Which way will you vote in the European referendum on June 23rd? Do you know? “I don’t think I’ll vote,” a clever friend of mine said this week. “I change my mind every five minutes. It depends who I’ve last talked to.”
In The Sunday Times, Harry Mount says that class comes into it, with Brexiteers tending to come from a lower social rung than the richer, more metropolitan remainers. The division is there in the Cabinet, he argues, with the Eurosceptics like Ian Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling being largely state-educated and the posher element (Cameron, Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, etc) being mostly for ‘remain’. Class and power, says Mount, help explain the attack on Boris Johnson by the banking grandee Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who came down on Johnson from a great height. “If you want better terms of membership,” he wrote in a letter to the FT, “you have to stay in the club.”
But the class argument doesn’t really hold up: plenty of grandees are pro-Brexit, and plenty of non-grandees aren’t. The question is not really are you U or non-U, à la Nancy Mitford: it’s are you EU or non-EU?
In our guide to the European referendum, Stay or Go?, published this week, we look at the ins and outs of being in or out. Since it is written by Jane Lewis, the City Editor of The Week, it is admirably even-handed. And it doesn’t shirk the difficult questions. How would Brexit affect the economy? Would there be chaos if we left? What are the risks of voting for Remain?
The debate has split not just the Tories and the country but families too. There are odd paradoxes. Just this week we’ve heard from both Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s policy adviser, and Ferdinand Mount, who played the same role for Mrs Thatcher. Given that Mrs Thatcher loved bashing Brussels, you might expect Mount to be a Brexiter with Hilton, like his boss, a firm remainer. But it’s the other way round. Hilton, writing in the Mail, says his experience in government has convinced him Britain can’t be run effectively as long as we’re shackled to Europe. “Membership of the EU makes Britain literally un-governable, in the sense that no administration elected by the people can govern the country.”
Mount, in the Mail on Sunday, is just as adamant. Beware the consequences if we leave, he says, adding that it is tempting to regard what he calls “Brexosis” as “a mental disorder” with a “persistent streak of paranoia”. Maybe they’re both right. Read our book before you decide.