’t help but see all sides.
Unfortunately, the choice before us is black, or white; cows or campervans. I can’t decide.