Referendum on EU

I consider the idea of Britain holding a popular referendum on whether to remain in the European Union an unwise and even disconcerting one. This is a matter of primordial importance , probably the most vital one facing the country for decades to come and to have it decided by a referendum has no justification in my mind.

I will cite three reasons for this.

First of all, referenda are highly vulnerable to demagoguery, resulting in emotions and passions taking the place of serious reflection. In Britain the most likely culprits will be our popular press. I find it only too easy to imagine their making hay of some lapse of judgement or a minor scandal in the Brussels Commission and thus influencing perhaps some vital number of votes.

Secondly, how is the question of the phrasing of the question to be put to the vote to be decided and by whom. This could, of course, be simply put. ?Do you want Britain to remain in or to quit the Union?? And on these dozen simple words would depend one of the most fateful decisions to be made by this country. Prime Minister Cameron has just published an article pointing out that there is a third choice: to negotiate a compromise position on the periphery of the Union. The question could thus be further embellished but every additional word would be greatly controversial in its significance.

Lastly and most importantly, this is a travesty of the principle of representative government and of the accepted conventions by which our country has historically been governed. Representative government means that we elect, at least theoretically, the most competent people to represent us in Parliament.

There the issues can be the subject of mature debate by members with more intimate knowledge and experience, with Commissions able to consult authorities on the question. The issues will then be re-considered by the House of Lords, whose members are usually people of wide experience and competence.

This is the correct procedure for this vital matter and the idea of submitting it, with all its profound political and economic implications, to a popular referendum fills me with great concern and even trepidation.

Michael Webster

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