Bremain or Brexit – the rationale for rational debate

Mat Mathias calls for a move away from the type of debate we’ve seen so far ahead of the EU referendum.

February 20th of this year saw the announcement of the date of the referendum for Britain to stay or leave the European Union. Starting with a bang was a bit of an understatement as 24 hour rolling news and every single programme on every single channel ever were dragging out people to tell us why we should be out or in. If it had been a week long campaign it would’ve been perfect. It isn’t so it wasn’t. We even had in-depth looks at the splits in Boris’s family while not one person from Sky news bothered to ask me, my Mam or my Auntie Melly. What’s wrong with us?

Grief, do we really start needing celebrities to pick sides in order to help us to decide the future of the United Kingdom? I have a huge man crush on Pierce Brosnan and I could happily listen to Sandy Toksvig read out the Future Generations Bill, but while I’d be interested in their views they wouldn’t push or pull me into any camp.

Anyway it’s only two months later and it feels like every punch has been thrown and they are just standing there, hugging each other due to exhaustion. They used up all their arguments in one go and there was so much of it, no one who was undecided was really listening.

What about those undecided though? Well, it’s official, because Twitter and Facebook continually tells me – If I am considering choosing to stay in the EU, I am a benevolent lover of the human race, and if I consider leaving then I am a goose-stepping Nazi.

To others, if I choose to stay I am complicit in destroying the very fabric of British culture and letting in a load of people that don’t understand fish and chips, hate Coronation Street and will refuse to learn English once they unload off the lorries they hijacked in Calais. Leave? Well, I am a 21st century John Bull, proud and stout and not giving an inch to what Jonny foreigner tells me to do.

Social media rarely does rational debate, it barely does middle ground. Actually, I’m wrong. If it’s a debatey love in between people who agree with each other then, yes, it’s rational, polite and entirely one sided. But an actual debate?…hell no.

Add one nay-sayer, even one who just wants to find out a little more information on the issue then they are leapt upon with a rabidity found only in political nerds around a just released Roger Scully blog. I see people I know in the flesh, decent clever people turning into bullies. It’s not intentional, it’s just they believe in their cause, their ideology so much, that they see things only in black and white and there are shades of grey everywhere. That’s shades of grey as in doubt not shades of grey as in sado-masochistic eroticism.

It means the more timid or the people who are unsure don’t get involved, don’t comment, don’t share, don’t retweet. Which means we increasingly only hear or see one side or one part of an argument. We don’t get a true picture of what people think. It happened in last year’s General election, in the last months leading up to polling day all I saw was anti tory/coalition or pro Labour posts. It was continuous. I know lots of centre right people but I didn’t see anything or very little from them. It felt like there was momentum towards a left wing win. We all know what happened and we all heard about the silent voter that won it. The progressive alliance had all the keyboard warriors, the rest just got out and voted.

We saw a little break from the EU on social media when the clever meme and funny political picture creators focussed all their fire on IDS passing on his devil horns, evil laugh and trident to Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb but the cowardly awful attacks in Brussels brought the focus back to the EU and no, not in a rational way either.

Project fear is alive and well but it’s being used on both sides. I don’t mind though, I am an adult and I can handle hearing the negatives as well as the positives. Let’s not drag in the celebrities too much though, it shouldn’t be about personality; which is good job really when we consider some of the ‘personalities’ wheeled out by both camps.

What both sides need to remember is that they are there to convince not demonise. While I have seen first-hand plenty of cases, not everyone is voting out because they are a racist and not everyone who wants to remain is anti-British.

For many of us in the ‘real world’, this vote is a tough decision. People know this is a big deal, they know there are huge challenges whichever which way the UK votes, but the day after, it will still be drizzly outside, I will still be stuck behind people who cannot work self-service tills and I will remain untrusting and a little scared of geese.

By all means let’s listen to rational and passionate arguments, yes lets even have a bit of project fear as long as it’s balanced out by project Lovebomb. Cut down on celebs and let’s circulate some independent information for us to look at. Lastly cut the jeering and bullying, it demeans the argument as much as the ones who make it.


P.S yes I know that Mr Brosnan is an American and Irish citizen but I haven’t got a man crush on any British citizen…and I am also aware that Sandy (I feel like I know her) was born in Copenhagen but she did become a British citizen in 2013.

Mat Mathias works for the charity sector in Wales.

8 thoughts on “Bremain or Brexit – the rationale for rational debate

  1. As someone who is untrusting and afraid of goats and donkeys (rather than geese), I enjoyed reading this entertaining contribution to the EU debate. Indeed, apres vote it will still be drizzly outside and I will still struggle with the self service till and need glasses to see which button to press on the petrol pump.
    The author is suggesting we should listen less to ‘celebs’ but these ‘personalities’ and to a lesser extent the commentariat, not politicians, are society’s ‘influencers’. He is correct that there is a huge silent majority probably not as ‘undecided’ as you might think. They have decided but don’t bang on about it.

  2. Mat, Think fundamentals. Think what Europe did to itself in the 20th century. If that is Project Fear, then the EU, with all its imperfections, must still represent Project Hope. Those imperfections constitute an agenda to which the UK might commit its energies and diplomatic talents – a change project more exciting, more promising and less vain than trying to reset the clock – and probably failing or, if not, succeeding only partially. Is this really a world where it is better to be alone than joining hands with neighbours? Maybe that quiet centre ground understands that much and can ignore the statistics. Maybe, too, it understands that being a committed, constructive and creative member of a club is a more honourable role than whingeing from the sidelines. To vote to remain in Europe is not a complacent vote for a status quo. It is, in my view and in the view of many others, the less risky road, but it is by no means a road short of tough challenges to help ourselves and the whole European family thrive.

  3. Perhaps it’s early days but compare the extent of public concern, excitement and engagement over this referendum with the one over Scottish independence – there is no comparison. There was a huge turnout in Scotland while I wouldn’t mind betting that this one has a low turnout. Most people faced with conflicting assertions from experts and “public intellectuals” about the economic consequences simply have no idea who is right. Those who vote will do so on emotion – because they want to be good Europeans like GTD or because they want to be little Brits and reduce immigration. We in Wales get more from the EU than anywhere in the UK and more than we pay in. But that fact has not penetrated to many of the voters.

  4. I can understand the little Brit mentality, the fear of a country that once ruled the waves being just one equal member of an integrated bloc, no longer special or sitting at God’s right hand side. But what is the plan for the day after Brexit? UKIP were formed in 1990, renamed the UKIP in 1993, and have never developed a plan / blueprint of what the UK will do the day after we leave the EU. One of the points raised by what UKIP term project fear, is the trade treaties the EU negotiated will have to be re-negotiated if the UK leaves the EU, and the re-negotiations could take 10 years to complete. So far the plans have been to go for a Norwegian style agreement, a Canadian style agreement or just use the WTO. The leave campaign have no contingency plan other than wait and see what the UK can do if it leaves the EU. In business such lack of planning would be completely unacceptable, yet the UKIP want as to gamble that if we leave the EU everything will be wonderful because we are British

  5. There are no facts in what the future might hold. Take the right decision and things go well, take the wrong one they don’t. But, you can’t compare the two paths as neither exist.

    What we should know is the past and present.

    The EU came out of the Coal and Steel Community. Coal and Steel because we can’t make guns and tanks without them. It was then constructed to bring the warring states of Western Europe together in trade and their greedy and brutal Monarchs and Emporers to heel.

    Ukip deny this and claim that it’s NATO that did this. This is deliberately untrue. Anybody with a couple of brain cells to rub together knows that NATO was only charged with protecting the Iron Curtain. Once that fell it was the only body available to put enough troops into the field to try and pick up the Balkan pieces, apart from the USA. We all remember that is was nowhere near ready for such a role.

    Boris Gump conveniently ignores that the USA is more that 50 states that merged their sovrenty and forgets NAFTA. At the same time Napoleon Barrage states (debating against Carwyn Jones) that he doesn’t care if leaving the EU causes us to lose our jobs because it’s an opportunity to remove employment and human rights.

    When it comes down to it the EU is a co-operative, voluntary union which seeks to improve the wealth and quality of life of all its members. The UK seeks only this for one small part of England. English Government can teach the world how to make and increase Red Tape. As the number two Tax Haven they also can teach the world how to do fraud, money laundering and corruption.

    All the attacks on the EU by the Outers are more true about the place that supports political, cultural, national and fiscal union by force. That’s the UK.

  6. No one seems to want to mention Scotland? During their independence referendum all Westminster parties and the English media dared not mention the EU referendum for fear of swinging the Scottish referendum to a Yes vote. The Tories and their media were aware that fear of leaving the EU could have resulted in Scotland going independent. Now what will happen if, as polls indicate, Scotland strongly votes remain but England votes leave and takes the rest of the UK out of the EU. How long will it be before another Scottish independence referendum, and this time with Scotland out of the EU against it’s will and a probable economic downturn does anyone believe the independence campaign will lose

  7. Whilst the author has had a good crack at being balanced here, he still managed to characterise Leave voters in a hackneyed way.

    “not everyone voting to leave is racist” – why thank you. How open minded of you.

  8. “not everyone voting to leave is racist” – why thank you. How open minded of you.

    To be fair, and realistic, racism was one of the key factors that stroked the campaign to leave the EU and is still a big driving force in the out campaign. Boris Johnson attacking the President for being part Kenyan, ie he hates the UK simply because he is part Kenyan? That to me kinda sums up the moral bankruptcy of the out campaign.

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