The EU Referendum is taking centre stage in British politics, and will continue to do so perhaps long after it has taken place, but the dialogue it is inducing is troubling and needs addressing.
Fear is the prevailing mood of our time.
The prevailing tactic of figures in both the Leave and Remain campaigns is to appeal to the fears of the British public in order to convince us to vote a certain way. Whether it is Nigel Farage predicting the continuous influx of immigrants, or David Cameron warning of the possibility World War III, they are clearly trying to provoke extremely negative reactions. Although the Leave campaigners use scare tactics far more liberally than the Remain side, both sides are guilty of it. The bleak economic predictions for an isolated Britain that are coming out en masse to back up the Remain argument are just predictions. The economists making them have a total of zero previous experiences to draw on so are making guesses (albeit educated ones) that are used to scare us into staying in the EU. Fear is the prevailing mood of our time.
The politics of fear invoked by both sides is a phenomenon that is spreading globally (just look across the Atlantic at the Republican Presidential primaries) but that does not mean we should all buy into it. Fear mongering is a dangerous political weapon, and should not be used lightly. At its worst it appeals to the darkest parts of human nature, pitting us against each other. It is poisonous to progressive debate as well, making it even more worrying that it has taken centre stage in the most monumental political decision of a generation.
Instead of the constant barrage of threats, the EU debate could become something much more worthwhile and promising for the future.
I want to hear debate based on the politics of hope. I am fed up of hearing how terrible the world will become if I vote either way on 23rd June. Instead of the constant barrage of threats, the EU debate could become something much more worthwhile and promising for the future. The British public are better than this. We should look at the referendum with hope for the future; whether it is hope for a fairer united Europe or a freer Britain, both sides need a new approach. This may appear to be blind optimism, and perhaps it is, but I think that is a core part of what European integration was in the first place. A collection of nations that had been in a state of total war not once but twice in the first half of the twentieth century decided to never let it happen again, and succeeded. This feat alone is enough cause for hope when considering the future of Europe. The EU itself represents hope that things can change and progress, and we should be embracing this when considering how to vote on its future rather than returning
This referendum more than anything else will boil down to an emotional response – as a nation do we feel connected to Europe or not? So we should be careful about what emotions are inspired in the process of deciding. Fear and panic will not bring about the right decision; it will push British politics into a frenzy, which will continue long after the decision has been made. Both campaigns need to appeal to the hopes of the British public, the same hopes that created European integration and pushed us to join in the first place. More than anything else I want the dialogue on the issue of Europe not to be one of fearing the alternative, but one based on hopes for the future.