A vote on Europe is the last thing we need

When it comes to ideas and interests in life, my teenage years seem have been the most formative, as they probably were with most people. During the 80s along with my brother and two friends I started riding my racing bike seriously, and with that came the obsessing over continental cycle racing. Not only was it colourful, stylish and effortlessly cool, European cycling was also the sport of men. Men like Laurent Fignon, two times Tour de France winner and and French national hero. Nicknamed “The Professor” because of his trademark spectacles and eccentric ways, Fignon was one of the true characters of cycling’s Golden Era. At the end of a race he would douse his feet not in tap water, but chilled Perrier from the bottle.

Laurent Fignon
Laurent Fignon, pictured here in 1984 wearing the French national champions jersey.

Fignon and his contemporaries were the beginning of my fascination with continental Europe, this interest continued to grow with family holidays to France and school exchange trips to Germany. As I left school and started work I found my happiest memories abroad, from ceremonial duties on the beaches of Normandy whilst in the Army, to driving vans around Scandinavia to pay my way through college. Some of my happiest times with Mandy have been skiing in the Alps, canoeing along the Dordogne or driving through Spain and Italy with the sunroof open.

For the above reasons alone if we ever get a vote on whether to remain part of the EU, I will be voting yes. Which is why giving people like me the choice over such matters is not only ill thought out but potentially disastrous. The political and financial ramifications of our membership of the EU could actually come down to Alan Coleman romanticising about the time he got shitfaced in a bar in Arromanche. WTF?

And that’s just the yes vote, far more worrying is the Great British public’s reasons for voting no. The no vote, championed by the all powerful tabloid press, will be centered around issues that are about as relevant to the EU as me getting drunk and talking to Austrians in that English/Euro accent. The entire tabloid campaign will shape the EU issue into its own agenda of knee jerk racism, playing directly into the zeitgeist of flag waving nationalism currently in fashion. Issues of farm subsidies and transport integration will be overlooked for the far juicier nuggets of immigration and political correctness. Are we really going to sacrifice our membership of the EU to sell more copy?

Canoeing in France 2006
Canoeing the Dordogne, France 2006. Happy, happy days.

There’s another way of looking at this issue. Are politicians shirking their responsibilities? The whole point of government is to make decisions for the good of the electorate, it’s what we elect and pay them to do on our behalf. After promises from them to make all the right decisions for us whilst electioneering, to then turn round and ask for help with the big decisions seems a bit of a cop out. This is a classic example of politicians absolving themselves from the responsibility that they so wantonly crave.

If the result of the referendum is positive Cameron and his party will take all the glory, who wouldn’t? On the flip side if the outcome is negative those same people will quickly point out that it was us who made the decision, and guess who’s going to make the tough choices? He can’t lose.

Cameron knows full well, as he makes the chopping motion of middle management, that the tabloid media will be going into overdrive with their push for the no vote, and so by promising a referendum after the next election he’s essentially jumping on that bandwagon to secure another term. This has to be wrong.

To conclude, I honestly think that most people in this country, myself included, are not capable of making a rational decision about something of such importance. That kind of decision, the kind that carries such weight and gravity, has to be left to those who fully understand the true political and financial implications of the result. That’s not Alan Coleman, nor is it anyone who has ever watched a single episode of Top Gear.