The nation stands on the threshold of a momentous vote on whether to stay in the European Union, and the nation has decided that it really doesn’t have much of a clue.
I would describe myself as a Euro-sceptic, though not in the sense in which the term is usually misused. I am sceptical because I have a degree of doubt about the value of the EU; the solid anti-Europeans – poorly-paid wage-slaves on the Daily Express or Ukip members, for example - seldom doubt anything. They know for a fact that the EU takes money from our pockets , tells us what carrots we can’t eat and crushes our innocent British pleasures, such as playing with Golliwogs or dressing up in SS uniforms.
The other side in the debate uses vagueries (a word of my own invention, I think) rather than straight lies and doesn’t make anything a single pixel clearer. We must stay in Europe so we can exert our influence on the World (get ready to tremble, World), expand our markets and maintain the post-war European peace. If we were to leave, we would feel very lonely, Belgium would be in danger of invasion and we might have to live without Fiat Puntos.
Well of course not, but it’s clear that David Cameron and those ministers who choose to stand loyally beside him (perhaps as many as 12 of them) will unleash Project Fear, aimed at making a British exit into a bogyman as terrifying as Jeremy Corbyn’s cap – and incidentally, I won’t use the word Brexit because there’s no point in making up new words unless s they are better than old words and Brexit defiantly isn’t.
The battle has already begun. This morning my letterbox was invaded by a ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ leaflet in which some businesswomen with good hair and a typical British family grinning with the Euro-joy tell us that leaving the EU would be bad for our money, jobs and security. The assumption is that leaving the EU is the same as leaving Europe and perhaps moving to the South Atlantic.
We’re told that 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU, with the implication that they would all walk out in a huff if the referendum were to be won by the outers and we would then all stop taking holidays on the Costa Brava or going on booze cruises.
But it has always (well, since pre-Cambrian times I imagine, geology being one of my many weaknesses) been the case that Britain is part of Europe, although slightly set aside from it, which is probably why we point more to the Atlantic, with a right-wing attracted to the American Tea Party, than to the Mediterranean, with a left-wing attracted to the Spanish or Greek bearded anti-austerity rebels.
You might think that geography would become irrelevant when cyber-space overrides rivers deep and mountains high, but it hasn’t. The core of Europe is still Germany, France and the Low Countries; the fringes include the UK, eastern Europe, Norway and Greenland – the only territory (unless Britain follows suite) to vote to leave the EU, for very good reason that it wasn’t, on any sensible map-reading grounds, in Europe to start with.
I’ll vote broadly according to whether I think the EU is a device to increase the power of corporations or whether it offers some protection from rampant Thatcherite ideology. But until voting day, I’ll remain, as all people should do at all times, sceptical.