Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Changing the arguments

This is a much better argument for a ‘yes’ vote in the EU referendum than most of what I’ve seen so far.  A “decentralised partnership of equals” where Wales is one of those “equals”, and a rejection of the idea that the decision can be made by “punching numbers into a calculator” is the sort of vision for a future for Wales as an independent member of a restructured European Union which is about more than mere economics.  Syniadau has also drawn attention today to a new cross-Europe movement seeking to democratize the continent, and re-invent the EU on a different basis.  Both are hopeful signs of a new approach to what it means to be part of a multi-national project for peace and progress.
Much of the rest of the debate about the EU, however, continues to revolve around the idea that it’s all about economics, and nothing more.  One of the problems with that approach is that the economic effects of departure are largely unknowable – for all the apparent ‘certainty’ that they display, both sides are essentially guessing.  And inviting people to judge who might be making the best guesses doesn’t look like a very good basis for making a fundamental decision about the future.
There was a report a few days ago, for instance, which suggested that leaving the EU would be like taking a leap into the unknown.  I agree – but I’m not convinced that the economic future within the EU is as certain as that implies.  There is a natural human tendency to assume, almost subconsciously, that ‘what is’ is somehow safer and more certain than the alternative.  But in this case, continuing as a member of the EU carries its own range of possible outcomes, depending on events which are at this stage unforeseeable.
I believe that the UK could and would survive economically outside the EU, albeit with a period of adjustment, in the same way that I believe that Wales could and would survive outside the UK – again with a period of adjustment.  Adjusting to circumstances is what economies do – and there are plenty of recent examples of economies adapting well to new circumstances.  The question is not whether we could or would thrive economically whether in or out; it’s about what sort of world we want to see.  And I welcome the fact that at least one of Wales’ politicians is arguing from that viewpoint.

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