I’ll come clean at the beginning: I’ll be voting to remain in the EU. I’m not a fervent Remainer. It’s more that remaining seems to me the obvious thing to do. But discussions with various people recently have made me try to work out why that is.
I don’t love EU institutions and I don’t agree with everything the EU does. But I couldn’t say that I love all UK institutions and I don’t agree with everything any UK government has done or looks likely to do.
Working with other countries feels an appropriate way for any European country to operate in the 21st century. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything and we don’t have to co-operate on everything, but being part of a larger club is more in tune with the way the world operates.
This is all fairly tame stuff. There isn’t an ounce of passion in it. But I do believe, fervently, that you shouldn’t create a vacuum and there has to be a very clear and detailed plan about what will replace something that’s taken away. Vacuums will be filled and they might not be filled in the way that you want or the way that you’d sort of envisaged. To give extreme examples to make a point, what happened when there wasn’t a detailed and carefully thought-through plan following the defeat of Saddam Hussein or the fall of Colonel Gaddafi?
Speaking to other people, I’ve been struck by three things. First, how carefully people said they’ve thought about whether to vote to remain or to leave. Gut feel and instinct might sway people in the end, but cool analysis has played a part too. Secondly, the reasons people have given are all very different and not what I’d have expected. And finally, people say they intend to vote to remain in the EU for what are essentially pragmatic reasons – warts and all, to quote Jeremy Corbyn – rather than for ideological reasons.
Perhaps campaigners should be focusing on that very British characteristic of pragmatism in the two months before the Referendum.