User:Deryck Chan/The reluctant Remain voter

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21 June 2016, Cambridge, England

Over the last few weeks, I seem to have convinced my "Remain" friends that I'm "Leave" and my "Leave" friends that I'm "Remain".

So let me come clean now: I've finally decided to vote "Remain". My postal vote has been sealed and sent, no turning back. (I'll be in Italy for Wikimania on voting day.)

I still stand by my criticism of the EU's structure and operation. Its protectionist and anti-democratic tendencies are much of the source of the UK's problems. But like most other non-white Britons, I'm fundamentally ambivalent about "Project Europe". My vote depends on what the Remain and Leave outcomes are likely to offer.

As a non-white Briton, I felt disenfranchised throughout the debate. EU freedom of movement has meant that the UK is forced to arbitrarily reduce non-European immigration. It appalls me that thousands of Europeans are moving to the UK without any meaningful prior connection, but at the same time international students are not given the chance to further their professional career in the UK. The UK's obligation to prefer other EU states in all trade and migration matters means that the UK has been prohibited from finding its best labour and trade partners from around the world. The nonsense really hit me when I found out I may not legally marry a non-EU citizen and settle in the UK - because I don't [inset swearword] earn "enough". And I am a [bleep] engineer in academia.

I'm not impressed by the EU's anti-democratic tendencies either. When an EU member state rejected a treaty update by referendum, they were simply asked again until they said yes. Also, the structure of the EU is such that only the executive (European Commission) may propose laws, which must then be ratified by a double majority of the Council of EU (appointed representatives of national governments) and the European Parliament (elected representatives representing the people). You know where else has an executive-led, double-majority government structure? Hong Kong. It's dysfunctional and established interests always win. That is indeed how it is playing out in the EU: lobbyists in Brussels hold sway. The EU trade commissioner even admitted, "I do not take my mandate from the European people."

Thus, I liked the vision of one particular camp of Leavers: that represented by Adrian Hilton of Christians For Britain and several others, who argue for a UK outside the EU common market. Then we can hire the best labour from around the world, find the best trade deals around the world, repatriate power from Brussels back to Westminster, and repeal anomalous mechanisms such as the European Arrest Warrant which don't make much sense when there's a massive English Channel separating your country from most of Europe.

At this point, you're probably thinking, "so why on earth didn't you vote Leave?"

Here's the catch: because I don't think that's the Brexit scenario we'll get. You see, the Leave camp are dominated by two visions. The first comprises mostly the nostalgic older generation and underprivileged groups in post-industrial backwaters; they simply want to reduce immigration at all costs. The second comprises business-people who want fewer constraints for UK businesses by adopting the "Norwegian" or "Swiss" model; this in effect means we maintain freedom of movement and continue to adopt the majority of EU standards (except the ones that stop big businesses from ripping off average citizens) without having a say in them.

British democracy isn't without its flaws. We have an "electoral dictatorship": once elected, an MP is accountable to nobody for five years. Although the government is theoretically accountable to the whole parliament, MPs generally have no recourse against a particular policy unless they deem it big enough to remove the government altogether. That's how we got the outrage with the new threshold that will prevent middle-income immigrant professionals from settling, and how we got the junior doctor strike - through the executive doing things without sufficient accountability and oversight.

So I think the likely Brexit scenario is that we either continue to have unmanaged immigration from the EU but lose power over EU policies, or have even tighter immigration controls for non-Europeans. Or both. Neither represents a version of UK's future that I want, and staying in the EU now becomes the lesser of evils.

I'm increasingly convinced that Brexit won't fix anything. As I've said above, the likely Brexit scenarios aren't in my favour and the UK's democracy isn't a lot better than the EU's "democracy". In addition, the problems with EU governance affects everybody in it. The threat of Brexit has kickstarted a series of EU reform, which will only take place if the British contingent stays in the EU to drive it forward.

So in conclusion, I'm not sure if a Leave vote would make the UK better, but it seems that a Remain vote would make the EU better. This view seems to be shared by all non-white Britons who have the same concerns as me, and I felt compelled to vote in solidarity with those who are as disenfranchised as me in this referendum.

The referendum is only the start of the battle. If the country chose to Remain, we must fight to restore democratic accountability to the EU, open up our protectionist walls to the rest of the world, and stop integrating for the sake of itself. If we chose to Leave, we must fight to redistribute the privileges previously enjoyed by EU states to citizens of the wider world, and ensure that powers repatriated from Brussels are returned not to crony capitalists, but to genuine accountability in British democracy.

But for now, I have voted Remain, and shall await the result of the referendum while I'm hiding away in a tiny Lombardian village. And if all goes horribly wrong in a Remain outcome, I've recently passed my CFEL German B1, so I guess I'll just immigrate to Germany or Austria and blame them instead...