Recently I have been listening to the arguments put forward by the leave campaigners, and they bring to mind the whinings of a middle-aged spouse in the throes of a mid-life crisis.
For the purposes of this blog post I will call our middle aged person “he” although I am aware that women can go through this too.
Our middle-aged man looks around him at his single or divorced friends and is envious of their lives. They don’t have whingey children whodrain their money and need attention. They can be completely selfish, spending all their money on beer and all their time playing video games. They don’t need to follow rules made up by a controlling wife who insists they do their share of the housework and put things away when they have finished with them and don’t come in drunk at 2am. They don’t have to do any housework and can come home as late as they wish. Our man’s children invite their friends into his house, and some of them are even foreigners! Why should foreigners be allowed to come into his house and eat his food? He wants to take back control of his house and lock the doors.
Likewise the brexiters look at other countries outside the EU and wail, “Why can’t we be like Norway or Canada or Albania? Why should we have to take other people’s wishes into consideration? Why do we have to follow these pesky rules made by other people? Why do we have to pay money to the EU? Why do we have to welcome other people into our country?”
But beware. What happens to our middle aged man if he does decide to leave his wife and family? Does he live a blissful independent life of freedom with no rules and no responsibilities? After an initial period of euphoric partying he starts to realise that there is a reason for most of the rules he so resented. If he doesn’t do housework he quickly runs out of clean dishes, and he can’t find anything because the house is in such a mess and he never puts anything back in its place. If he comes home drunk at 2am he wakes up feeling terrible and there is vomit on the carpet which he has to clean up by himself because there is nobody to do it for him. In fact he is beginning to realise just how much the other people in his family did for him now that he has to do everything by himself. Even his children’s foreign friends used to help fix his computer and plaster his living room. Now he has to pay someone else to do all those things. His money, which he thought would be his to spend as he wished, suddenly seems to be disappearing even faster than before because he still has to support his children but now he has to pay rent for his own flat too. He’s getting a bit worried about what might happen if he loses his job – his boss has warned him about being late because he’s been out till 2am and there’s nobody there to make sure he wakes up and gets out of the house on time. And he still has to look after his children every other weekend while his wife goes out enjoying herself, only now he has to do it alone so he can’t pretend to be asleep and let his wife get up when one of them has a bad dream. And there is nobody else there to cook their meals or clean up their sick when they are ill.
I fear that similarly, Britain will not enjoy the benefits that the brexiters hope for if we leave the family of the European Union. We will find that those pesky EU rules that we resent so much are actually quite important for protecting us. Rules about clean beaches may seem harsh but guess what? They serve to keep our beaches clean! Rules about what we can and can’t put into food serve to keep our food safe. I fear we might learn this the hard way. And we will still have to pay the EU if we want to trade with them, but we won’t get anything in return. And all these foreigners we like to complain so much about, what will we do without them? Who will nurse us when we are sick? Who will take care of our teeth and clean our offices? And who will look after all the pensioners who, waking up one morning in Spain to find themselves Non-EU Citizens, will flock back home to the UK where they can still enjoy the rights that they are now denied such as free health care?
When our middle aged man realises his mistake he goes crawling back to his family but it is too late. they have grown accustomed to him not being around. They thought they needed him, but they are getting along fine without him.
Don’t let’s be like our middle aged man. Don’t let’s grow old alone and unhappy. If we are tired of our life in the EU then let’s express our mid life crisis in a different way – let’s go out and buy a sports car or dye our hair purple. But don’t let’s throw away 43 years of marriage on some misguided idea of sovereignty or freedom.