Both pro- and anti-EU candidates have speculated about what the UK would look like outside the EU. But will the electorate have a clear picture before the vote, or will Eurosceptics be forced to vote in blind faith?
In the short time since David Cameron secured his EU reforms and set a date for the EU referendum, it seems that everyone, from MPs to business leaders, has added something to the whirlwind of speculation surrounding the impact leaving the European Union would have. All of this information has been contradictory. Pro-EU backers, including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, argue a “Brexit” would undermine our national security only for prominent eurosceptics, Boris Johnson included, to argue the exact opposite. Even the legality of the prime minister’s reforms was brought into question by Justice Secretary Michael Gove, leading to a stand-off over whether the deal could be vetoed by Europe or not.
Needless to say that the early stages of campaigning have been dominated by this type of scaremongering from both sides, with clear attempts made to make the UK’s future seem uncertain should we leave the EU. With much confusion surrounding European politics among the majority of the public, these campaign tactics are likely to become problematic for all the electorate, especially those unsure on which way to vote. How are the public supposed to make an informed decision on whether we should leave the EU or not if we don’t have credible information?
The fact of the matter is that only if we vote to leave will the full picture become clear, leaving eurosceptics to tick “leave” on their ballot papers based purely on hope and speculation. It is also highly doubtful that this is going to change, primarily because those who will potentially have to deal with a “Brexit” are doing everything in their power to prevent it from happening. Any contingency plans they may have will not be highlighted publically, only serving to further add to the confusion.
What the “Leave” campaign needs more than anything else is a clear vision for the UK outside of the EU. No-one is yet to leave the EU in its current form, therefore, there is no precedent for the decision this country is about to make. If the moderates are going to back a “Leave” campaign, then promises of “taking control” will not be enough.
Of course many people, myself included, will be put off anyway by the global concern that a potential exit will bring. Analysts are also highlighting early comparisons with the Scottish referendum where, despite vocal support for an independent Scotland, there resulted a relatively comfortable vote to keep the union together. This was despite a gradual increase in the “out” vote the month previously. Already, a similar pattern is emerging in the early polls for the EU vote, with a YouGov poll giving “out” a slight lead last month, despite early support for staying in the EU.What the “Leave” campaign needs more than anything else is a clear vision for the UK outside of the EU. No-one is yet to leave the EU in its current form, therefore, there is no precedent for the decision this country is about to make. If the moderates are going to back a “Leave” campaign, then promises of “taking control” will not be enough.
Yet, I doubt the lead will last long. In the end, business leaders decided the Scottish referendum, threatening to move south of the border in the event of an independence vote. Already, 36 businesses on the FTSE 100 have signed a letter claiming jobs will be threatened by leaving the EU. Whether this would be the case of not is irrelevant. Major businesses hate substantial change, and the public hate uncertainty over jobs. Overall, a win-win for David Cameron.
It would however, be unwise to make too many comparisons between the EU and Scottish referendums. Scotland tends to be substantially more left-leaning, where EU support is at its most unanimous, than regions south of the border. The other factor to consider is how the electorate will react this time around to campaign scaremongering, after the uncertainty produced in Scotland led to some bitterness. Whilst it’s expected to put people off the risk of leaving the EU, defiance may only serve to further reinforce some people’s decision to leave, like Donald Trump’s controversial remarks have seemingly strengthened his campaign.
It remains to be seen whether Boris Johnson and his fellow “Brexit” supporters will be able to put together a strong enough argument to convince the undecided to back them. However, with a lack of concrete information, that task looks extremely hard to achieve. Despite vocal support for the “Leave” campaign, the silent majority tends to be more moderate, and without an independent vision, the electorate are likely to stick with the safe option, rather than take a risk in the most important referendum in a generation.