“Remain” Vs. “Leave”: All The Arguing

We don’t see this sort of thing happen in our lives too often. These next few weeks? Remember them:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

For American readers, “luvvies” is British derogatory slang for….

a person who is involved in the acting profession or the theatre, esp one with a tendency to affectation

As you may know, on June 23 British voters will be asked to answer this referendum question, Yes or No: Should the United Kingdom remain a part of the European Union?

The arguments for remaining vs. leaving are now all over the airwaves, filling newspapers and the net. British voters are being deluged with opinions. As with those entertainers Sky presenter Kay Burley tweets about, it seems most every figure is voicing a view.

Taking no public position either way myself (I’m not British, so I don’t feel it’s appropriate), I will say I’ve noticed two major tendencies that broadly underpin both sides’ arguments:

1) “Remain” supporters’ – such as those “luvvies” – arguments prioritize economic matters: job loss, trade loss, wrecking the British economy, etc. Leaving the free trade area that is the European Union would be a disaster, they assert. Britain, they also tend by extension to maintain, is simply too small to prosper on the world stage outside of it.

2) “Leave” supporters seem to spend most of their time talking about aspects of reasserting national sovereignty. They maintain that there is a dire need to reclaim British independence and self-government from unelected European Union overlords in Brussels (the “capital” of the European Union).

It’s fascinating. The “remain” vs. “leave” positions…. between 1770-1776 in Great Britain’s then American colonies tended to fall along much the same lines:

1) American “tories” focused greatly on the benefits of being part of the massive “trade area” that was the British empire. Being in it was also necessary, they said, for the small American colonies to survive in the world: the world’s greatest sea power – the Royal Navy – and army protected the colonies. An independent U.S., they also argued, would be too small to exert any influence on its own on a world stage dominated by Britain, France and Spain, and other European monarchies. America could also not cope on its own economically, they also maintained: there would be loss of livelihoods, economic suffering, etc.

2) “Patriots” – the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and their supporters – discussed mostly the benefits of, and the right to, self-government. They were outspoken about the need to end rule from an overseas distant capital (London) by officials Americans had no voice in choosing. Local American colonial legislatures were constantly being usurped, they also said, and Americans’ “rights” were regularly being trampled upon.

Flags of Great Britain, the independent U.S.A., and pre-revolutionary France, flying over the recreated Fort William Henry, on the edge of Lake George, New York. [Photo by me, 2013.]
Flags of Great Britain, the independent U.S.A., and pre-revolutionary France, flying over the recreated Fort William Henry, on the edge of Lake George, New York. [Photo by me, 2013.]

Today, we know how that debate ended. Historical comparisons can be dangerous, of course; so we have to be cautious when making them. For example, if “leave” wins more votes it’s decidedly unlikely a European Union army will invade the United Kingdom, seize Southampton, Edinburgh, and London, and otherwise seek to boost British “remainers” in a civil war against the rebel “leavers”.

Still it’s remarkable how we do see so many of the same fundamental issues argued over and over and over again.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂