Okay, so do you remember the Mirror of Erised? Yes, that thing from Harry Potter which shows a reflection of what you want most in the world. Well, I’m going to use it as part of a protracted allegory about euroscepticism. No, seriously. Bear with me.
I know many people tempted by, or sold on, Brexit. They’re convinced by the notion for umpteen different reasons, but all of them seem to share one thing in common. A dream, a vision, an idea of what the future might look like. A better future, in their eyes, be they a red flag waving socialist, a libertarian economics wonk or a dew eyed nationalist.
On the remain side, by contrast, we see far less of this. Remainers as a whole seem to be more circumspect, pragmatic. Less certain of what future they would like to see if the UK stays in Europe, less certain of what sort of EU they want, and how they think we’ll achieve this.
In many ways a number of criticisms leave have leveled at remain, I believe to have some merit. Remain does have a certain, small-c conservatism at its heart, and its arguments are primarily motivated by a slightly harder-nosed sense of pragmatism than the leave side’s bold talk of a brave new dawn.
The problem of course, is whilst most brexiteers seem to have a romantic vision, they very much don’t all have the same one. In fact, so diametrically opposed are many to each other that really, only one could prevail, if any do at all, and I suspect many leave voters would be deeply upset with the lion’s share of the utopia’s, which live in the minds of their temporary brothers in arms.
In short, Brexit is very much like a Mirror of Erised to eurosceptics. It shows them a vision of the future they want the most, but it has no real, direct power to give it to them, only tease them with the possibility of what might be.
I was always planning on voting remain, and still am. It is highly unlikely any leave argument could have convinced me, and none has. But when I go into the ballot box next month and cast my vote, I won’t vote for the UK to stay in the European Union because of a rabid distaste for nationalism or flag waving. Nor because I believe the EU will one day be positively reformed to make it a more liberal and democratic institution, even though these are both opinions I hold.
I will vote to remain, because when I look at the full picture of those who stand on each side, remain is the side with the overwhelming share of the pragmatists, the informed but uncertain. Those without a true ideological axe to grind but with real fear in their hearts at what we might be on the cusp of doing. On the other side we see the majority of the dreamers, tantalized by flickers in the Brexit flames.
Ultimately i’d rather vote with the shopkeeper than the political idealist when the future looks uncertain. Fear of the unknown is a rational response, and we shouldn’t simply dismiss it as a non-argument.
Pragmatism is not a dirty word, and there’s no shame in being afraid.