DO I STAY OR DO I GO?
It seems that this week is all about Europe. We have the Euro2016 soccer tournament and here in the UK we have the EU referendum or EURef.
This may be be the most important issue the UK has EVER voted on. The implications of the decision to be made are many and far reaching. Not just affecting us, but many people across Europe. One of the questions being, if we leave, will the rest of the EU follow suit so that it eventually falls apart. Of course there are arguments for both remaining and leaving.
The UK joined the forerunner to the EU in 1975, It was known then as the common market. It was supposed to be many nations coming together in mutual trade agreements and economic deals advantageous to everyone. Or that was how it began; it certainly didn't stay that way. The EU of today bears absolutely no resemblance to the common market of years ago, even though trading with Europe still goes on.
So first we have the OUT camp.
Many "out-ers" say we are paying too much to Europe. I agree, we certainly are paying our dues. But I'm baffled as to where this number of £350m has come from that is constantly banded about. After things like rebates etc, this is not even close to the correct amount. People are saying that we are basically funding the EU gravy train.
Then there is the perfectly legitimate argument from both sides that this is the only time we will have the opportunity to decide our fate so we should take advantage of it. And if we don't leave now, we will never get another crack at it. No argument from me.
There is also the fact the everyone is getting fed up of Brussels dictating our action; that we can't make informed choices about our country without the EU sticking it's nose in.
Then there is the old chestnut - here we go...! - of immigration. Immigration is a valid concern. I agree. Unfortunately the reasons surrounding these concerns are not constructive. All I hear is, "We don't want all these Muslims coming in" and, "There'll be more Muslims, so more terrorism". This is clearly nonsense. Most terrorists don't preach Islam and all decent Muslims condemn terrorism outright.
And the propaganda surrounding it has been laughable. Take for example, UKIP's ridiculous poster. The now familiar one where you have the queue of refugees, with one solitary white person in the bottom right-hand corner, and the stupid slogan, "Breaking Point". Purlease!! These refugees are actually in Slovenia. Nowhere near the UK. Yes, UKIP and many other out people prefer to use propaganda than actually tell the truth.
"Wait!", I hear you cry, "Does that mean Neely Fan is an "in" person? Well, not necessarily. I'm just trying to see both sides.
The IN crowd aren't making a good name for themselves either. Their behaviour on the ITV News EURef debate was utterly appalling! So bad that I had to switch of. Not the behaviour of a good journalist, I agree, as we are obliged to know what's going on. But they were driving me bonkers.
My source of my consternation from the "in" bunch (and yes, unfortunately, I am including the lovely Nicola Sturgeon in this), was their constant badgering and insulting of Boris Johnson. Instead of telling us why we should stay in, they were constantly complaining about the "out" bunch, as opposed to their policies and giving Boris a really hard time. This was't a sensible debate it was a slanging match and a complete farce. All I can say is that Julie Etchingham must have the patience of a saint. Her performance, unlike everyone else's, was exemplary.
So why are the "IN" side, well....IN?
There are good arguments here, too. Starting with the lame but also perfectly justifiable, "We're all freaked out, so are happy with the status quo, thank you". Fair enough.
Then there is the reason the common market exists in the first place: trade, industry and partnerships.
Then we have our friends across the sea in the tortured province. I don't want to turn this into a debate about Northern Ireland, but having a background there and in the Republic, I think it only fair to recognise their concerns, so here goes.
One of the main concerns was from farmers in Northern Ireland They actually get a lot of subsides from the EU (no I never knew that either). So, you can see why they may have a problem with an exit.
My friend is so worried about the future of Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU, she has said she will emigrate if we do. Now, there is is someone who REALLY is worried.
Then there are the Troubles. Ah, the Troubles....! There is peace (of a sort) in the province now and there has been for two decades, To see it destroyed, to me, is unthinkable.
Now you are asking what the Troubles has to do with the Brexit, right? Good question.
When the Belfast agreement was ratified, it was on the premise of both the North and South being in the EU. For the last twenty-odd years, citizens of both countries have been able to move freely between the two in both directions. No border checks, no An Garda Siochana, no PSNI, no military. Nothing. Just drive across. Like going from England to Wales.
However, if Northern Ireland left the EU with the UK, there is a possibility that the border control between the countries could be reinstated. And this is Ireland, where even the smallest thing can turn complicated (like the flag issue for instance), due to their complex relationship.
People are worried that a re-activation of the borders, could highlight the divisions that both countries have tried so hard - and for the most part succeeded - to rid themselves off. And that this in turn may re-fuel sectarianism and lead them right back to 1969, something no-one in either country - bar a few idiots - ever wants to see again.
I can't go into every little detail of the pro's and cons of either choice today because there is too much and it's so damned complicated.
However, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the referendum campaign has been a cock-up right from the start. Including by the tabloids who are supposed to be impartial, but clearly don't know the meaning of the word. Lies, propaganda, out 'n'out nastiness and too much info has left a lot of people very cautious and more confused and bewildered about this whole thing then they were before, and they have no idea which way to jump.
If you have made your choice today and voted, bravo. If you haven't (excluding those who are not eligible for whatever reason), do it. Toss a coin if you have to, but do it. Go out there and vote one way or the other.
It will be the most important mark you EVER make.