The EU referendum and the danger of magical thinking

By Simon Barrow
June 23, 2016

Though for me the choice is ultimately clear, I understand those who are agonising about this UK referendum on the EU and who are still deciding at the last hour. I really do.

Especially those who want to vote for a real alternative to the neoliberal, austerity agenda which dominates far to much of the European Union, but who cannot see how to do this.  

However, among 'progressives' (for want of better labels), there is a huge danger of 'magical thinking' about this -- making a choice based on how we want things to be, without facing the reality of how they really are, and acknolwedging where there are (or are not) actual causal links. 

To those tempted by abstention or Leave, in a 'plague on all their houses' way, my message would be as follows. What's bad about the EU is just as bad outside it; what's good about it is vital for millions and has taken years of painstaking compromise to build... and what wins with Brexit is terrifying.

Really. There isn't a progressive government in waiting in the UK if Britain votes out today. There's a victory for xenophobia and more austerity, plus a boost to the far right across the continent. 

Or as my friend and collaborator Symon Hill, another Ekklesia associate, put it recently: "I want to vote to live as part of an international network of democratically run local communities and co-operatively organised workplaces without the need for nation states or corporations. 

"Sadly, that option's not on the ballot paper. 

"So I'm voting Remain. Because voting to keep things as they are is slightly better than voting to make them even worse. Whichever way the vote goes, political struggles for real democracy must continue."

I'm a little more than 'slightly better' on this. But a decision will be made, and for better or worse there is better and worse in this EU referendum. And after there is hopeful action for change. Let's do it. 

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© Simon Barrow is Director of Ekklesia. 

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Also from Ekklesia:

* What kind of European future? (Ekklesia, 13 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23160

* Assessing Christian contributions to the EU referendum debate (Ekklesia, 20 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23188

* Ten principles to guide voting in the EU referendum and beyond (Ekklesia, 21 June 2016) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23194

* Briefing and commentary: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/eureferendum

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.