Tue 2nd Feb 2016
February 2016: Informed Research needed before EU debate
Sometimes we are inclined to make snap judgments, to let our gut instinct take over and reach almost immediate conclusions on big issues. The sensible thing to do of course is to research an issue, weigh up an argument from all sides and then decide on the wisest course of actions, strategically, financially and tactically.
The UK is now heading towards a crucial referendum on the future relationship with the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron is engaged in an attempt to renegotiate the standing of the UK in the EU and that may bring some change to the context in which a vote is taken. However, in the ballot box all of us will face one question with only two options: are we ‘In’ or ‘Out’?
There has already been much hyperbole about the apparent dramatic impact of either a Yes or No vote. Those within Northern Ireland who are firmly wedded to the EU have said that Brexit will leave us stranded outside the EU, and coping with the re-emergence of a land border with the Republic of Ireland. We are told that trade with the EU nations will be difficult, even prohibitive, that our farmers will suffer huge financial losses with the withdrawal of EU farm subsidies. Our roads infrastructure programme will apparently be set back if not supported by Structural Funds and PEACE monies.
On the other side of the argument there are claims that the amount of money the UK will save in EU contributions will yield a financial bonanza for all regions, including Northern Ireland. £3 billion is a figure which has been flagged up already.
It is not only helpful for individuals, businesses and indeed business representative bodies to ensure they are fully informed of such major issues, there is actually a responsibility on us to seek out the full facts and potential scenarios.
You can be sure that there will be an onslaught of advertising, hustings events and communications campaigns in the months before a referendum. We are not in that position yet and so far the ‘debate’ around our EU membership has been driven by political interest, conflicting headlines and indeed emotional reaction to the status of the UK and the EU.
Emotion has a part in all decision making and it will do so here, but there is a duty to ensure decisions are as well informed as they can be.
We need informed debate, hopefully it is on the way.