I’ve been meaning to blog about the EU referendum (it seemed only fair, after I devoted so much time to the Scottish one) and have even got as far as drafting a post a couple of times but to be honest until a few weeks ago it’s not really been that much in the foreground. Compared to the the Indyref, when nobody seemed to be able to talk about anything else, the EU referendum has largely just been something that’s on the news and not anything anybody really discussed. If anything, my reaction was to kick back, crack open the popcorn, and enjoy the spectacle of the Tory party tearing itself apart over a referendum that the remain side would – surely – comfortably win.
That has changed now that it’s starting to look as if we might be heading for Brexit, if the polls are anything to go by. Quite apart from the fact that not 18 months ago Scotland was being told that if we wanted to guarantee our place in the EU we should vote to stay in the UK – insert hollow laugh here – this is a terrible idea. A few weeks ago I would have thought that I could leave it at that, on the assumption that pretty much everyone else who reads this blog would understand that this is a terrible idea, on a par with making Donald Trump US President. But it seems that even right-thinking people (and I’m assuming here that most of you here are generally fairly green, liberal, un-xenophobic types given that you’re reading a blog written by a green cycling feminist who knits her own socks and grows her own veg and is married to a foreigner, unless you’re going under deep cover to infiltrate the very heart of the enemy) are confused about whether they should support Britain remaining in the EU, possibly because the campaign on both sides has been pretty appalling.
So this afternoon, I was on my favourite cycling forum when the referendum thread finally flared into life and I took the opportunity to put into words the reason why I will be voting to remain. People seemed to find it helpful so I’m posting it here too. I doubt it will change anyone’s mind, but maybe it will be enough to swing one or two waverers into the remain camp and more importantly down to the polling station. And at least I will have tried:
“For all its problems, the EU is the only thing preventing us from entering a giant race to the bottom. When you hear business people talking about ‘red tape’, they’re not talking about bent bananas, by and large they’re talking about things like not forcing people to work more than 48 hours a week, giving them lunch breaks, providing maternity leave, animal welfare standards, clean air and water legislation and reducing landfill. Given what’s happened with things like zero hours contracts, I’m fairly sure that the minute we pull out of the EU the pressure will be on from the more unscrupulous employers to dismantle all these things that are getting in the way of sweating every last short term penny out of their employees and assets. Once that’s happened, the scrupulous employers will have to follow suit or go bust.
The whole point of the EU is that it pools sovereignty so that countries can’t start to undercut each other in this way. Sure we’re competing with China which does not have all that legislation – but at the moment, if I want to buy something which has at least met a minimum ethical standard for workers, then a ‘made in EU’ label gives me some level of reassurance. The EU can also impose some of its standards on countries that want to import to it. Which is why our beef isn’t laden with growth hormones the way it is in the US, and any genetically modified produce has to be labelled as such. At the moment, our workers’ rights legislation is driven by stroppy French unions, not enfeebled UK ones; our food standards are driven by the Italians, Spanish and French, who actually care about what they put in their mouths; and our animal welfare standards are driven by animal-loving Brits who don’t have the stomach for the worst excesses of factory farming.
It’s precisely *because* it’s not fully democratic that it is able to drive up standards in the single market against market forces that would like to drag them down. Personally, that alone is enough for me to want it to continue.”
So there you go. The case for remain, as explained to a cycling forum based in a city I don’t even live in. And if that doesn’t help you decide, you may find the following briefing useful as it seems to contain a rather larger ratio of fact to wild-eyed spin than most of the material put out by either camp.
And the cows? Well I was going to make some sort of elaborate analogy drawing together EU farming policies, mad cow disease, butter mountains and bullshit but actually they just amused me on my ride home from the pub this evening.