David Cameron did not have to call this referendum. He did so in an attempt to settle the European issue within his own party, as there is no new EU treaty that we are voting on. The referendum is not binding either, as the legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out.
Far from quelling the debate within the Tory party, the lead up to the referendum has had the opposite effect. The debate over the last couple of months has been increasingly toxic, with both sides making outlandish claims. Parts of the Leave campaign have been xenophobic and racist, in an attempt to scare people to leaving the EU - this is the true Project Fear. And then last week the appalling murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox brought about some reflection on how we’ve moved away from a more respectful, kinder politics. In the words of Stephen Kinnock, "When insecurity, fear and anger are used to light a fuse, an explosion is inevitable.”
But there is a referendum tomorrow, so we have a duty to vote. The vote is about a host of issues, and on all of them I believe we are better staying as a member of the EU. In my mind it boils down to being a part of something bigger than yourself. This is true on a personal level - being part of a company, a team, a club, or an organisation allows you to achieve more than if you go it alone. I’ve seen this in my professional life where loose-knit groups of programmers build open source software that an individual could never dream of. Of course, where there are many personalities pulling in different directions you get conflict, things get messy, compromises are needed, and you don’t always get your own way. But on some decisions you do have influence, and you do get to shape the results.
Being a part of the EU is about the UK being a part of something bigger, and being able to influence policy on issues that affect the UK. The world is a messy chaotic place, and there are many deeply-ingrained, complex problems that require complex policy interventions. Climate change, migration, tax havens, peace - to name a few - all of these need a coordinated approach that cross national borders. Leaving would squander our influence in attacking these problems, while doing nothing to solve them - for us or for the the rest of the world.
One of the more worrying themes of the Leave campaign is not to trust the experts. This allows them to conveniently dismiss the overwhelming opinion amongst economists that Brexit would mean the UK is worse off outside the EU. It’s like climate change denial, and running a country with that kind of gut-feeling policy making is terrifying.
Britain has been at its best when it has been an outward-looking nation, one that works with others and trades with others. That’s why I am going to vote to Remain in the EU.