Tuesday, 14 June 2016

To Brexit or not to Brexit- that is the question!

I have been in two minds whether to even write about the EU referendum on my blog as politics isn't really my forte, but that's partly the reason I think that it's important I do write something. We are all entitled to our own opinions regardless of our level of knowledge and how fully formed our opinions are. Like so many others I am still arguing the pros and cons and deciding which way to vote, I now only have two days to decide and I feel like I am no closer to a decision. 

I find myself in quite an interesting position as, living outside of the UK, I have not really been influenced by the British media- any propaganda has been ineffective on me as I simply haven't seen it. I haven't watched any TV commercials, read any newspaper headlines and the only information I have is that obtained through fairly balanced sources- perhaps that is the reason I am finding it so difficult to form an opinion!?
Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy

I've watched Brexit the movie, YouTube videos for the "remain" campaign and countless episodes of question time to no avail. The only conclusion I have reached is that each side is manipulating the facts and figures to confuse the masses and it's certainly working with me! Politicians and economists seem to have no idea what a Brexit might hold for the UK and many refuse to even speculate...which is more than a little unhelpful. It seems that there is a slight atmos-fear (atmosphere of fear get it hahaha!) in the UK circling around the uncertainty of a future outside of the European Union, but is fear of the unknown a good enough reason to stay in the EU? Are we voting on a 'better the devil you know' basis as opposed to what is best for the future? 

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy

In school, History was one of my favourite subjects and as a result of this I always look to the past to help me to fully understand decisions that might affect the future. Cliche as it may sound, it really does feel like this EU referendum is history in the making, this both excites and unnerves me. The decision British citizens make on the 23rd June will decide the UK's future involvement with the European Union, not something to be taken lightly. I feel like in order to make an informed decision I have to understand the initial reasons the UK became involved in the EU, so I thought I'd share my findings with you so here's a brief history lesson...

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy

The European Economic Community(the originally name for the EU) was formed under the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and consisted of 6 founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands  and West Germany(East Germany joined in the reunification of Germany in 1990). It was set up to prevent future war after WW2 and to promote economic integration between countries. At this point the UK refused to join. The UK then changed it's mind and decided to apply for membership in 1961......it was not accepted until 1973....and this is where the British awkwardness kicks in...
In 1975, only 2 years after joining, the UK held it's first referendum where 67% of the population voted in favour of the EU. In 1988 Margaret Thatcher, who many people dislike but I have an odd fondness for, made 'The Bruges speech' some of which I have paraphrased below(to see the whole speech follow this link: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107332)

  " If you believe some of the things said and written about my views on Europe, it must seem rather like inviting Genghis Khan to speak on the virtues of peaceful coexistence.....Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community......But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.....Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better, appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour."

After Thatchers resignation as Prime Minister in 1990, the UK relinquished an increasing amount of control to the centralised EU parliament. That's enough of a History lesson though, basically the reasons we originally joined the EU are no longer as applicable as they once were. Yes, we still have a single trade market and yes, we still have peace and integration in Europe through the EU but it now comes at a price, the price being a centralised, unelected government. Which is exactly what Margaret Thatcher and those who went before her sought to avoid in the EEC.

Post history lesson, there are several questions rolling round my mind regarding the referendum:

  • How will it affect the UK economy and the stability of the GBP?
  •  What will be the implications of this decision on small businesses and future start up businesses?
  • How will a Brexit affect my ability to work outside of the UK? 
  • How would Brexit affect UK trade with other countries?

Obviously there are so many more issues in relation to the EU referendum(NHS implications, housing costs, travel abroad) but I have decided to vote based on the topics that directly affect my future career and stability. Despite still having no clue what that decision might be, not voting  is simply not an option... I don't want my future family asking me which way I voted in the great EU referendum of 2016 and me having to answer with "oh I couldn't decide, so I went to the pub instead"...which, as a true British stereotype, is the only logical alternative to casting a vote. This being said, I also don't want to make a hasty decision and waste my vote. 

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, UKIP, British politics, Donald Trump
Left to right: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump(all such facially experessive humans)

From what I have seen through independent media, a lot of the 'wackier' politicians and cultural figures/celebrities are the ones who support Brexit. Controversial political figures like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump(not that his opinion really counts as he is not a UK voter) and celebrities like Michael Caine, the UK's most loved woman Katie Hopkins(please take not of the sarcasm there) and David Icke(  English write and conspiracy theorist promoter-many of which I am in agreement with). After looking at some of the popular British media sources it seems as though the 'remain' campaign has been using these figures and those choosing to support Brexit to discredit the opposition. When I vote it will be for policies and will not be influenced by the supporters. 

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy, Michael Caine, David Icke
Left to right: Michael Caine, Katie Hopkins and David Icke- Some of the 'interesting' characters voting for Brexit.

The Brexit alternative boasts supporters such as David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Barack Obama. If anything I am more inclined to vote against whatever these figures vote for as I am not a huge fan of any of the above. I think Obama made his opinion of the UK extremely clear in his recent speech- excerpt below. 

Here he repeatedly refers to the UK as a friend while reinforcing the fact that the US government cares very little about that friendship when it comes to trade agreements. The US exploitation of the UK's links in Europe masquerading as friendship can be summarised in one sentence:

"Maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement,
but it's not gonna happen anytime soon because our focus is in negotiating with
a big block-the European Union- to get a trade agreement done and the UK's gonna be
at the back of the queue."

Nice Obama....reallllll nice! This clip exploits the true nature America's "friendship" with the UK, where the UK acts as the US's mouthpiece to the EU- the only private members club the US has not been allowed into. I tend to react to everything Obama says as if it were the Newspeak of Orwellian literature, his words are diluted and usually the reverse of his actual meaning. 

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy, Vivienne Westwood, British politics, June 23rd, Alexandra Shulman, Helena Bonham Carter, Hussein Chalayan, Imran Amed
Left to right: Alexandra Shulman, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Helena Bonham Carter, Hussein Chalayan and Imran Amed. All signed supporting the remain campaign.

Alongside these political figures, the 'Remain' campaign has an impressive list of over 280 Actors/Actresses and cultural figures in the UK who have signed a letter voting to stay in the EU. Many of them are people I admire and look up to, which leaves me in a position of cognitive dissonance where I am almost certain of my opinion  but the new information I'm receiving is leaving me quite confused. Some of the signees include: Alexandra Shulman, OBE Editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Dame Vivienne Westwood Fashion designer and activist, Actress Helena Bonham Carter Actor, Designer Hussein Chalayan and Imran Amed  the Founder and CEO The Business of Fashion (follow this link to see the entire list:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36340722). 

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy, Eurozone, British economy, British fashion, British politics

As I stated in my list of concerns above the effect of a Brexit on the stability of the British pound is something I am troubled by. I currently get paid in Euros but have my savings in GBP so am quite interested to see what effect the referendum will have on the economy. According to an article I read recently on the Business of fashion website (read the article in its entirety here  http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/bof-comment/brexit-bad-for-fashion-luxury-european-union-united-kingdom)  

"In February, when Cameron officially announced the EU referendum, the pound plunged to a seven-year low against the dollar. If Britons vote “Leave,” its value could fall by a further 20 percent, according to HSBC."

So I guess I'll keep my savings in Euros for now then!? Interestingly enough I was watching a 2011 Ted talk today about business startups in times of recession and how "recessions are great times to start businesses", this Ted Talk and kind of puts an interestingly optimistic spin on the small business startup prospects should the UK vote to leave and end up in a post referendum recession. 

 One of my main concerns is how a Brexit could affect small businesses. Owning my own creative business has always been an aspiration of mine and is something I would consider doing within the next 5 years. I have been searching relentlessly for an answer to this online but unfortunately there appears to be very little literature on how small businesses might be affected. However, from what I have learnt, while struggling to become better informed about the EU, it is a haven for bureaucrats and large corporations who can afford high tax rates but a death sentence for small independent startups where creativity is extremely controlled and regulations fiercely enforced.

In summary

I still don't know which way to vote. But I don't think voting out of fear is the right way to make a decision. Brexit may cause a recession, but with current global economy it seems like recession is inevitable regardless of our European Union status. I also don't think deciding to stay in because of the single trade market I have heard so much about is a good enough reason, I don't think the EU would refuse to trade with the UK out of spite and maybe we would open up more trade options by leaving.

I agree with the view that the EU is a haven for large corporations and bureaucrats and not so great for smaller businesses. I am also unhappy about the fact that we have no voting power over who represents the various constituencies of the UK in the EU, until moving to Brussels I knew very little about MEP's and the only reason I know more now is because I have met some of their assistants on nights out.

I guess I am leaning more towards leaving the EU but there are still several issues still holding me back. Over the last 2 years I have enjoyed being able to live in the UK, then Germany and now Belgium and the ease with which I have been able to do so. This would not have been the case had the UK not been part of the EU. Recently I have also enjoyed travelling around Europe quite spontaneously (I will write a post about this soon) and at impressively low prices because of the cheap travel in Europe which I would also not have access to without my EU passport. I am also reluctant to vote Brexit as it would have negative implications on my future career and limit the countries I could live in- I wouldn't lose my current job, but I would be less likely to be considered for a position in another EU country.

Brexit, EU referendum, remain campaign, Leave EU, Textile Candy, June polls

In the current polls(shown above and taken from http://www.theweek.co.uk/eu-referendum/65461/eu-referendum-polls-vs-odds-what-are-the-latest-brexit-predictions), it is fairly obvious that people don't seem to know what to do but the leave campaign seems to be becoming increasingly popular but I can't help thinking that recent European crises leading up to 2016 have influenced the general public's opinion and possibly influenced their vote. With the economic crisis in Greece, the influx of refugees into Germany and the Balkans and heightened terrorism in Paris and Brussels, it is understandable that the British public might be swayed into thinking Brexit and the closing of the UK's borders is a good idea. Immigrations seems to be the key drive for most of the public voting for Brexit.

So...that's my view of the EU referendum- very firmly on the fence with one day left to make up my mind.

I'd be very interested to hear your opinions on the upcoming EU referendum regardless of whether you can/can't vote in it, it's extremely interesting to hear what people outside of the UK think about British politics. I'd also like to apologise for the amount of youtube video links in this post- they're all relevant though I promise ;)
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