I'm not a right wing fascist. I'm not a little Englander. I don't hate migrants and I don't hate Europe.
These are some of the stereotypes attached to people who want to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum - possibly because the campaign has been associated with UKIP and the posher parts of the Tory party for the last couple of decades.
Yet Eurosceptism is a very broad church. It contains prominent lefties such as the late Tony Benn, Michael Foot and current MP Kate Hoey. So please, don't judge people who want Brexit. This crucial debate shouldn't be about political tribes, or the hot topics of the moment such as immigration or security. The referendum is about something much more fundamental than that, which transcends a person’s political colours.
Eurosceptism is a very broad church
Often, I find that people are pro-EU because they perceive the legislation it produces to be progressive, liberal or left-wing. I think there are plenty of examples of EU legislation that is not - the TTIP being an excellent example. In fact, pro-EU folk on the right trumpet its pro-capitalist credentials.
It's not the content of the legislation that should be at issue. It's the degree to which ordinary people in the UK can influence and shape this legislation, or change the powers-that-be if we become sick of its policies.
In other words, it's about democracy and accountability.
I think a helpful thought experiment is what would happen if Europe suddenly swung a different way politically. It’s not unlikely that there will be a shift towards the far right, as is happening in France, Greece and elsewhere. If the European Union apparatus starts producing legislation that a majority of the British public didn’t like, how could it respond?
We can sway the UK government with letters to MPs, pickets, petitions, demonstrations – and ultimately the ballot box. It’s much harder to do for our European rulers. Votes for MEPs make little difference, because our opinion is worth much less to the European apparatus than to a British government. In the EU, we are a small part of a large and amorphous whole. Even the Prime Minister has little power – as demonstrated by the paltry concessions given in the recent ‘renegotiation’.
A pan-European government will always be undemocratic
But even if British people had more influence, there is a serious lack of information from which to make good choices in Europe. The media in the different countries are in different languages, and keeping on top of what is really going on is a massive task. That’s really unhealthy, for an organisation that has as much power as the EU. This seems impossible to fix – by its very nature, a pan-European government will always be undemocratic.
There are lots of practical, non-partisan reasons to vote to leave the European Union. These are valid wherever you sit on the political spectrum.
So please, don’t assume that you know my politics, when I say I want to leave the EU. I genuinely love Europe, its cultures and people, and I recognise that some EU legislation has been a good thing. But I would always choose democracy over a benign dictatorship - or something like the EU, that sits unhappily between the two.