EU referendum: Democracy, sovereignty and immigration

It’s been fun the last few days, to watch the Leave campaign’s glib assumptions about the glorious future awaiting Britain outside the EU falling apart under the onslaught of David Cameron’s Project Fact, but that’s not enough. To win this referendum, we need to keep hitting the Leave campaign where they’re most vulnerable – even if to do so, we have to say things that are uncomfortable for some of our own supporters.

The three issues pushed by the Leave campaign with the most voter-appeal are: sovereignty, democracy and immigration. Listen to their leaders on TV and radio, and you sense their confidence that they’re onto a winner. But as with Britain’s future outside the EU, they haven’t bothered to think through their arguments properly and they’ve left themselves exposed on all three issues.

On sovereignty, we need to hammer away at the obvious question: if Britain has lost its sovereignty to the EU as the Leave campaign claims, how come we’re having a referendum to decide whether or not to remain a member?

The very fact that we’re having this referendum at all shows that Britain’s sovereignty is intact. Whether we stay or leave is up to British voters, and it always will be. Even if we vote to stay in June, we’ll still have the right to change our minds in the future.

London4Europe - EU referendum blog - democracy,  sovereignty and immigrationOn democracy, the Leave campaign has made all the running with their talk about Brussels being undemocratic. That makes them sound like men of principle when it’s easy to demonstrate that they’re not; the Leave campaign’s leaders have one standard for Brussels and another for Westminster.

In the 2015 election, 3.7 million people voted UKIP and got only one MP into Parliament. Three times as many votes won the Conservative more than three hundred times as many MPs. That sort of plainly undemocratic outcome is nothing new in British politics, but in 2015, as usual, there was silence from all those Conservative cabinet ministers who are now on their high horses preaching how much they care about democracy in the EU.

Finally, there’s immigration. The Leave campaign claim that we’ll never be able to stop the flood of immigrants until we take back control of our borders from the EU, but the facts suggest otherwise.

We already have 100% control of our borders for people coming from outside the EU and we still haven’t been able to control immigration. Nearly 300,000 people came to Britain from outside the EU in the year to September 2015, even more than came from within the EU. Anyone claiming that free movement of people within the EU is the reason why we can’t control immigration or that leaving the EU will enable us to control our borders is clearly out to deceive voters.

Exposing the Leave campaign’s deceit about sovereignty and immigration and their double standards on democracy matters because it will undermine voters’ trust in the rest of their campaign.

Better still, it’ll fix in voters’ minds an image of the sort of people leading the Leave campaign – people who talk big on immigration but do nothing to tackle the problem; people with one standard on democracy abroad and another at home; people who aren’t quite straight about their motives; in short, the sort of whiny people who are always blaming someone else for their troubles.

Alastair Bruton