This is it. The final week before the vote that could potentially forever weaken our country. Next Thursday, 23 June, the country will go to voting booths up and down the land, and decide its future - and the future of the next generation - with a single cross and an quite possibly, an ill-informed, jingoistic, nostalgia-fuelled vision, laid out by self-serving, deceitful right-wingers.
Woah, Tom, you may say, that doesn't sound impartial and neutral! Reader, you are correct, it's not. I can't sit and remain neutral when the country teeters on the edge of plunging itself into irrelevance, and neither should you.
We often demur the typical career politician for their PPE at Oxbridge, and then a comfortable transition into positions of power. Boris didn't even study PPE - he read Classics! We are going to follow a man who studied glorified archeology into leaving the most successful market and political cooperation, and return ourselves to an island of political isolation, inward facing and undoubtedly in a recession.
In some ways it is apt that Mr Johnson the archeologist is campaigning to leave, for he is digging up relics; examples of eras gone by and empires that have since crumbled to present the case we will be better alone.
Let's look at some of the arguments:
"We need to leave the EU because of the TTIP. We can set up independent trade agreements with countries like America!"
Great idea! Just remind me, who is pushing for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? Oh yeah, America! Good idea! Let's not forget that our Government are currently in favour of TTIP, and it is France who is currently threatening to block it.
"We can safely leave the EU - we are so desirable as a trading country that they will bend and break all the rules to keep trading with us. We can be like Norway!"
What?! No. They won't. That's simply a lie. They have said they won't be doing that. It undermines the whole point of the EU, and the European Economic Community. It simply won't happen, and we will suffer as a result. And being like Norway isn't that great of a deal. They still have to pay for membership into the EEC, and they still have to accept the laws that are passed down - they just don't get a say in what those laws are. Even the Norwegian Prime Minister says we will hate it.
"We get more control over our spending, and by leaving the EU we can put the money into our NHS, improving schools/roads/science/farming, and reduce fuel VAT!"
Slow down there, have you actually taken a look at the numbers being thrown around? Are you aware of the funding that comes from the EU into urban regeneration, science funding, grants to schools, grants for research and businesses, and for farmers? The EU gives a lot of money out. Yes we have to pay in to get money out, but is that true of most things? You don't get money for nothing. Even with the lottery, you don't win unless you buy a ticket. The Leave campaign are making all these assertions that they can do this, that and the other with the money, but when asked to actually explain how it will all work, the incompetence and dishonesty of their assertions become very telling. The promises they do actually intend to keep will only work on the condition we don't hit an economic shock, which 9/10 economists agree will happen.
"We have to leave before Turkey get accepted into the EU, and their migrants start flooding our country."
Umm…Turkey has been an applicant for ascension into the EU since 1999, and they still haven't met the criteria required to enter. Oh yes, the EU isn't the free-for-all fest that the Leave campaign are making it out to be. To join the EU, you have to adopt all of the laws that have been passed in the EU, known as acquis communautaire. Turkey really isn't anywhere near that point yet. And even if they were, we currently have a veto to prevent enlargement. We will be giving that up when we leave.
"It's about British sovereignty. British rules for British people. Why are we accepting rules from the unelected?!"
Firstly, we need to stop spreading the fallacy that the EU is all unelected and unrepresentative. It isn't. We have a vote on the European Parliament. Our elected PM represents us in the European Council. We also have representation on the Council of Ministers. We are represented, and laws are passed in accordance with democratic procedure. We may not always like the result, but welcome to democracy. The majority of the country didn't elect the Conservative Government but we are stuck with them for five years. We have sovereignty. The EU cannot really force us to impose the rules, and our own Supreme Court, as a result of decisions made by the UK Government, cannot strike down incompatible laws and make the Government impose EU conformed ones. We have adopted many of the laws made at the EU level, but would you not agree they are for the better? Targets for environmental conservation. Workers' rights - which we still partially opted out of. Maternity leave. Enshrined Human Rights? These are all great things. Things we should be proud to have adopted, not resent because they came from the continent. And why do you think having less accountability is a good thing? Our Government feel pressure from the EU to protect us and do the right thing. It's another check and balance to ensure against the abuse of power - especially considering they are trying to gimp what is our traditional balance in the form of the Lords. The Lords, who may I remind you, are actually unelected, and chosen by the PM, because that's democratic....
"Leaving the EU means we can take back control of our borders, and stop all these immigrants taking our jobs and using our benefits!"
Ah, hello there, I wondered where you had been hiding. At least now we can stop pretending that there is any other credible argument for leaving the EU, and cut to the chase. Or at least, we could, if your argument held more water than a colander. Let's take a look at your Schrodinger migrant, shall we?
EU migration accounted for only half of all migration into the EU, just under, actually. That means that 52% of all migration into the UK is from countries outside of the EU. This is migration that we have full control over anyway. Leaving the EU isn't going to solve that problem. Likewise with illegal immigration. That, by its very nature, isn't approved of, and leaving the EU isn't going to stop the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the country, in fact it will probably make it harder, because we will no longer be able to position our border control personnel in Calais. We are not part of the Schengen agreement, so people entering the country still have to show a passport, and we can turn people away.
Shall we also stop with lines about EU migrants taking all of the jobs. Many of the economic migrants have come over here to do jobs that we as the British people will not do. Fruit picking, sorting, and carework. The pay is too low because the margins are slim. It is incredible to believe that removing said migrants is going to immediately make the job more desirable for people, and the pay isn't going to go up. Iain Duncan Smith was on TV recently condoning the hiring of EU migrants over British people, saying that they want to work. An interesting point of view, considering he basically declared war on all people currently not working - resulting in legal challenges from the court, which they lost. What about our benefits?! Nope, they aren't really affecting those either. The EU court very recently ruled in favour of the Government to curb the benefits EU migrants can get, stating it is justified for a country to refuse benefits to migrants in instances of "protecting a member state's finances." So, again, stop believing this tripe.
Be part of the solution
The EU isn't perfect. I know this. I have written at length in essays that are backed up by research and qualified arguments (that I actually read - unlike Boris!) about the ways that the EU has been undemocratic at times, and ways it could improve. Our fishing industry has suffered. We are sometimes outvoted. We may feel a divide as a result of not being part of the landmass continent. But don't we as a country want to be in the mix, pushing to drive that reform? Why, when we are 'one of the most important players' in the EU, as we are so often reminded by the Leave camp, would we sacrifice that for a guaranteed recession, certified reduction in significance, and no assurances about how our relationship with the EU will be post Brexit?
Think back to the last recession we had. As a result we have seen cuts to public investment, and the sale of public assets, a further strain on the NHS, schools struggling, an increase in tuition fees, and what boils down to an attack on the working class. That was the result of a recession we didn't cause. Now we plan to enter a recession of our own doing, while simultaneously cutting ourselves off from the biggest trading market in the world, and leave us floundering for years while we attempt to negotiate new treaties. The damage to our economy will be catastrophic. Our quality of living will decline.
That £350m a week figure so often touted will not cover the deficit caused by our departure. Migration will still continue. The reason our NHS struggles is because we are living too long, and not spending enough money on healthcare. We have become too successful in keeping people alive. This also has a knock on effect in terms of housing, and jobs - because there is no mandatory retirement age. It's a callous approach, but it's true. If people died sooner, there would be less strain. It is even considered a "key issue" in Parliament. I'm not suggesting we start a cull, but blaming migrants for all of our problems is to bury our head in the sand about reality.
The Grey Vote is hugely important in UK politics, and that often results in governments making decisions that benefit the older generations more than those who are yet to have their time in the sun. The triple lock pensions is just one example. That is hugely expensive for us to maintain, but nobody would dare touch it because it ensures the loss of vote from pensioners. Why is it that the older vote is so cherished? Because we as a younger demographic are so apathetic towards voting. This has to change. Maybe if we show a display of unity, and political astuteness by not letting the last generation jeopardise our economic security again, there may just be a possibility of us having a decent, secure future - and perhaps Government's will start to acknowledge our needs. Even Bob Geldoff is getting involved...
The EU has problems. Britain has problems. Correlation does not result in causation. Us leaving will not fix the EU, nor will it fix the UK. You won't wake up with more money in your pocket. There won't magically be job offers in your inbox. It is a fallacy, born out of desperation from a political elite trying to seize back power; who play on age old fears of immigrants, while simultaneously ignoring the political reality.
Britain cannot survive alone anymore. Times have changed. We no longer have an empire to exploit for our own economic gain. We can no longer thrive while ignoring our neighbours. How can we honestly claim to be safer without cooperation and collaboration? In an ever increasingly global market, how can we promise more jobs without access to the markets that create them? The pooling of sovereignty is always a difficult concept to accept, but we cannot fool ourselves into believing clawing it back is going to solve our problems.
Leaving the EU is a terrible mistake. It helps no one but the elites. It validates that poisonous toad Nigel Farage, further inflates the ego of the duplicitous Boris Johnson and once again opens the doors for the return of Iain Duncan Smith. Already Brexiters are carving up job roles for themselves. We cannot allow it.
We are the generation who has to live with the outcome of this vote. It's not just my future, but your future, and the future of your children. There will be no coming back from the decision to leave. No welcome back with open arms. Britain, for all its moaning, and cries of indignity and maltreatment, have an exceptionally good deal with the EU. Like I've said before, it would be like divorcing your faithful partner of 50 years because your midlife crisis led you to believe you were more attractive than you were. But once it has sunk in that your glory days are over, and you realise that in reality, your marriage was the best thing going for you, it will be too late. The house has been sold, they've taken the dog, and now you're relying on your begrudging commonwealth children to look after you.
That's not the future I want. And that is why I'm voting to stay.