The campaign to keep Britain in the EU is predictable, condescending and by-the-numbers

by Kevin Meagher

Those hoping that Britain remains a member of the European Union following June’s expected referendum unquestionably now have a fight on their hands. The polls are jittery, with most showing the country is finely balanced over the question of whether or not to quit the EU. It’s all to play for.

Unfortunately, the campaign to galvanise the country behind the simple proposition that our best bet for a stable and prosperous future is to remain a member of the EU hardly seems equal to the challenge.

Or, to be more specific, the official ‘remain’ campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe, is a predictable, condescending, by-the-numbers, flat-pack, top-down, Westminster-standard, one-size-fits-all affair that risks ushering Britain out of the EU due to its all-purpose dreariness.

I enter into evidence its chairman, Lord Stuart Rose. The Tory peer and former CEO of Marks and Spencer was caught out the other week, unable to correctly remember the name of the campaign group he’s supposed to be leading.

All rather embarrassing but hardly surprising given ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ is the kind of instantly forgettable blandishment we have come to expect from the pro-European aisle in British politics.

He may be business class royalty, but Lord Rose has little feel for political campaigning, grandly claiming he is set to win “by a substantial margin” while describing the EU as “maddening…bureaucratic…and sluggish.”

With such a ringing endorsement it’s a good job he used to sell knickers and not holidays.

Not to be outdone, Karen Brady, another BSIE grandee and Tory business ‘sleb, recently claimed that leaving the EU would wreck the Premier League, as European stars would be unable to obtain visas.

This lack of vision, or even freshness around the campaign sees it fall back on the familiar ‘influence ‘n’ trade’ arguments as well as silly scare tactics.

It overlooks the fact that the public has heard them a million times before over the four decades since Britain first joined the European Economic Community. Indeed, they are the very same blunderbuss warnings Nick Clegg used against Nigel Farage in their televised debates a couple of years ago; with little obvious effect as the UKIP leader trounced Clegg, the ex-eurocrat and MEP.

It’s safe to say pro-Europeans don’t like singing for their supper and clearly never thought they would actually face the prospect of an in/out referendum. There has been little preparation about the need to evangelise the case for Europe from first principles, setting out a broad, optimistic account of why we’re better off in, instead of resorting to ‘Project Fear’ nonsense. The political and business elite yet again telling the little people what’s good for them.

The campaign is also keen on inverting Mario Cuomo’s famous dictum that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, to produce stodgy, technocratic arguments rather than elegant, compelling explanations about why sane and rational people should see Britain’s future as part of the most successful trading bloc the world has ever known. Take this effort from their website:

‘In today’s world, many of the threats to Britain’s security are global in nature – like the aggression of Russia, terrorism and cross-border crime.

‘Being in Europe, working with our closest neighbours and partners to tackle these threats, makes Britain safer.’

So much for Nato and Interpol then?

If this ponderous, wooden campaign continues as it is there is surely a risk the case is lost amid the public’s legitimate concerns about endless economic sluggishness and the waves of migration heading to Europe – and the sheer inability of the EU to do much about either.

But there is also a secondary risk. If a narrow majority opts to remain, then the issue will remain moot, (as, indeed, it is proving to be in relation to Scottish independence). The two-to-one mandate in favour of remaining in the 1975 referendum has endured for 41 years.

If, this time, the majority is much narrower – as all polls are indicating it will be – then the issue will remain an open sore in British politics for years to come. A pyrrhic victory will see us back here again within a decade.

If the stakes were not so high, then Britain Stronger in Europe would deserve to fail. The question for all pro-Europeans is how to prevent that happening.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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7 Responses to “The campaign to keep Britain in the EU is predictable, condescending and by-the-numbers”

  1. swatantra says:

    And only 4 months to save the day!.
    Kevin is right ‘Stay in’ needs a kick up the backside, otherwise we’ll lose by default.
    The Campaign needs to be jazzed up rather like USA Political Conventions. We need leading celebs and personalities involved; and it may means playing down to the lowest denominator like Karen Brady in that foreign footballers won’t get visas. It may mean you’ll find holidaying in Europe more expensive. It may mean your food becomes more expensive, and you can’ cross over to Calais for booze and fags that easily. More important it’ll destroy the Care Industry so the elderly won’t be looked after, and the pound in your pocket won’t be worth much. and Britain’s stature as a Nation will go down to that of Norway’s or Iceland’s.

  2. Kevin, the obvious idea for either side to campaign on is whether the average citizen would be better or worse off being in the EU. To be honest whether being ruled by a British or European bureaucrat barely touches most of our lives. The fact that the pro campaign has not come up with any real numbers makes me suspect there aren’t any.

    The other problem the pro campaign has is that it will be perceived as all the usual suspects from the Westminster village and at the moment there is revolution against the political class in the air worldwide. From both the left and the right we see this in Europe and America. Whether it’s the Greek Syriza, Spain’s Podemos, France’s Front National, America’s Trump, Cruz and Sanders, Scotland’s SNP or Labour’s Corbyn, there is no sure thing anymore. The out campaign may well gather all this anti-politician feeling around itself and win the day.

  3. John p Reid says:

    Maybe the we’re better to stay in campaign is so bad,you’re having to resort to project fear Mark 2

  4. TrT says:

    “Its the economy stupid”, coupled with “security security security”

    EUrope is an economic disaster area, Italy is 60bn USDollars a year poorer than it was in 2007, Spain $90bn. The idea that the EU is an economic megasaur we must strap ourselves to is insane.

    Added to that, EUrope is hell bent on importing vast numbers of sex offenders and unleashing them on the streets. Large numbers of women voters who arent primarily interested in “virtue signaling” will walk in to the polling booth and read “do I want myself or my daughter to be raped”, they will vote leave.

    “If this ponderous, wooden campaign continues as it is there is surely a risk the case is lost amid the public’s legitimate concerns about endless economic sluggishness and the waves of migration heading to Europe – and the sheer inability of the EU to do much about either.”
    It is noted you dont provide an actual answer to these problems, BSE dont have one either, thats why they just hope voters dont notice….

  5. Tafia says:

    I am a member of Plaid Cymru. A party supposedly very pro-EU.

    I am telling you now, the mood has changed dramaticaly in the last few months. Most of the Plaid membrs and voters I know would have voted to stay in the EU six months ago. Most will now vote to leave.

    Unless the EU changes the way the voters want, cast iron, before the referendum then you better get used to the idea that we are on our way out.

    And there will be no second referendum – you can hardly have one and deny the Scots theirs.

  6. bosley says:

    The problem with most of your populist arguments for the EU are they are easily populist argued against:

    Football players visas; we can give visas to whoever we want.

    Holidays in Europe more expensive; not sure what the argument is here? Maybe Sterling value? (see below)

    Food getting more expensive; we can import food from outside EU (ex-Commonwealth for feelgood factor) that is not currently cost effective due to strong EU trade barriers (to make it really populist just say French farmers).

    Calais for booze & fags; you might have a point with this one, but it could be batted away as only relevant to people in Dover and something about tax avoidance and how French beer is rubbish anyway. Although wine is popular, it’s not populist.

    Care industry; if it relies on migrant workers then we can still issue visas for them, or something about investing in home-grown talent to reduce unemployment.

    Pound value; Euro falls as EU states lose net contributor while UK gets back the cash. Plus Euro is still a basket-case currency, very easy to make fun of.

    Stature of the Nation; 5th largest economy in the World, not going anywhere. In fact we’ll get a few seats at tables where we currently only have EU representation.

    The only populist pro-EU argument that can’t be easily argued against is fear of the unknown, that’s why, no matter how distasteful, it has to be the fallback plan for the pro-EU campaign.

  7. tim says:

    “In today’s world, many of the threats to Britain’s security are global in nature – like the aggression of Russia, terrorism and cross-border crime.”

    Point by point: Russian aggression provoked by the EU and it’s foreign policy which we are wedded to whether we like it or not.
    Terrorism: I give you Germany, the mass importation of refugees with little identity checks and the fact that ISIS have said that they will flood Europe with terrorists in these refugee flows.
    Cross border crime: Aided and abetted if you have free movement between countries.

    Statements of (mistaken) opinion passed off as fact is pretty good tactic though.

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