Brexit vote too important to be left up to politicians

Christian May
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EU Referendum - Signage And Symbols
The EU referendum vote will take place on 23 June (Source: Getty)

Moan all you like about the EU referendum but it's got people talking. From Cornwall to the City and from the Western Isles to Westminster, people are engaged and discussing the issues. People are debating in restaurants and outside pubs and, as is always the case in political campaigns, they're doing so with more nuance and understanding than professional politicos give them credit for.

People are more than capable of weighing up concerns over an erosion of sovereignty with worries about what life outside the EU would mean. In truth, they're not helped in these endeavours by either of the two campaigns. As a report from the influential and respected Treasury Select Committee makes clear, neither side has covered itself in glory so far. The committee spent weeks grilling Vote Leave and Britain Stronger In Europe, and the chairman – Andrew Tyrie – has not held back in criticising just about every claim each side has made.

Read more: The definitive list of everyone who's ever expressed a view on Brexit

The Treasury's bombshell claim that Brexit would cost each household £4,300 is “a mistaken assertion” that “should not be repeated.” Furthermore, “it does not make sense” to claim that households currently benefit through our membership by £3,000 per year and the notion that the cost of imports would rise by £11bn if we left the EU “is based on an implausible assumption.” As for the Leave campaign, the committee concludes that their central claim of a £350m weekly cost of EU membership is “highly misleading and deeply troubling” while other claims are based on “out-of-date research.”

If Remainers were honest they'd acknowledge that EU membership requires the surrender of some democratic control, and then they'd make the case as to why such a compromise is worth it. If Leavers were struck by a similar compulsion to speak the truth, they'd recognise that Brexit will lead to economic uncertainty but then set out their stall as to why it's a price worth paying. But this is politics. Nuance doesn't fit on the side of a bus or in a tweet from George Osborne. So keep having the conversations with friends and colleagues. Argue it out. Debate the claims and question the headlines because as Tyrie has shown, you can't leave this one to the political class.

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