Early signs indicate that the “Safe option = Leave EU” message will be hammered home relentlessly with every single eurosceptic talking point, whether it necessarily fits or not
Today’s campaign email from Vote Leave hammers home the “safety first” option of voting for Brexit even more strongly than before.
As well as having a subtle dig at the rival pro-European campaign group Britain Safer in Europe (which launches today) by referring to them by their unfortunate initials “BSE”, today Vote Leave have this to say on sticking with the status quo of full EU membership:
Which is safer – to vote ‘remain’ and keep giving more power and more money every year to a Brussels bureaucracy that cannot cope with the problems of the modern world, or to take back control and negotiate a new, friendlier UK-EU relationship based on free trade and stronger international cooperation, often at a global (not regional) level?
Which is safer – to keep going with the 1950s vision of ever more centralisation of power in the Brussels bureaucracy or to build new institutions that allow faster, more agile cooperation on global challenges?
Which is safer – to accept the permanent supremacy of EU law or to trade and cooperate with the EU without accepting the supremacy of EU law, as many other countries in Europe and around the world do?
Which is safer – to keep Brussels in charge of negotiating trade deals that affect millions of British jobs or to take back control and negotiate these deals ourselves?
Which is safer – to trust big multinational businesses and their lobbyists to make laws over dinner in Brussels, or to take back control?
Which is safer – to keep going with the Foreign Office’s hope that eventually Brussels will listen to us, which has failed for 40 years, or take back control and invest in science so we can create and build new industries?
A vote to ‘remain’ is not a vote for the status quo. It means handing over even more power and money to Brussels. We need a new UK-EU relationship. The only way to take back control and get a new UK-EU deal is to Vote Leave.
As I pointed out over the weekend, not all of these “which is safer?” questions work very well. In fact, some of them have very little to do with safety or even stability one way or another.
But today’s campaign email is a real marker of intent. It shows that Vote Leave intend to continue pushing this point and throwing up “safety first” scenarios until a couple of them stick. I’m sure they will be conducting polling and focus groups to further test responses to these messages before discarding the ones that do not work, and refining those that do until they become more deadly rhetorical weapons.
At this early stage, the arguments put forward for Brexit lack any real depth or sophistication – not that the pro-EU arguments are any better. Campaigners realised that the “No” vote in the Scottish independence referendum was won party because the Better Together campaign went relentlessly negative, portraying separation from the UK as a leap into the great unknown. And now they want to seize the tool which is most likely to be used against them (arguing that Brexit represents a leap in the dark) before the pro-EU crowd get a chance.
Mission accomplished, so far. But at some point, the effect of both sides yelling “safety!” at the electorate is likely to cancel itself out. And the question then becomes: what does each side have to offer that will speak to the hopes and aspirations of the British people, not just their desire for safety and stability?
This is where the eurosceptic side could (and hopefully will) run away with the show. Those who want to yoke Britain to the EU come what may can offer nothing but a continuation of what we already have – life as part of an antidemocratic federation, where uniformity and harmonisation are relentlessly encouraged just for the sake of it. The eurosceptics can offer so much more, provided that they avoid reciting an endless list of euro grievances and focus strongly on the opportunities and benefits of re-engaging with the world.
This “which is safer?” rhetoric is all very well, but it is the arguments that come next which will win or lose this referendum.