In or Out? Seems easy right? But when it comes down to it, a decision like this needs more than a brief campaign pamphlet and voting guide, it needs the voice of the people
Here in Scotland the mood is relatively quiet. Especially in the picturesque town of St Andrews, which is known more for its prestigious university and historic golf links than its fishing industry. And yet, the St Andrews harbour is home to over a dozen small fishing boats which can be seen (and smelt) by taking a casual stroll down towards the ruined Cathedral. There, you’ll find evidence of recent catches from the neatly-piled lobster cages and nets, offering high quality freshly-caught crustaceans and shellfish for the town and elsewhere.
Just last week, visitors and locals could enjoy a guided tour of the Reaper, a former fishing vessel that now belongs to the Scottish Fisheries Museum. The entrance was free and, naturally, I was curious to take a look below deck. The boat has been restored to its authentic glory, minus the smell of fish, but what really made it special was the crew. One elderly fishermen told me with zeal of former days when the fishing industry was at its peak — some way before my birth. I listened and briefly interjected — rather bluntly — with: ‘So, how do you feel about the EU Referendum?’ The reply was a cautiously polite: ‘Honestly, I would prefer to be out’.
But why? Is it the ambiguous Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) — particularly affecting Scottish fleets which made their living through whitefish catches – or the now semi-automatic ‘migrants are bad’ mindset? Apparently neither. This seaman actually supports placing restrictions on threatened species such as cod and haddock. As for the migrant complex, he argues that as long as we do not allow religious extremism and practise ‘tolerance’ towards all who enter the country, there should be no problem. He adds: ‘the world is getting smaller and smaller; I speak to friends in America and Spain …’. Better technology has certainly made communication and travel infinitely more accessible. He tells me: ‘you don’t know how much easier your lives are’, I reply: ‘No, I do’ — but wonder …
Back then, before the EU justice league, many women worked in the fishing industry, playing an integral part. They gutted the fish and I’m told could clean 60 fish in one minute. They also helped make the nets and allegedly, could even be seen carrying the men to the ships by piggyback – something about not being allowed to get your boots wet when boarding the ship … . Suffice it to say, this was hard work, but they did it willingly and often with a sense of adventure, I’m told.
I wanted to know more but other visitors came onboard so we had to cut the conversation short. I never even got his name. One of the last things this man said to me was: ‘We need a strong female prime minister … someone with a strong will … maybe not Margaret Thatcher but someone with that kind of will. He said this while looking me straight in the eyes.
Back home I have been sent two leaflets by the campaign groups, supposedly to help me decide. They don’t. The information is sparse, vague and incomplete. An 8-page Remain booklet gives me plenty of irrelevant particulars. By the time I’ve finished reading it I feel as though this government sees me as slightly dim-witted. I’m told, for instance, that the UK benefits in terms of healthcare and employment when it comes to going abroad for pleasure or business, and that leaving the EU would give ‘no guarantees’ that I would be able to keep these ‘benefits’. Words such as ‘risk’ and ‘uncertainty’ make a strategically early appearance. I read this all carefully and ask myself: If there are no guarantees that we will keep our privileges should we leave the EU, are there any more guarantees in the long term that we will get to keep them if we stay? Time sometimes has a strangely short memory.
This government appears to believe that having kept the pound and certain immigration procedures in tact (it’s not quite ‘open boarders’ here yet) that it is sufficient for autonomy. But what manner of autonomy is this when the Leave group warns me that, ‘more than a quarter of a million people came to the UK from the EU in the last 12 months’? Clearly, when it comes down to it, border or no border controls, we are obligated by EU law to let people in. The immigration downpour however is no fault of the people, but of governments and their ill-conceived policies. Britain remains a finite landmass which cannot absorb endless numbers of incomers without this eventually having negative (as well as positive) consequences on all aspects of our society.
The 23rd will be significant, but not necessarily pivotal. At the end of the day, we’re only told half of the story because the other half is presently unavailable. Think long and hard about your decision and talk to the people who’ve lived through the changes — you may then be in possession of a more useful kind of information.