UK at the crossroads: Ollie and Lizzie discuss the referendum

For Ollie only two things are certain about the EU Referendum: the uncertainty attached to the consequences of voting either ‘in’ or ‘out’, and the need to cast that vote anyway. The Banks household, like so many others, was the home of discussions about where to put the cross ahead of June 23rd, 2016…

Ollie was adamant that he was right, and it gave him no pleasure. “The only things that will have any real bearing on the outcome of this EU referendum are ignorance and fear,” he said. “Neither side of the argument can have any real understanding of the long-term consequences for the UK from staying in or from getting out. That’s the ignorance part. And the fear part comes from the doom-mongers on both sides twisting the story to suit themselves. Having a choice is almost worse than having no choice at all.”

Lizzie watched him wipe his grubby-post-gardening hands on his old Aston Villa football shirt, and said: “Villa won’t be in Europe next year at any rate,” she said. “That’s one less thing for you to worry about.”

Political metaphor
Ollie ignored the jibe at the soccer team he’d supported since he was a teenager. They’d finished adrift at the bottom of the Premiership after a lacklustre season.

“Actually, soccer is a good metaphor for the EU,” he said. “There are 20 teams all supposed to be working to the same rules, and all sort of ‘in it together’, but they’re not. They’re all trying to be better than each other, and they all have their own interests at heart. The difference is that at the end of the season one of ‘em gets kicked out, and someone else comes in to have a turn.”

Lizzie disagreed. “The Premiership is a rubbish metaphor the EU,” she said. “All of the clubs do exactly as they like, and want to be better than all of the rest. In fact, they’re not even clubs at all. If they really were clubs, they’d be owned by the members, rather than by people who happen to have more money than they know what to do with, and who dictate their own rules.

“What’s more, they don’t have migration from one to the other without huge sums of money changing hands, and then it’s only a handful of people at certain times of the year. The whole thing is controlled by an elite who seem to be bothered about themselves first and foremost.”

Louis van Gaal
“And you’ve destroyed your own argument in that one sentence right there. Isn’t that exactly what happens in the EU; control by an elite?” countered Ollie, brushing the metaphor debate to one side, much as Manchester United had dispensed with the services of manager Louis van Gaal only hours after he’d led the club to its 12th FA Cup win. “The laws of the EU are written by people who are unelected. Not even the European Parliament, to which we elect MEPs, has a role to play in that.

“But look at what we’re doing; arguing about it without really knowing the facts. And that’s the real problem. No-one seems able tell us the facts, just so much hype and speculation.”

Better metaphor
“Here’s a better metaphor,” offered Lizzie. “My blog. Or anyone being self-employed, for that matter. Sure, there are advantages in having a job and working for someone else, but you’re not in control of your own destiny. Being self-employed gives you that control. You pay for it with the things it takes away, like the certainty of being paid at the end of the month, or being able to take a day off when you’re a bit under the weather, or having someone else chip in a bit towards your pension every month.

“I can see advantages and disadvantages to being in employment and being self-employed, and the UK’s membership of the EU is just the same. There are pros and cons on both sides, and it’s a question of trying to decide where most of the ‘pros’ are.”

“I’m pretty worried about the whole thing,” said Ollie. “It’s not like a General Election, because you can change your mind a few years later if you want. This Referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This chance will never come again. I believe it’s most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime – apart from marrying you, of course – and we should be making a decision not just for us, but for Alice and Jack as well.

“There’s a lot at stake. I think it’s important that as many people as possible find out as much real information as they can, and then turn out to vote on June 23rd.”