Hard Truths or Scaremongering? Informing debate on the EU referendum

By Sam Saunders

With around two months to go until the big vote on whether the UK will remain a member of the European Union or not, I find myself writing another article on the topic. This comes amid more grand claims about the benefits and problems with either a ‘Brexit’ or a ‘Bremain’ (my personal favourite alternative, coined by David Mitchell). It’s difficult, as in any referendum, to ascertain which side is being truthful and whose information is false and misleading. One way is to examine the track record of the person or organisation that provides the information, for example, the controversial Treasury report was this week condemned by ‘out’ campaigners due to the Treasury’s past failings in predicting global financial troubles like the 2008 financial crisis, as well as understating the fallout from said events.

This approach becomes problematic however, especially if it applies to politicians, who can say one thing and mean another, sometimes creating problematic arguments for the general public. Despite the leaflets and flyers that have been given out and posted to people by both sides, I still fear that many people simply don’t think that they’re informed enough about the coming referendum. And here’s the hard truth: they probably aren’t. This is a problem for the whole country; we can’t trust the statistics given out by the government, as they’re immediately discredited by anyone campaigning for an EU exit and vice versa.

Although the government likes to present a trustworthy face by parading the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to every photo opportunity in Britain, the problem comes when considering that around half of the cabinet and Boris Johnson are on the opposite side. This causes issues, as it’s not easy to accept figures from either side when people of this significance are disputing their accuracy. It’s not even as if there’s much of a difference of political ideology on either side, as the leaders of the respective campaigns are all Conservatives. This, simply put, means that neither side’s arguments can be easily discounted by supporters of a particular political party, reducing the clear cut divisions in the debate. And whilst the actual figures may not be available, it is a shame that people feel under informed about this referendum. The information, such as an actual figure of how much we pay Brussels and the EU in a year would help enormously, but I highly doubt that something like that would ever be released to the public. Figures and statistics like this one are crucial for shaping the response of the British people, as those participating in the debate. In fact, those who have to judge the debate and decide the winner, must be in possession of all the facts. Otherwise, it becomes a vote that we could’ve just had in February and done away with the tedious act of campaigning.

Despite all I have said, I don’t think that either side is misleading the people of the UK, they’re merely stating facts which they’ve gathered in the light which is most favourable to their argument, and if we’re honest, that’s what we’d all do to win an election. Hell, most of us have done it in an essay! To sum up then, I do think it’s a shame that the debate isn’t more informed, but I suppose that this is the best we’re going to get; also each side seems to be as bad as the other when looked at like this. I’ll finish by saying what I say to anyone who’ll listen to me: although there may not be the amount of information available about the referendum that people want, the vote should still be cast with the utmost care and respect. It’s only the future of the United Kingdom and 60 or so million humans after all.