I spent the weekend in the UK – in Brighton, London, Basingstoke and Salisbury (when you live most of the time in another country your visits home are a mad exhausting and bibulous rush to see all your friends and family). Whilst rushing (and drinking) I asked two questions about Brexit of everyone I met:
- Will you vote to Leave or to Remain?
- How do you think the vote will go?
Most of those I asked are based in London, so it’s hardly a surprise that the answer to the first question was generally Remain, though two of my friends and family hadn’t yet quite decided. Why would anyone want to leave? Interestingly, it wasn’t the argument about independence that attracted them (the ghastly Boris Johnson has already labelled June 23rd as Independence Day). They acknowledge that ‘independence’ is a chimera. Rather, the two issues uppermost in the minds of the doubters were:
- The undemocratic, inefficient, meddling and corrupt character of the EU
- Uncontrolled immigration
To which I can only reply that all human institutions are overly bureaucratic, inefficient, fallible and corrupt. Politicians are not the only ones who cannot know the future, and whose expertise is limited and judgement sometimes faulty. Whether you are a politician, or a businessman, an entrepreneur or a civil servant, you are likely to make some serious mistakes in your career. We should not expect otherwise. To cite the idiocies of the Eurocracy as a good reason to Leave, is foolish. We should stay and fight for reform, and accept that we will never fully succeed.
As for immigration, it is surely a cultural and economic stimulus. Most immigrants are young, and they invigorate us. At a friend’s wedding on Saturday evening I met a couple who farm vast tracts of land in the Midlands. They would be unable to bring in the harvest without immigrant labour. And where would our NHS be?
I don’t know if I managed to sway their opinions.
But it should come as no surprise that arguments made from an external perspective (as mine are, made from Prague) carry little weight in the UK. That the EU has entrenched peace in Europe, had impeded extremism (important now, given the direction of travel of Hungary and Poland), and has hugely improved the lives of the citizens of the new member states in ‘Eastern Europe’, is acknowledged as a GOOD THING, but as irrelevant to the argument. Moreover, that Brexit might trigger the dissolution of the UK, and perhaps even of the EU , doesn’t seem to register with most of the Brits I’ve spoken to. To me, of course, as an immigrant in the Czech Republic, and a businessman doing most of my business in the EU, it matters greatly.
As for the question of how the vote will go, almost everyone, including those who might vote to Leave, thinks that Remain will win, if narrowly. I am less sure. I can’t help feeling that the passion that ignites the Leavers will urge them to the polling stations, whilst those who would vote to Remain might simply stay at home and fiddle.
Betfair has odds of 3 to 1 (on) for Remain, which means, apparently, that Remain is the more likely outcome. Bet 3 pounds on Remain and you will get only one pound extra back. But recent opinion polls suggest it is a 50:50 question. I worry.