We don’t know what we don’t know

I have spent some considerable time researching the ins and outs, truths and lies, and shades of opinion about Brexit. I continue to be astonished by the ignorance that attends arguments on both sides.

It seems to me that the most important issues to understand are the cultural issues that drive the factions, this way or that. There is growing support for the belief that future financial modelling can mean whatever the modeller wants it to mean.

I enumerate some of the dominant ideas on both sides of the fence,

1 Leave:

We are the only country in Europe who have never been invaded. (Since mediaeval times.) Consequently we need to keep our independence and do our own thing.  We won the war so we are better soldiers etc. and we don’t need these less than reliable neighbours telling what to do. We led the world from the middle ages and our influence remains strong, far and wide.  If we stay in Europe we will lose our voice.

Keep control of our borders, keep our NHS etc. for us the Brits!

The EU is a vast bureaucracy, with a bunch of petty bureaucrats from tin pot places like Belgium and Luxembourg telling us what to do.

We have the best judicial system in the world, we don’t want judges in Brussels or Strasbourg making decisions beyond our control.

2 Stay:

EU is second biggest trading block in the world, over 50% of our exports rely on the EU.  Imports likewise.  Free trade with such a huge trading block underpins our prosperity and to leave would be absolute folly and result in huge detriment to our financial and wealth prospects.  Many thousands of jobs will be lost.

The EU has been the biggest and most lasting influence for peace in Europe for the last half century or more.  To fragment such an edifice of solidarity and mutual support is madness.

The cooperation in non- trade matters, as in science and education is phenomenal and gives member states huge advantages both as lead contributors and supporters.

3 Don’t knows:

I’d like the benefits of being in the EU but I like the idea of being a free agent in the world. In fact I have very little idea of what I want, nor in many cases do I care.

These illustrations are far from exhaustive, but I can see the appeal of the first two.  For the third ‘Ignorance is bliss’.

You could summarise (with some trepidation) Leave: Living in the past.  Stay: Fear of change, comfort in status quo.

The snag is these dominant ideas are very narrow.  Yes they are easy to assimilate, but they really are less than half the story.    Neither argument addresses key issues such as the economic instability of the Euro, the implications for NATO, or indeed what is going on in the rest of the world. 

The electorate is virtually equally divided (give or take 4%) and that voting opinion is founded on these much oversimplified dominant ideas.

Taking the Brexit issue in isolation, the prospects are that politicians will hammer home these oversimplified arguments and polarise the Leavers and the Remainers. 

The prospect for the next election is bleak. And whatever you believe, the winner will be ignorance, delivering oversimplified ideas and promises which no one will be able to execute or deliver.

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