Tommy Sheppard: Negative EU campaign is just not my cup of tea

WE need to look at the big picture and avoid scaremongering tactics in the run-up to the June referendum, says Tommy Sheppard

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 11:57 am
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 1:02 pm
Brexit campaigners Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Picture: Getty
Brexit campaigners Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Picture: Getty

WITH the Scottish election out of the way, the political focus turns to the referendum about whether to leave or remain part of the EU. I’m voting to stay, warts and all.

But I worry that the arguments for and against in this referendum have been negative and venal. It’s as if each side has a “project fear” telling you the world will end if you vote one way or another. Of course jobs and prices are important, but actually you can argue this either way and these are not the compelling arguments for why we should be part of Europe. We need to lift our eyes and look at the big picture.

The number one argument is that nation states – including, I hope, in years to come Scotland – are facing global forces much bigger than they are and to have a chance of 
controlling them they must work together. Whether that be dealing with the refugee crisis, climate change, or standing up to multinational corporations, the job will be easier by having a joint plan with others. This means choosing to share or pool sovereignty and there’s nothing wrong with that providing that choice is freely made and people have the right to change their mind.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Of all the arguments deployed by the anti-EU side, perhaps the biggest load of twaddle is the question of sovereignty. Nigel Farage and others would have you believe that if we vote to stay in Europe we somehow lose our rights to ever change our mind. We’ll lose control of our borders and be overrun by a bunch of Johnny foreigners. We’ll lose the right to make our own laws and run our own economy.

What nonsense. Although not yet reflected in law nor our anarchic constitution, there is widespread popular acceptance that the people are sovereign in this country. That’s why we are having a referendum in the first place – and all parties will accept the result. The idea that if we vote to remain we somehow give up the right to ever review that decision in the future is disingenuous – if not actually a downright lie.

There is absolutely nothing about the decision on June 23 which is irreversible and which would prevent us from deciding to leave the EU at a future date. And let’s not even get started on the once-in-a-generation argument. No-one can force the people of the UK to stay in the EU against their will, just as no-one can force the people of Scotland to stay in the UK against their will. End of.

And what of those who whine about how the SNP can say we don’t want to be part of the United Kingdom and yet we’re happy to be in a United Europe. Aren’t we just a bunch of opportunist hypocrites? Well, no. Not even a little bit.

The EU and the UK are two completely different propositions. One is a group of independent countries working together and setting up joint structures to get stuff done. The other is a fusion of individual nations into a single polity which denies their independence.

The point about Scottish independence is that the people who live in Scotland get to decide how to work together with other nations on these islands and beyond. It doesn’t mean we’d refuse to work with others and become some sort of Caledonian version of North Korea.

An independent Scotland will have to work together on many things with the rest of Britain. And we’ll certainly need to work with others across Europe.

• Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East