An idiot’s guide to the EU referendum – some advice from Scotland

Unusually, this post is more for innocents ‘elsewhere in these islands’ (© N Sturgeon 2015) than for Scottish readers, although they will surely recognise what it describes.

You may already be wrestling with the complexity of the campaigns for and against ‘Brexit.’ Fear not, some of your fellow citizens in Scotland have been through exactly the same mill as you within the last two years with our own separation/independence referendum. Learn from our experience with this handy guide to all that will be said, done and written over the next few months.

In no particular order …

  • Pleas will be made for everyone to remain civil. They will go unheeded.
  • Language will be abused. Assertion will be dressed up as fact. And that’s a fact.
  • Expect unexpected allies. Did you see Nigel Farage and George Galloway appearing at the same event recently? ’Nuff said. (Incidentally, Galloway spoke – very effectively – for the union in the Scottish referendum)
  • Spurious polls will be taken seriously. Most will be online and of the ‘Yes, I want freedom to determine our own future’ vs. ’No, I am willing to submit to the yoke of EU tyranny’ variety. Some will be sponsored by tabloid newspapers. All will prove exactly what their promoters want them to prove.
  • The BBC/MSM (main stream media) will be blamed.
  • Friends and family will fall out. If they don’t you’ll know this whole in/out thing isn’t the big deal it’s been made out to be (see the dictionary definition of ‘existential’).
  • Groups will line up for and against, as in ‘Lawyers for …’ or ‘Asian female entrepreneurs against …’ All will make as much noise as they can. None will have as many members or as much influence as they claim.
  • Every last aspect of life will be said to be better/worse in/out of the EU. I have already heard fisheries, asthma research and work permits for European footballers in the premier league cited. Believe which you want. You will anyhow.
  • ‘Risk’ will be cited on both sides – the risks of leaving, the risks of staying – mostly by those who have no intention of quantifying it, or the ability to do so. Cherish those that can and do.
  • If ‘Stays’ win, ‘Leaves’ will remain in an interminable state of agitation for Euroref2.
  • Especially for Scots who have reached this far, irony will abound as our first minister puts exactly the same arguments for staying in the EU that she opposed for Scotland remaining in the UK.

Of course, there are differences too.

Unlike the Scottish referendum, the governing party is split (Note for English readers: the SNP is never split. Never. Not yet). And unlike the Scottish referendum there is no single campaign for leaving, nor substantive prospectus for what will happen if we do. In Scotland we at least had the governing party’s proposals to get our teeth into. It was dressed up as a (very flawed) government white paper a mere 649 pages long but at least it was there.

The good news is that unlike us you only have to endure four months of campaigning, not several years. Until the next time. Keep smiling.

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2 Responses to An idiot’s guide to the EU referendum – some advice from Scotland

  1. Clare Boyle says:

    that explained nothing!
    I am a learning disabled “sponge” on disability and there has been NO explanation of what this means for someone in my position so I’ll tell you what I am going to do… I’m not going to bother my shirt to vote at all… if neither campaign can be bothered to dumb what they are saying down for people like me I am not going to waste my time voting


    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for your comment Clare. I’m sure you’ll realise I wasn’t trying to address the substantive issues at the heart of the referendum for anyone, let alone disabled people. I was only trying to describe (in a slightly jokey way) some of the characteristics of the independence referendum campaign we experienced in Scotland that I expected to recur in the EU referendum. When the campaign to stay in the EU was dubbed by opponents ‘Project fear’ I knew I was right – it’s exactly what the No (i.e. remain in the UK) campaign was called by opponents in Scotland. Many other examples are emerging – on both sides. Good luck with getting information about your situation in the format you need.


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