Monday, February 26, 2024

EU Referendum: Blogspot "It should not be this close…."

Blogspot by Labour councillor Martin Kerin

WITH hours to go until the EU referendum vote, the polls are too close to call. For someone like myself, who is a public and vocal supporter of Remain, the closeness of the polls is one that is causing considerable consternation; it shouldn’t be this close.

I believe it is this close, in part, because of the nature of the campaigns offered by Leave and Remain. The Remain campaign has been high on facts and low on emotion; the Leave campaign has been high on emotion and low on facts. At first, I thought this was the right way to go. After all, Remain has united a whole swathe of voices, usually divided, but uniquely united on this one issue: David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn; Sir John Major and Tony Blair; the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress; even George Osborne and Ed Balls! As well as these usually disparate British voices, there is also strong international support for our continued membership of the EU. Unfortunately, these pleas, backed by solid evidence, are being drowned out on a wave of Leave emotion and hyperbole.

When Remain talks about the economic case for staying, it is drowned out by the mythical £350m returning to the UK each week. Even if this figure were true, it wouldn’t match the billions of pounds that Leave has said it will be spent on. When Remain talk about all the numerous benefits to EU membership, it is drowned out by slogans such as ‘we want our country back.’ Does this refer to going back to our time before our initial membership of the European Economic Community? That was 1973. Or is it back to a time before the European project began as the European Coal and Steel Community? That was 1951. Personally, I’d rather look forward than hark back. Therefore, in the final hours of the campaign, it is time to speak to the hearts of the people.

If we leave the EU, it sends a signal to the world that the British are quitters. One of the biggest ironies of the Leave campaign is when the memory of Winston Churchill is presented as if it is the ‘bulldog spirit’ to cut ties and drift aimlessly into the north Atlantic. This is the same Winston Churchill who, when speaking about how to create a safe and prosperous Europe said: “There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.” Churchill was right – we, the British people, should work with our neighbours to provide and contribute towards a structure for our European family to live in peace, safety and, crucially, freedom. The UK is not a country that has ever quit, so why start now?

It is the truth that traditional working class voters hold the key to this referendum. Equally true is that traditional working class voters have the most to gain from Remaining and the most to lose from Leaving. The economic shock of Brexit would be felt most acutely by the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our society. There are many, many workers’ rights, currently enshrined in EU Law, which the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our society enjoy today. If we left the EU, all it would take to dismantle those rights would be a simple majority of 1 in the House of Commons. Personally, I am not prepared to take that chance.

The motto of our great borough is, "Secundum Tamesim Quovis Gentium", translated as "Along the Thames to all the peoples of the World". Having had the joy of growing up in Tilbury Riverside and now having the privilege of representing Grays Riverside, I see the Thames as a metaphor for Thurrock’s openness and engagement with our neighbours. In our 21st century, interdependent world, there has never been a worse time to embark and this needless and self-defeating journey. That is why I urge the people of Thurrock to vote Remain this Thursday.


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