1. Since 200 BC the majority of humans have lived in some from of political aggregation of nations under a shared system of rules (affiliate source: Sapiens by Y.Harari).
Most of these have taken the form of Empires which made European nations rich (on seriously favourable trade terms), but were usually implemented via conquest, enforcement of inequality and pillage of natural resources all leading to the deaths of many of the native population.
Progress (Science, Technology, Human rights, Philosophy, Social constructs, Globalisation, etc) means no western nation can now expand through conquest so for GDP to grow, we need a way to achieve favourable trade relations without all the exploitation and inequality: meeting this human need is where the EU comes in.
2. The EU provides favourable trade terms using 21st Century norms: voluntary membership for qualifying nations, universal and equal citizenship, respect and encouragement for each nation's cultures, sharing of ideas, free trade in the largest trade bloc on the planet, standards enforcement for external trade links, protection of consumers and workers in nation states, investment in deprived areas and democratic representation of each nation's views.
A lot of people through history (villagers fleeing Viking axes, civilians dodging Napoleonic cannon balls or British bayonets, and scared families hiding in mid 20th century attics) might view the EU as an impossible nirvana; it's not perfect, but it is an amazing achievement, a contemporary solution to a long established human need.
3. The EU is not 'them'; the EU is 'us'.
Critically, we need to remember that the EU takes an action or passes legislation that it is not doing something to us; it is doing something for us. The UK helped design and grow the EU and the UK has full democratic say on all issues with a veto on any large changes. The UK is an important part of the most successful free trade area that has ever existed.
4. The EU delivers stability and protection by enshrining key benefits of the main political ideologies (access to the world's largest free market as well as citizen/worker/consumer/animal rights and environmental protections) at the same time as impeding the most extreme political excesses (so the Tories need to leave in order to be able to remove various rights from UK citizens and labour think they need to leave in order to have full access to the most extreme items in the socialist toolkit*).
Yes, extreme politicians feel a bit constrained by EU membership (and many of us are just fine with that: extremes are unstable, expensive when they fail, and little is gained by swinging between them in every election cycle) but EU membership is outstanding for the citizens: it gives the best of all worlds, and provides protections against the worst excesses of incompetent, selfish or personality disordered national politicians. This 'wisdom of the crowds' affect of EU membership is one of the least commented but most compelling benefits.
5. Any UK separation from the EU will not last. There already seems to be a majority for remaining (see below) which is unsurprising as there has been no sustained, widely held dissatisfaction with the EU in the UK since the 80s (i.e. in 2015 only around 12.6% of the UK population voted UKIP) and the demographics of the referendum vote make it clear that that preference for membership will continue to grow. Medium term, Brexit is just a hugely expensive blip.
In fact, there's never been enough support for a 'successful' Brexit project - even if that 52/48 margin had persisted, it is not possible to run such a change by ignoring and excluding half of the stakeholders (especially as the 'no additional referendum' mantra and continued government attempts to hide any data that shows how bad Brexit is, is effectively excluding the entire population: It is the will of the extreme politicians now).
We know that support for Brexit is diminishing and current trends suggest remain will have a strong majority by March 2019 (i.e. there will be a 60% to 70% majority for remain by the leaving date). Brexit, like any project, will fail without support from stakeholders. So pro-Brexit politicians are effectively continuing to drive a car that has no engine oil at maximum speed: all they are doing is damage, they won't get far, and there is no benefit in continuing.
So if we do leave - if the desperate politicians do manage to limp that tortured car off the cliff - then rejoining is nearly inevitable, but the UK will lose some of its unusual exemptions (our rebate for example, and sterling would very likely be consigned to history)
6. EU membership is the UK's best chance at securing net benefits from globalisation
The Leave vote has macroscopically been described as a protest against globalisation - i.e. a response to jobs being off-shored and foreign companies picking up too much UK based work.
Globalisation (the integration of economic, social and political systems around the world) powered by technology, is a huge force (since 1950, global GDP has risen 20 times over) for good or ill which will not suddenly disappear if the UK leaves the EU.
In contrast, Labour and Tory both propose, post-brexit, to take extreme positions (much more protectionism* - which risks making the UK nearly irrelevant on the global stage - or more de-regulation, thereby opening the flood gates for increased, not reduced, globalisation impacts in the UK). Either strategy, as both parties have unilaterally decided to leave the single market and customs union*, would be implemented from a position of severe global weakness (the UK isolated and desperate for trade agreements).
UK citizens seem to have much greater chance of thriving safely, globally, as part of the EU.
7 . The people who are advocating and implementing Brexit want different outcomes than the people who voted for it.
- Tories want to deregulate (reduce rights, etc). Labour want freedom to create state monopolies and unrestrained nationalisation
- Some rich investors/business people (many of whom fund and influence UK political parties) will get odds-on opportunities for creating massive profits (from the chaos, from the new market conditions, from the more exploitable UK workforce, etc)
- Some rich people will get to continue avoiding paying tax into the UK coffers (EU rules would make avoidance harder for them from the 2019 financial year)
- Some MPs, recent history tells us, will likely get very nicely paid board memberships and the like, out of their support for Brexit.
These are valid reasons to pursue Brexit (i.e. they will produce actual measurable benefits for some), but they only benefit the elites and the ideologues.
The UK voters voted for:
- Benefits from reduced immigration (but even the pro-Brexit government have reports that show reduced EU immigration would certainly be bad for the UK)
- Increased sovereignty (sovereignty is best viewed as a resource to be traded internationally for national gain; in a globalised world, there's simply no point in hoarding it and we get very good returns from the sovereignty we've traded with the EU)
- Increased control of borders (the UK gov -basically - already have full control, but haven't implemented it; that's not the EU's fault)
- More money for the NHS (but it's now well known that Brexit is bad for the NHS in a number of severe ways)
- To create opportunity and remove austerity (but we know that Brexit is costing huge sums - visible and invisible - and hence will extend austerity)
These are not valid reasons for pursuing Brexit. Leaving the EU will not deliver the benefits the people wanted.
8. The Brexit we are getting, is not the Brexit we were promised.
Whilst pro-Brexit politicians continue spouting vapid and errant nonsense in support of the above mentioned myths, the actual negative impacts of leaving the EU are becoming much better known. The leaked government analysis (just forecasts, but informed by recent developments, by the global importance and geographical proximity of the EU single market, generally supported by 90% of economists and simply echoing forecasts by many different organisations since before the referendum) shows leaving would cost between 2 and 8 % of GDP depending on what options the UK picks (interestingly, the extreme politicians all favour - and are trying to specify in our name, without asking us - the more expensive options).
This is very different to the +4% claim for GDP which was used to sell us Brexit (widely reported by media, but produced by a group whose work is described as crazy and absurd by different economic commentators). We've also recently discovered that not only does Brexit threaten our existing trade with the EU, but also our trade with many countries in the rest of the world (which is enacted under the terms of EU trade deals). We now know that Brexit is bad for us, and the damage from this - especially given the criminally reckless and incompetent approach to delivering it - is potentially catastrophic.
9. Brexit has been designed by politicians in service of the existing UK political approach.
That's the same approach which has public figures doing favours for large businesses in exchange for party funding and well paid board memberships.
That's the same approach which has failed to constrain the influence of media barons and channels in defining policy decisions that affect the whole country.
That's the same approach which lets the same companies who advise on the government's tax avoidance schemes then (successfully) brief individuals and companies on how to pay no tax.
Most pressingly of all right now, it is also the same approach which allows our out dated political leaders, left and right, to take monumentally incompetent and reckless decisions which have thrown the future of our economy, society and culture into extreme peril (like launching article 50 with no discernible preparation). Isolating the UK will simply further entrench this failing approach to democracy.
Whilst problems of lobbying are nearly universal, the EU is a more advanced democracy than that of the UK, with enough leverage (access to a market of roughly half a billion active consumers) to exert influence on the kind of large organisations that now influence the entire globe (google, facebook, amazon, etc), as evidenced by our EU fining Google 2.4 billion Euros for anti competitive behaviour, and by EU data protection laws which are useful against big data predicting (and monetising) our every move. The UK as an EU member also has much greater influence, than an isolated UK, when dealing with large global economies (China, India, et al) and climate challenges.
10. The first step to fixing UK problems is clearly not an action (Brexit) that makes those problems many times worse.
Austerity is estimated to have caused 120,000 deaths in the last 7 years and average life expectancy in the UK has flat lined: the NHS is a decent metaphor for the whole UK, and Brexit will simply make things worse (informative NHS Brexit articles here, here and here). Pro-Brexit politicians are putting their own ideology before the clear, pressing, urgent needs of the population.
On top of that, the Tory's economic 'vision' for Brexit is likely to wipe out manufacturing and severely damage agriculture (Brexit's favoured economists have openly admitted these impacts), high status EU organisations are leaving the UK (with EU countries resorting to legal action to try to secure these valuable assets that the UK is simply throwing away), services access to the single market is one of the most uncertain areas for trade agreement (80% of the UK's GDP being risked), Universities can no longer attract the best minds from Europe, productive EU workers are leaving the UK, etc.
Brexit is dismantling many of the fundamental parts of British life (including massive issues like the very real threat of Scottish, and possibly Welsh devolution, a reckless endangerment by UK politicians, of the peace in Ireland, huge questions over the future of Gibraltar, reduced pensions for UK citizens abroad, and the terrible - and cruel - uncertainty faced by millions of UK residents from the EU).
Are there really no benefits? Is there no balancing comment?
Fairness demands a pro-Brexit list of course, but it doesn't feel like there's enough valid material. Here's a quick round up of commonly mentioned other reasons 'for' Brexit.
Common Agriculture Policy does produce some odd results (payment for empty fields) but protects livelihoods, flora and fauna from globalisation and industrialisation: in a parallel universe without CAP, we probably wouldn't recognise the English countryside.
Fishing is an emotive topic (here's some fishing facts) but only contributes about 0.5% to GDP, so even if UK fishing was going extinct (it doesn't seem to be, the size of the UK catch has been increasing over the last decade or so) it would seem foolish to inflict the above damage on the rest of the economy in order to save it.
We're told that pursuing Brexit is a democratic necessity. This is not true. It is closer to the truth to say that extreme politicians (left and right) seem to be collaborating to suspend democracy in order to, we assume, further their chosen ideologies.
We're told quite loudly sometimes, that the WTO route will be just fine but I've only - so far - talked to one voter who both advocated the WTO route *and* clearly knew what it was. He believed it would lead to serious job losses, a strong manufacturing demise, and a recession, but accepted that damage because it would further his chosen ideology. He agreed that most UK citizens would not accept that same bargain.
To put it simply, the net impacts on the UK population (an addition of positive and negative outcomes, i.e. the actual outcome) seem to be severely negative and potentially catastrophic. This is not what we voted for.
So, what can we do?
Senior EU figures (from Parliament and member states) have repeatedly said we can stop Brexit if we want to.
But extreme politicians (left and right) keep driving Brexit forwards and attempting to close down any further debate, telling us, in our name, that we are leaving the single market despite indications that 50% of leave voters wanted to retain access to it.
So we can't rely on democracy to save us. And we also can't do nothing. If too many individuals do nothing, the above status quo will win (and we, will all lose).
It's really important that Brexit is removed from party politics (it would remove politicians from the temptations that many -but not all - of them are failing to resist) so it is useful to tell our local MPs that we absolutely require a further referendum, with a no Brexit option. (google 'contact your MP' to find out how)
It's becoming critical, as Autumn 2018 approaches (votes on transition/approach to negotiations) that we tell our MP if we are unhappy about Brexit (they won't know unless we tell them)
Maybe the most important thing we can do is to make sure we are consuming many perspectives (relying on one paper and the default evening news, for example, does not give a sufficiently broad view)
If you're on facebook, you can type 'Brexit' into the facebook search to get some group suggestions: some are pro, some anti.
On this page, you can find local pro-EU events
This reddit forum has historically been a good place for balanced debate between leavers and remainers (though now, being realistic, it is more about people vs extreme politicians) and you can browse without signing in.
The #brexit and #stopbrexit hashtags are often used (so a twitter search for them might produce useful information)
Open Britain (500,000 people on mailing list) and Best for Britain (50,000 people) are both trying to mitigate the worst impacts of all the above and you can follow them to stay on top of the main developments.
There's news here about groups and individuals you can follow too. It is worth mentioning that a few politicians have been heroic in fighting for the people on this issue.
There's also information here about how some politicians are trying to reform UK democracy. Brexit has proven that this reform is urgently required.
If you prefer face-to-face then you can also google "local brexit group" for some pertinent results. Be careful though of course; people are very passionate about these issues, and that might be more intimidating face-to-face.
You can also google "benefits of eu membership" to get more info on economic benefits or "benefits of eu citizenship" to find out what benefits you and your family are on the cusp of losing.
If anyone has any other good suggestions (ideally groups who value evidenced based discussion) then please feel free to drop us a line.