I don't know if there are any undecided people reading this, but if there are, this is for you.

I can understand the worry that undecided people have - that they feel ill informed by the standard of debate that we have, with the Leave camp indulging in outright, provable lies and the Remain being composed of politicians who haven't exactly proven themselves trustworthy and seem to be tying themselves in logical knots trying to address every argument the Leavers have.

But I still think that it's important to understand that we're not assessing two equivalent positions here. The question is about whether to make a particular change, or whether not to make that change. And in that arrangement, the onus is very much on the advocators of change to make the case.

To use an analogy, imagine if instead of deciding on the EU we were deciding on whether you should change how you commute into work. Perhaps you're fed up with your current commute, it's noisy, crowded, there are often delays and cancellations, it makes you late sometimes, and so on. So the entire country is going to decide on whether you should change it or not.

In order to decide, the people advocating change would not have to merely establish whether the current route is any good, they would also have to establish and make a credible case for what the improved options were. If they failed to do either of those things, voting to change would be a big gamble to you.

Meanwhile the people urging you to keep your current route have a bit of a quandary. They believe it to be the best option open to you but also know that it's not without problems. So they try to promise improvements. They'll put more buses on the route. They'll work with the train companies to make their services more reliable. All this might sound dubious, and it perhaps is.

But it gets back to where the onus is for making the case. If the people telling you to change have not done a good job of both criticising the current option and presenting the alternatives, then the choice has to be to carry on with the current route, warts and all.

Ah, but then the other side will start saying "actually, weirdly it's the staying on the current route which is the riskier option." Perhaps they'll argue that the service will only get worse, we have a bad negotiating position for improving it and the only way out of all this is a change. And perhaps they are correct in saying it is going to be very difficult to improve the current route. But they have still, at this point, failed in doing their job at presenting the credible alternative.

And I believe that's where we are with this EU referendum. Leave has tried to make arguments for why the EU should be ditched based on criticism of the EU itself, and many of those criticisms have been subsequently proven to be misleading, half-truths or what can only be outright lies. There may be good criticisms of the EU, but Leave certainly hasn't focused on them.

Furthermore, they have been vague and insubstantial in providing a vision for what the alternative is. They promise a lot of money freed up to be able to be spent in this country, yet fail to acknowledge the millions already spent by the EU on UK services, and get the numbers wrong while doing so. They promise access to all of the benefits of the single market, but fail to acknowledge that this would almost certainly mean that the UK would have to continue to abide by those EU rules and regulations they like to criticise so much. 

It goes on, and the point of this post isn't to make all the arguments being made on repeat already. Rather it's to reframe the question to recognise where that burden, the onus of making the case lies. The question is: has Leave made a strong case? I can't see how anyone could say they have based on the campaign we've just seen. I suspect you might not think so, given that you're still undecided.

If that is the case, I would urge you to vote Remain. It is a perfectly logical choice to make if you feel that Leave have not made their case. Remember: this was their job. Even if Remain had said precisely nothing through the whole campaign. I believe it would be deeply irresponsible to vote for a poorly-made case for change, and that the responsible thing to do to vote in favour of the current arrangement, even if in many ways that is a bitter pill to swallow.

Posted
AuthorPeter Silk