Martin Flanagan: Why Remain wins my vote on balance

Martin Flanagan says many voters will feel they cannot 'win' the referendum, regardless of the outcome. Picture: Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images
Martin Flanagan says many voters will feel they cannot 'win' the referendum, regardless of the outcome. Picture: Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images
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The vote on whether the UK remains in or leaves the European Union is imminent.

Bookmakers are suggesting that after a wave of money on a Brexit a fortnight ago most bets have now switched to the Remain camp.

The longer-lasting gamble, however, is whether the UK will be better off inside or outside the EU club. Unfortunately, I think many voters will feel this is a referendum they cannot “win” whatever the result.

That’s because both sides have cogent arguments. Economically and politically, Leave is hugely risky. Nearly half our exports go to the EU, and how long would it take the UK to renegotiate myriad trade arrangements?

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns of Brexit’s impact on NHS

We already have a debt‑laden younger generation. Is now the time to embrace economic uncertainty?

Multinationals see us as a gateway to the much bigger consumer market of Europe, and you could see how us quitting the EU could lead them to weigh further UK inward investment long and hard.

Politically, countries from the US and Japan to Canada and Australia have urged us to say in the EU despite the frustrations and lack of democratic accountability.

They see the UK as a force for good in a cohesive Europe. And given the revived revanchism of Russia, one should apply the “Putin test”. Would he like us to leave and the EU bloc be diminished in political resolve and economic clout? Of course.

It is also likely a leave vote would resurrect the issue of Scottish independence. And is the prospect of a disconnected, less relevant island of small countries out in the Atlantic that appealing?

READ MORE: EU referendum: Scottish economy ‘would be damaged by Brexit’

Conversely, the issue is not just one of the UK’s GDP and international realpolitik. Many are clearly worried about the flood of immigration putting pressure on GPs, hospitals, schools and housing.

The issue of migrants into the UK coming for welfare benefits is a red herring, however. Most incomers are patently hard-working.

Nobody wants to pull the drawbridge up on immigration, but the EU “project” shibboleth of freedom of movement is a step too far for many, even without the terrorist dimension.

I will vote Remain. But I’m ambivalent. The problem with this generation-changing decision is we can’t have our gateau and eat it.