Lies! Damn Lies! … and Facts

2013-04-05 12.45.21

Everything we hear is an opinion not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective not a truth, FB meme

The above quote never did appear in Aurelius’ Meditations even though it has been attributed to him –  but who ever did come up with it hit the nail on the head with regards to the EU referendum. The undecided voter in the UK EU referendum has made it clear. They want to know the facts. The reality is that both sides of this debate can and will manipulate the facts to suit their message and their agenda. Impartial facts will be about as hard to discern in the EU referendum campaign as the milky way on a bright summer’s day.

If there is one fact, however, which is beyond dispute it is this: no one can know for certain what exactly will happen if the United Kingdom votes to leave the EU on 23 June 2016. It is unprecedented. No other EU member state has opted to leave the EU. There are no provisions for such an event. It would be like having to navigate an unexplored jungle with no compass or guide. All one can hope for is to come out the other end in one piece. Add to that the fact that neither the government nor the Brexit campaign have set out in any detail what exact alternative model they will opt for in the event of a Brexit and the risk factor grows considerably. Cameron promised a referendum on a wish and prayer and those in charge of Brexit are fired by patriotic fervour as opposed to offering a detailed, credible alternative to the UK’s current membership.

So, although the British voter might in all honesty and faith want to make a decision based on impartial facts this is unlikely to happen. The campaign will inevitably focus on the level of risk should the UK vote to leave. The Bremain campaign will milk uncertainty and risk for all its worth whilst the Brexiteers will seek to play the risks down. Both sides can only speculate on what could happen, which is precisely what makes Brexit such a risky venture.

By way of example, in the event of a Brexit will the remaining EU member states drive a hard bargain having been snubbed by the British voter or will they be soft on the UK and give her a fair deal? Answer: we don’t know for certain – we can only speculate. Can the United Kingdom really become another Switzerland or Norway when the UK’s economy and geography are so different? Answer: we don’t know for certain – we can only speculate. Can the UK really stand alone and negotiate favourable international agreements in her favour if she stands in splendid isolation? Answer: we don’t know for certain – it hasn’t been tried since 1973 so we can only speculate.

The thousands of economic and financial threads that currently anchor us to continental Europe have all been woven within the context of EU membership. All threads will be cut in the event of a Brexit leaving those who rely on them to access the continental market unsure of how to conduct their business outside of UK jurisdiction. Of course the threads will be respun – but that could take years and whilst that is on-going the UK will face years, not months, of economic uncertainty, instability and crisis. Even if the remaining EU member states decide to be nice to the UK – and even with the best will in the world – the UK’s exact relationship with it’s continental neighbours post-Brexit is not something that can be concluded in a couple of months.

Will the British voter take a risk and decide to leave the EU or will they decide to stick with the EU in a “better the devil you know” kind of way. EU Perspectives is going to stick it’s neck out and take a punt: it predicts that the British voter will vote to stay in. The alternative is far too risky for the short-term prosperity of the United Kingdom and no one with any sense would want to risk that.

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