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As a responsible citizen, The Ericle finds himself sorely vexed as to which way he will cast his vote in the forthcoming EU referendum.

In the long week since the June 23rd ‘date with destiny’ was announced, I have been trying to bend my head around on what it is exactly that we are being asked to vote. While I am some way from finally making up my mind, one thing that has become clear to me is that the upcoming ‘In or Out’ referendum is not about whether Dave has negotiated a new settlement worthy of its name. It isn’t and it’s not. Nobody surely can have been fooled by the sham theatrics of the negotiations or the post-deal comments from the leaders involved in the sham.

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The only meaningful way of looking at the matter is to regard it as if we are being asked to look at the totality of the European Union as it is now. Given the degree of our involvement with the EU, I would propose that we should cast the EU in the role of a spouse. Taken in this light, the issues dealt with at the ‘renegotiation’ constitute a marital row; one in which the rowing parties have become so impassioned that they threaten each other with divorce, if each doesn’t see the matter in their particular way. I’m not a Relate counsellor, but most intermediaries when confronting rowing parties would try to refocus the matter on what they have in common and what they agree on, rather than the current points of disagreement.

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For better or for worse, the question that really has been set is whether the UK’s ‘marriage’ with the EU was a mistake in the first place and whether our differences are so fundamental that they are irreconcilable such that only a divorce can settle the matter. The Ericle suggests then that UK voters deliberating over the issue should not be side-tracked as to whether a ‘better’ deal has been negotiated by dint of improved arrangements on such issues as the expatriation of child benefits and a demarcation of the UK’s future position; au contraire, Relate-style, we should be looking at the basic tenets of the union rather that the minutiae of an argument. In this respect we should be considering broad matters such as:

Do we still have affection for our partner?

 What do we have in common with our spouse?

 Have our joint experiences resulted in positive experiences?

 Has the union spawned offspring and what of their future?

 Would settlement of current rows impact positively and permanently on the union?

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When looked at in this way, the upcoming referendum begins to make some sense to me. It may be that Dave’s machinations, to deal with his divided party, have brought us to a position we should never have been in the first place. Possibly the so called ‘red-flag’ issues should have remained as ‘rows within the family’ rather than having been escalated to a matter now being potentially settled by divorce proceedings. Those of us who are of an orthodox persuasion may have an out in this matter and take the position that marriage is until ‘death us do part’ and divorce is not an option. Notwithstanding the fact that the United Kingdom is a Protestant land where divorce is the end product of some 50% of marriages, the referendum has been set in motion. Whether we like it or not, whether it was wise or not, the marriage counsellor’s door has been opened. Reconciliation or divorce, that’s the matter at hand. And, given that an irreversible decision has been made to consult on the matter, The Ericle strongly encourages you to vote in response to matters that are fundamental to the relationship rather than on disagreements that have come up at this particular time.

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One final point: the Yes/No question put to the UK electorate on 5 June 1975 was:

“Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Community (the Common Market)?”

The UK government, by signing the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, effectively committed us to being a member of a European Union. It did so without offering the UK electorate a vote on the matter. While I am by no means suggesting that the then (Conservative) government acted illegally under the (unwritten) British Constitution, the fact remains that for many countries with written constitutions such an amendment would have required a referendum to mandate a treaty-change as important as this. So perhaps this is the referendum we should have had in 1992; a referendum that would have surely been on the fundamentals, I have suggested, not the sub-matters that are now rising to the fore. And then the question may indeed have arisen that my good friend, Hans, posed this week:

When have we ever answered “European” when our guests ask what nationality we are?

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