June 15, 2016 1.16 pm This story is over 63 months old

EU referendum: Are the chickens finally coming home to roost?

Well, it’s seven days to go and that finishing post is in sight at last. But who will cross the line first? Much can change in the final week as it did in the 1992 General Election, when most pundits reckoned that Neil Kinnock would be collecting the keys to Number 10. Then came the…

Well, it’s seven days to go and that finishing post is in sight at last. But who will cross the line first? Much can change in the final week as it did in the 1992 General Election, when most pundits reckoned that Neil Kinnock would be collecting the keys to Number 10. Then came the infamous Sheffield Rally when hubris snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The EU referendum vote is different in many ways. As they say, everyone has the same vote, regardless of status or political affiliation. Whilst it is, in theory, only advisory, as parliament would have to finish the job, it would be a very foolish MP, who ignored ‘the will of the people’, however small the majority either way.

I have consciously taken a spectator’s view of this referendum campaign so those, who have clearly worked their socks off in support of either remain or leave, may question my entitlement to pontificate now, and I have some sympathy with that view.

My reasons for inactivity are various: the way the campaign on both sides has been run, a deep concern for the current direction of travel of the European Union (would we join it now in its present form?- probably not) and, yes, an acknowledgement of the impact of immigration on many areas of our country, including Lincolnshire, which has only now been recognised by the political elite, when it has been smouldering away for at least a decade.

On the other side of the argument I smile at the ‘patriotism’ being invoked by those who would have us cash in our chips and try another casino, where our so called world status might give us a better chance of getting our own way.

Living abroad for four years in my early teaching career made me realise just how really insignificant the United Kingdom had become in the eyes of many nations. 40 years later, with the fall of communism and the economic rise of nations like China and India, that insignificance has simply increased.

You don’t get that insight when you just go abroad on holiday. We might be in for an almighty shock when we try to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. Don’t forget that a large chunk of our economy which gives us our position of number five in the world’s economic league table is based on our prowess in financial services, which could relocate elsewhere very easily if we leave the EU.

We were begging to join the EEC back in the 1960s when a combination of bad management and stroppy unions was reducing us to an economic basket case. It’s just a pity that we didn’t join at the start because, by the time we did, the quadrupling of oil prices in 1973/4 put paid to the exponential growth that the ‘Common Market’ had enjoyed since its creation in the 1950s.

Nevertheless, our membership and the discovery and exploitation of North Sea oil (which, incidentally was the means by way the Thatcher government was able to shut down most of our manufacturing base) enabled us to exploit our unique position and to recover.

However, this ‘recovery’ has been largely at the expense of those of our citizens whose skill base, or lack of it and outlook on life has ill fitted them for today’s labour market of multi nationals and globalisation. It is largely these people who are proving fertile ground for the Brexit argument, as the urban centric basically middle class Labour Party is now discovering.

So, what are we likely to wake up to on June 24? I really don’t know; but I wonder whether this Brexit tide, irrational as it may be for many of us, is unstoppable. I hope not. However, a vote to leave may not be the end of the matter.

Remember the dual referenda in Denmark and the Republic of Ireland in recent years? If the plucky old Brits do defy conventional wisdom and do go it alone this could be the start of the break up of a project which promised so much at the start and which has morphed into a barely controllable gravy train for its bureaucrats and politicians and a fifth column for multi nationals and big business.

Having said that, in the age in which we live, it probably still is for a country our size the only viable show in town, despite all its obvious faults, which even some of the other 27 member states are now at last beginning to recognise.

If, in five years time, our economy is flatlining, and inflation is back to the double digits of the 1970s with a visit due shortly from the IMF, the EU has survived and the financial sector has relocated to Paris and Frankfurt, whilst Nissans and Toyotas etc. are now being made in the Czech Republic instead of Sunderland and Derby, I just hope that the Boris Johnsons, Michael Goves and Dan Hannans of this world are still around to answer some difficult questions, even Lord Nigel Lawson in his Gascon mansion.

But they’ll be alright, won’t they? It’s the rest of us and, yes, all those of us who voted to leave on June 23, 2016, who just might not get the concept of cause and effect, who ought also to be carrying the can. But it’s always someone else’s fault, isn’t it?

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.