A: Wait, wait. What?
Q: You heard. Don’t get all like that about it.
A: You can’t be serious! After all that you’ve said?
Q: I am. I think.
A: But people have been supporting you, agreeing with you, swayed by you…
Q: You reckon?
A: …and now you’re changing your mind?
Q: I’m not sure I have changed my mind, actually.
A: You’ve just said that you’re going to vote to remain.
A: How is that not changing your mind?
Q: I think mostly the same things. I’m just coming to the opposite conclusion.
A: I think most people call that changing your mind.
Q: Only a bit.
A: Okay. Okay. All right. How about telling us which bit, before we write you off as a complete flake.
Q: Do you even know why I was thinking I would vote for leave, when almost everyone I knew or respected was voting to remain?
A: You’re a racist who pretends they like brown people when it suits them?
Q: You haven’t actually read anything I’ve written about this, have you?
A: Oh God, well, you know blah blah EU blah blah commission blah blah sovereignty – you know. I don’t actually read much stuff that doesn’t have pictures these days.
Q: I put pictures in!
A: Only one. At the top. Then it’s words, words, words all the way down to the bottom. And I’m still none the wiser.
Q: Okay. Well, let me help you. Do you remember what the pictures were of?
A: Really? Do we have to do this?
Q: What were the pictures?
A: Well they weren’t even all proper pictures. One of them had words in it. It was a picture. Of words.
Q: That’s right. What did the words say.
A: Something about eight myths.
Q: Yes. That was one of them. Any others you can remember?
A: One with a – was it a horse? Some kind of golden horse?
Q: It was a sovereign actually, but yes, I suppose it was a golden horse. And?
A: That bloke. Nice looking bloke. Brown.
Q: That’s not Gordon Brown.
A: No I mean, he was brown.
Q: Oh, nice way to be borderline racist, after you’ve suggested I am.
A: I didn’t say I didn’t like him because he was brown.
Q: You’re talking of the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
A: Well, you were talking of him.
Q: And can you remember what I said?
A: Did you say blah blah blah?
Q: Okay. The first thing I wrote was about Sadiq Khan. He was saying that he was glad there was an EU because it protected workers’ rights, women’s rights, clean air and so on. I thought that was rather his job, and that it was a bit dumb to be glad that the EU were going to police him.
A: And you don’t think that any more?
Q: Yes I do. I also said what about the things that the EU won’t let us do which are actually a better idea than EU standards, like the lorry safety thing that France vetoed.
A: And you’ve realised that that’s the only one?
Q: No, I have no idea whether it is or not. I still think that’s a problem. And the other thing I said was that leaving the EU won’t mean we don’t have foreign restaurants, or that we can’t go abroad, or agree to cooperate with the countries of the EU in various ways.
A: Is that true?
Q: There are some ways, apparently, in which they simply won’t cooperate with us if we’re outside. Sounds a bit vindictive, but there we go. But generally it’s true, surely. We’ll still be in NATO, the UN and so on.
A: Okay. I’m getting a bit bored to be honest. So far you haven’t changed your mind at all. Can we get on with it? What was the eight myths one about?
Q: Well – oh really, if you’re that interested, which you’re plainly not, just go back and read it. I was mainly knocking the spurious arguments that people had been putting forward in defence of remaining in the EU. It was an exercise in Critical thinking, which it seems the country badly needs.
A: You’re such a patronising twat, aren’t you?
Q: Do you want to hear or not?
A: (sighs) All right. And the golden horse.
Q: Look, the golden horse one was always it, for me. It isn’t exactly fascist to expect that the laws of the country you live in are proposed and passed by people who are accountable to the people who live there. That’s quite an old idea in our democracy….
A: Only since 1928, really. Half the populace were excluded before that.
Q: I know.
A: And before that, you had to be a land owner…
Q: I know, but that’s exactly the point. We feel like we’ve been making progress up to now, to full suffrage and everything. Then in 1973 we start letting a group of people from different countries make laws that affect us.
A: Look, have you changed your mind or not?
Q: You really want to know?
A: You’ve brought me this far.
Q: I’m really voting against the referendum.
A: What? I didn’t know that was an option.
Q: It isn’t.
Q: I’m going to vote to remain in the hope that we keep the status quo and we can carry on as before.
A: How is that voting against the referendum? And why do you want to do that anyway? I thought you were all up in favour of democracy and shit.
Q: ‘Nebulous notions like sovereignty’ Yes. I am. Which is why I’m not in favour of referendums.
A: Isn’t that the most perfect form of democracy?
A: Why not?
Q: Because people are too stupid.
Q: It’s true. Most of them can’t think their way out of a paper bag.
A: God, you are a fascist, aren’t you?
Q: Ask them. The only people who don’t think that this is far too complicated a matter to ask the general public about are people who are too stupid to realise that they don’t have a clue. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Richard Dawkins says he doesn’t understand the referendum . David Mitchell agrees. And the people that really are absolutely committed to either side are committed for the dumbest of dumb reasons, non-sequiturs and sentimentality. ‘I love Europe’. ‘We’re at breaking point’. ‘We’re doing okay, so we should stay.’ ‘I hate Little Englanders.’ For my part, I’ve actually got a formal legal qualification in EU law, and even my fellow law graduates can’t agree about it.
A: So, the reason you’re for remaining is that you’ve realised that people are too stupid to be allowed to make the decision? Nice.
Q: It’s the reason we have ‘representational democracy’ in this country, not a popular vote on every issue. If there were a referendum on bringing back hanging, it would definitely pass. Only the European Convention of Human Rights would prevent us doing that.
A: And you’re in favour of that?
Q: The death penalty? No!
A: No, that Human Rights thing.
Q: Er, yes. Only real fascists aren’t in favour of that. Don’t go there, it’s nothing to do with the EU.
A: Isn’t it?
Q: Except that if we’re in the EU, we almost certainly have to be signed up to it. So Theresa May should really do some thinking.
A: So, couldn’t you have thought all this through a bit more carefully in the first place?
Q: To be honest, I didn’t realise how nasty it was going to get. The debate is ruining the country. Nice people are calling other nice people ‘fucking Brexit retards’ and ‘bleating Remain cowards’. And then last Thursday.
A: Well – that was terrible, but – in a way, it shouldn’t change anything.
Q: Yes. It changes everything, really. Within hours, the Spectator blog – of all places – published a vile little piece suggesting that the Leave campaign was somehow to blame. People everywhere – Dunning-Kruger sufferers, I suspect – are unable to tell the difference between someone who holds a particular position on a single question which happens to be the same as that held, for possibly completely different reasons, as a racist murderer, and the morals and actions of that murderer himself. I expect I agree with Thomas Mair on how tasty Banoffee Pie is, too.
A: Mmmmm, Banoffee Pie!
A: So you’re caving in. You’re scared that people are going to think you’re a racist. That doesn’t mean you actually have to vote Remain. You could just shut up about it, and avoid the flak, and just vote Leave without anyone knowing.
Q: You’re not really getting me. This is all part of the reason that it shouldn’t be a referendum. No one is going to be thinking straight. No one is going to be choosing for the right reasons, if they ever were. At the very least the vote should be postponed for a month or so.
A: Well, that’s never going to happen. All the polling stations are booked.
Q: Oh, yes, and school buildings would never be available during the summer holidays, would they? That’s still not my point.
A: What? We haven’t had the point, yet?
Q: Look, I told you that it was the sovereignty of the nation that matters most to me about this question. Are we agreed that there’s nothing fascist about that? I mean, we agree that we should have a government, and that we still have a country, we are part of a nation state, do we?
A: I’m not sure I care that much.
Q: But it’s all right, isn’t it, to wish to be a resident of the United Kingdom, and for that to mean something?
A: I still don’t know. You are sounding a bit BNP.
Q: Oh God. Look, you pay taxes, don’t you?
A: Yes. I have to.
Q: Who do those taxes go to?
A: I don’t know. Street lighting. Armies.
Q: Schools, Hospitals, Drainage, Social Security…
A: Oh, haha, this is like that Monty Python thing, you know, that ‘What have the Romans ever – ’
Q: Please shut up. The point is that we can’t have a, say, a welfare state without there being a – state. Can we?
A: No, I guess not. But it was really funny, because people were posting like ‘What has the Eu ever – ’
Q: Please. Please shut up. So if we have a state, it has to do stuff, and we agree that it’s best if we vote for the people who are deciding how to pay our taxes.
A: I suppose. Why are you asking this?
Q: People have been suggesting that even that is somehow a bit right-wing. I don’t know how you’d have the NHS if you didn’t have a government.
A: No, I think you’re allowed to have a country.
Q: Oh, good.
A: Can we hear your reasons now?
Q: Okay. One. They are saying that if we leave, it might lead to the end of the EU as other countries decide that they want to do the same. The whole thing might collapse.
A: You’ve only just thought of this? They’ve been saying it for ages.
Q: I’ve been thinking – well, if they need us that badly, they should be nicer to us. I’ve been thinking that it’s not really our problem if the EU collapses. I’ve been thinking that if the EU can’t stand on its own, it shouldn’t be for us to prop it up.
A: But you’ve changed your mind about that?
Q: Hear me out. It’s a kind of cumulative thing. You need all the reasons. Two. If the country votes to leave, in this referendum that I don’t think we should ever have been having, it will be up to Parliament to create an Act and vote it through.
A: Will it?
Q: Yes. I mentioned this in the golden horse piece.
A: Did you? I’m not sure I…
Q: But I believe in parliamentary democracy not plebiscite.
A: Because they’re plebs, right?
Q: Not really. Well, sort of.
Q: So what would I be wanting Parliament to do when the nation has voted to Leave?
A: Create an Act, like you said.
Q: But almost every member of the House of Commons is in favour of Remaining.
Q: So how on earth could they possibly vote to leave?
A: Well, they couldn’t go against the will of the people, could they?
Q: So you want them all to go against their own better judgment and vote in a measure that they have all been spending the last God knows how long, it feels like years, campaigning against?
A: That’s democracy!
Q: But it isn’t. That’s the point.
A: Shouldn’t it be?
Q: No. I don’t think so.
A: So what would happen?
Q: The only honest thing to do would be for all the Remain MPs to resign their seats, and stand for re-election in a horde of bi-elections, to see if they got re-elected on a Remain platform.
A: And if they did?
Q: It would be fine for them to vote against the Leave Act.
A: But then it would be defeated?
Q: Yes. Which would show up all the flaws in our democratic system.
Q: And I really think it would be very bad for us.
A: Are you thinking about last Thursday again?
Q: A bit.
A: But where does this leave your sovereignty complaint?
Q: We still have sovereignty.
A: What? What was all that bullshit you wrote about –
Q: You didn’t read it, remember?
A: Oh yeah.
Q: We still have, and always have had, the power to leave the EU just by Act of Parliament. No need for a referendum.
A: But what about those laws that they pass without even asking us? The Regulations and so on?
Q: We can repeal them.
A: Yes, but not if we want to remain in –
Q: Exactly. The day that the Regulations or the Directives or anything else become too onerous or too counter to our interests, it is within Parliament’s power just to decide that we are going to leave.
A: Would we do that?
Q: Probably not.
Q: The point is that we have the power to do it. Maybe one day, the European Union will decide that its member states genuinely have to give up their sovereignty, and lose their power to leave. That will be the time that we should get out or become a part of the United States of Europe. That may even be part of their plan.
A: So in the mean time, if they legislate in ways that are counter to our interests, we just swallow it?
Q: Or leave. The mistake is to think that we have to leave now, or that we have to have a referendum to do it.
A: And was there a third reason?
Q: Yes. The age split. The vast bulk of people wanting to leave are, like me, over 40. Almost everyone of the younger generation wants to stay. This may be because they have never known anything else (although, frankly, a lot of the rest of us were children when we went in), or it may be because they are young and idealistic
A: Or stupid….
Q: I can’t see them obviously being any stupider than the rest of us. But I guess they may be politically less sophisticated.
A: Really, you’ve got to work on this superior, paternalistic attitude of yours….
Q: Tell me about it….
A: I thought there was a ‘but’ coming?
Q: Oh yes, – BUT, frankly, they are going to have to live with it. Them and their children. If this is a long term decision, and if, as it seems, our position in the EU is currently strong, with our various opt-outs and exclusion from the Euro and so on, and if it would be very much worse if we left and wanted to get back in, then those are strong reasons for staying in. My generation has had it good, and my children’s generation has suffered in many ways. I was paid to go to university. They are paying through the nose. I could afford to buy property when I was younger, they are going to find it much harder. If we’re wrong about leaving and we leave, it is going to be so much harder for them than if we’re wrong about staying and we stay.
A: You’re all heart.
A: God, how are you going to put up with people saying ‘Ah, so glad that you’ve finally seen sense’ and ‘You’ve come to your senses at last’ and ‘Sorry you’ve been so slow on the uptake’ and ‘Yes, but I still think you’re a secret fascist’ and stuff?
Q: I believe I can bear it.
A: And what about the ones who call you a quisling and a traitor. And a, what was it ‘a bleating Remain coward’
Q: I’ll hope they won’t kill me.