A few of you have been wondering where to find some decent impartial material on the merits or otherwise of us leaving the European Union. This is tough, because the facts which are uncontested by both sides tend to be so mundane as to be essentially worthless (eg How many nations are in the EU? How does QMV work? Who is the President of the European Commission). Other facts, while incontrovertibly true, may be contested by one side or the other because they are devoid of context and in isolation they might conceal a more important truth. Or perhaps one selection of facts favours one side of the argument more than the other.
It’s quite reasonable for each side in the debate to favour those facts which sell their case best, and therefore to take issue with a supposedly ‘impartial’ presentation which offers up only the others. Consider, for example the Government’s pro-EU leaflet: Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK. That document (as you might expect) is a demonstratively selective presentation of the facts and various media organisations have enjoyed dissecting them for closer inspection – see Full Fact here, for example.
In this debate ‘truth’ is absolutely crucial, but ‘facts’ are often easier to pin down. Truth is subjective. It depends upon a blend of objective facts and a context built through someone’s human fallibility.
To anyone who will listen, I am recommending this book by David Charter – Europe: In or Out? It lays out a broad explanation of the main arguments for and against, and explores the facts and (in some cases) myths presented by both sides.
Perhaps you won’t have time for a whole book. This BBC News Q&A provides an excellent exploration of many of the key questions.
But the arguments are important too. It is not enough, in my view, to understand the facts and truth alone. We need to hear why some truths matter more than others. So for me it is valuable to listen to a variety of voices and to read sincerely biased blogs from folks on both sides of the argument. Some of the most interesting/persuasive voices on the subject include Alan Johnson MP, Nick Clegg MP, Fraser Nelson (all remain supporters), Dan Hannan MEP, Steve Baker MP & Kate Hoey MP (all leave supporters).
A few days ago, The Spectator hosted a debate on the subject with three speakers on each side (including some of those above). This write-up (£) includes some detailed commentary on the debate along with audio from each of the participants’ opening speeches. It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time. NB Use an incognito browser if you don’t have a Spectator subscription.
The Spectator debate (hosted at the London Palladium, with a 2200 audience) concluded with a narrow victory for the ‘leave’ side. In mitigation, perhaps a Spectator audience would lean that way(?) even though its editor Fraser Nelson is a ‘remain’ supporter.
If reduced to its technical complexities, this is a tremendously difficult decision. There are so many facts and competing truths, along with a few lies too. But this is not just a technocratic decision, or it would have been left to our civil servants – and certainly not to us. It is about our hearts and our vision for this nation. Do we feel more British or more European? Is our European identity best met through the EU? Is our engagement with the world best delivered through the EU or independently? Is our future as an independent nation better understood through risks or opportunities? Are there more risks or opportunities if we stay in the EU? Do we have a responsibility to our European neighbours (or to the USA), and is that best met through the EU or not?
Most of us have a fairly clear view of whether we should be in or out. A significant proportion of us will remain undecided well into June. But our views are no less important. Indeed for those of us still struggling to decide, we have a responsibility to get there. Too many of our neighbours reached their conclusion on gut alone.
This decision deserves whatever agonising you need to do!
Addendum, from a specifically Christian perspective.
Theologian Ian Paul offers these thoughts on the dichotomy between “It hurts to go away,” and “It’s impossible to stay.”
And if you pray, consider this: