Brexit would be bad for Britain and it would be bad for Europe. Those in favour of Britain’s membership of the EU have long assumed that the merits of economic integration, the appeal to the head over the heart, would win any vote. This no longer seems true. One thing we can learn from the Scottish referendum is: do not let one side own the emotional argument. This is the background of what is going on in the UK at present– the migrant and refugee are being waved about like trophies by the euro-sceptics. The NO to Europe campaign has just kicked off, alongside ambiguity from the Prime
Minister, the wannabe leaders of the Tories using Europe as a football for political goal scoring, and the tone on immigration reaching a new low in recent weeks: all this makes it near impossible to have an honest debate. But one thing is clear – emotions will matter. An EU referendum would open up complex situations beyond England. First, in Ireland, exiting Europe would bring many uncertainties. One is the future sustainability of the Northern Ireland peace process, as both Northern Irish Unionists and Republicans could use an EU referendum for their own ends. In Scotland, a referendum was just won by the ‘no to independence’ campaign – however, the Scottish National Party (SNP) hope to use the EU referendum as a wedge to trigger a second Scottish plebiscite.
They argue that it would amount to a constitutional crisis if Scotland and England were to vote for opposing results. The reality is that the EU referendum would trigger uncertainty and inflame independentism everywhere across Europe, too. But – to win the referendum and for Britain to stay in – a cold and transactional sell is not going to work. It’ll need emotions to get a YES REMAIN in Europe vote out, which will be tricky in a country where passion
for Europe has often been lukewarm.