Opinion: Things to consider about the Great Referendum

So, the Great Referendum is upon us.

Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2016, 3:56 pm

Are we approaching a hellish precipice, or a gentle slope of the sunlit uplands? I expect that you are as bewildered by the advice of the experts as you are terrified by the doom-laden threats from both sides. Luckily, you have me to guide you.

I will, if I may, take you back to the early 60s when I was what was then known as a sixth-former and the hot topics in the debating society were hanging, very popular at the time; world hunger, and – the Common Market. In an attempt to focus our immature minds the then headmaster, Mr J Leslie Nightingale, offered a series of prizes by school year for the best essays.

I am sorry to say that I did not win a prize, but Mr Nightingale did, at morning assembly, read out passages from my essay as striking examples of the kind of xenophobia and general shallow thinking of which he most disapproved.

I had set out my fears of unforeseen (except by me) consequences of joining the Common Market.

There would be, I suggested, hordes of Breton peasants piling through the Channel ports and pedalling into the Home Counties on bicycles loaded down with strings of stinking onions.

Worse, we would be invaded by smooth talking Italian ice cream vendors, who would mask their dishonourable and disgusting intentions towards our womenfolk behind heavily accented charm.

Frenchmen would follow to embezzle our savings and steal the best jobs, all claiming to be counts and dukes and skilful lovers.

There was good reason why syphilis was known, then as now, as the French disease and I made no bones about pointing all this out. I predicted a suffocating whiff of garlic in the land. It was to be many years before we actually joined The Six, by which time my stark warnings had been forgotten.

Now here we are, looking at the possibility of getting out and there is much to think about. Do we want to be part of an organisation that spends grotesque amounts of our money in such a reckless manner that its accounts have not once been signed off by its auditors for almost 20 years? If the EU were a company all the directors would have been sent to prison long ago.

Shuttling between two seats of government, Strasbourg and Brussels – an unnecessary expense estimated at £500m a year – the Commissioners make themselves useful by passing ludicrous legislation, mostly favourable to the French, but an irritant to the rest of us.

Only recently, they decreed that fishing with a rod and line off Bridlington beach for sea bass would attract a fine of £5,000, all in the interests of conservation of fish stocks. In the meantime, continental boats are bobbing about off-shore sucking up the very tasty items that Bridlington Man fancies for his supper.

Those who wish to remain IN seem remarkably laid back.

This is because they remember that when the French and Irish people held referenda and voted not to ratify an objectionable treaty, the EU Commission ordered them to re-run the votes to secure a different result, more in line with its own wishes and those of the Germans.

That could happen here if, as we must suppose, our spineless politicians go along with it. Then would be a good time to apply for EU funding, also known as bribes, as the Irish will tell you.

Of course, leaving the EU, if we are allowed to do so, would not solve all our problems.

We would still have crooked politicians fiddling their expenses and useless officials messing things up, but at least they would be our crooks, whom we could punish at the ballot box, and our incompetents who could be sacked, in theory at least.

All of this is academic, however. If we vote to remain the immediate contagion that would follow a BREXIT outcome will be delayed, but not avoided for ever.

The EU, like all empires will not endure, but its collapse will surely come and the signs are there. The Euro is in trouble still, the Hungarians are revolting and even the Germans, apart from the political elite, no longer believe in the 100 year Reich. Borders are being closed, fences built and manned by national armies. Things don’t look good for the Franco-German dream.

When things looked good the French kept us out, now they look bad they want us to stay because they fear the virus of our discontent will infect them all.

If we leave, Mr Cameron warns us, holidays will become more expensive – but not in Bridlington they won’t. Anyway, I think people take too many holidays.