The UK’s EU referendum: speak to me as a person, not as a Brit


With the date for the UK’s EU referendum not yet set, it still feels like the Remain and Leave campaigns are in their early, pre-preparation phases. The logos for the campaigns are above – Britain Stronger In Europe (the official Remain campaign), and Labour In For Britain and European Movement on the Remain side, and Vote Leave and (both battling to be the official Leave campaign).

It strikes me that the Remain side campaigns have all hit upon the idea that patriotism is going to win the day for them. It is in Britain’s interest to remain in the EU (oops, sorry, Europe). You are pro-Europe because you are pro-Britain. As Pawel Swidlicki points out here, all the messages being used by Labour In are indistinguishable from those of Stronger In – it seems that simply not wanting to share panels with Tories is the rationale for a separate campaign.

Here’s an idea, Remain campaigners: there are actually different reasons to be in favour of the EU. And those rationales appeal to different individuals in different ways. Speak to those people as individuals, or speak to them according to groups they are part of. Don’t just lump all of them together because they are British, or somehow patriotic about Britain. Look at how the YES campaign in Scotland did it – there were dozens of different campaigning groups in favour of YES (some listed here), and what they all wanted was not always consistent (the needs of a crofter and the needs of a suburban family are rather different), but the campaign was interesting, diverse, and also civic as well as nationalist. And it gave Better Together one almighty fright. The only really good grassroots campaign effort I’ve yet encountered is Scientists 4 EU (web, Twitter), and European Movement is giving #Students4Europe a bit of a go. It’d be better to have “Labour In for Workers” or “Business Stronger in the EU” or “Entrepreneurs for IN”, and dozens of others besides.

I also wonder about the wider framing of making a patriotic case to remain in the EU. If you are a patriot, then surely you would go for the real defenders of Britain – the Leave people, who would take Britain back to its empire glory days. The Remain side cannot out-patriot the Leave side, and it hence should not even try.

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1 comment

  1. Fred

    Hi Jon, followed you blog for a few years and from a UK politics perspective (especially Labour) your contribution has been great and hope that you can delve back into British politics to make a strong case for the EU. I believe the flag waving anti EU campaign is not going to be the danger. The tactic of UKIP has shown that things have moved on from the William Hague 2001 keep the £ Union Flag campaign to a more anti politics movement.

    Until the yes campaign can express that the future in Europe is one of greater control over politics and more radical solutions for the people, the campaign will only have the fear of the unknown. Problem is that our politicians via dodgy euro selections illustrate a lack of commitment to a vision for the EU, in the EU from Junker to TTIP the no camp plenty of evidence to suggest they are more pro globalisation than the real politics that concern people about jobs and quality of life.

    Maybe a No vote for the UK will be the best thing. We wont leave overnight but engage in a re-negotiation which will leave the UK paying more money with less influence. Over time as the EU recovers it can be argued that demand will grow to rejoin the EU in the UK and the re-joining process will see us play a serious role and adopt the Euro. Sounds a bit mad, but at the end of the day our current relationship and the state of politic in the EU and UK is.