I’ve been pretty restrained this campaign season, but the referendum is in two days and there’s someone I need to talk to.
It’s not the voter who’s already decided to vote Leave. I respect your decision and, let’s face it, if every expert economist and notable world leader combined can’t convince you then I probably can’t either.
I want to talk to the undecided voter. There are an awful lot of them: people who are uncomfortable with the heavy weight of having to make a decision that will define Britain’s place in the world for a generation or more.
All the polls indicate that the race is so tight the result will be decided by the “don’t know”s. And with so many big claims coming from both sides it’s totally understandable to feel, right now, that you don’t know where you stand.
But I am begging you: if your answer is “I don’t know”, then vote Remain.
Regardless of any arguments in favour of leaving, no one can deny that it would be a serious risk. Exiting the EU trading bloc and the common market will impact every single business from your corner shop to big corporations. There is a very good chance of another recession. And we risk losing vital labour from Europe that props up the NHS as well staffing Pret a Manger. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the impact on our economy will be total.
I don’t say this to scare you. There are people who know all of this and still think it’s worth the risk. But I’m talking to you, the undecided voter, and I want to tell you – if you don’t feel certain that taking on this risk is worthwhile, then you have to vote Remain. Please, please, please don’t stay at home on Thursday.
It might sound disingenuous to say “if you don’t know, then vote Remain”, but let me put it this way. If you feel that you don’t know whether it’s a good idea to leave the EU, then I can reasonably assume you don’t think life in the UK is unspeakably awful right now as a result of the EU’s influence. You probably think things are generally fine. So in that case it makes total sense to vote for the status quo. Vote for things to continue being generally fine!
(How has no one put that on a poster yet?)
And it’s not just about economics. I am sick with worry that the incredible opportunity we have to pursue the life we want anywhere in this diverse continent will be snatched away from us and from the generations that follow us.
In a sense, I am one of the lucky ones: if we exit, I can apply for Swedish citizenship after another year and a half, and I will because I value the freedoms and the rights that being a citizen of the EU brings me. Most people don’t have that choice. But on the other hand: what if we hadn’t moved to Sweden in 2014 but in 2018, post-Brexit? Would I have been allowed in? What if we were still living in the UK now; what would Andreas’s status be post-Brexit? What rights would he have to continue living in the country he contributed to for so many years? If the result is Leave, will we ever move back?
There are 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who have no voice in this referendum. If you don’t know, vote Remain for them. There are 2 million UK citizens living abroad in the EU – many of whom can’t vote because they have been away for 15 years or more, or because they weren’t previously registered to vote in the UK. If you don’t know, vote Remain for them. These are the people whose lives will be affected the most by our choice.
It’s okay to feel unsure. This is a massive, complex issue and a difficult one even for those who are deeply engaged with politics every day. But I am begging you. If you feel unsure, if you have no strong opinion, if you are not certain that you want to see the UK leave the EU – with all that entails – you have to vote Remain. You must. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves sleepwalking into a disaster and we will all have to live with it.
I never thought the result would be so close, but here we are. You, the undecided voters, are the ones who will decide. Please, please, please don’t stay at home on Thursday.