Two questions to ask of a political future
Alexander McColl, 2016

As a graduate of politics, how could I not have a view and a voice at this referendum? The issues are complex and each side has merits and shortcomings. If it weren't so, there would surely be no need for a public vote.

Derrida wrote that every decision is a leap of faith. If one particular choice from many can be calculated from every possible angle to be the best, then this isn't a decision. There is nothing to decide, you either intelligently take the measurably better option or stupidly pursue an inferior course. A decision is necessarily marked by a moment where, knowing that each option has it's advantages and disadvantages, risks and opportunities, the decider must regardless chose only one. A move beyond rationality and calculative reasoning.

With this in mind, rather than posting what could easily be 50,000 words assessing each of the main issues, point by point, I present instead two questions.

As the campaign that have tasked themselves with opposing the status quo, it is the job of those advocating leave to convince us to follow them. At this referendum, many of their arguments are focused on voting leave as taking an opportunity, free from the reams of European diktats, laws and courts, to implement a newly imagined political future.

I reccommend asking these two questions of them as you consider your vote on Thursday.

Firstly, what exactly is the alternate political future being promised by those who stand to be in power after a Brexit? We should note that the UK is four years from a general election and the official opposition to the government are the weakest in about two decades. In the event of a leave vote, certain individuals and organisations are going to have the authority, time and resources shape a new future in their image.

As far as I have found, it has not been well-defined at all, and is almost exclusively 'trust us, we're British'. The future cannot simply be defined negatively in terms of what aspects of the present it won't be or won't have. This was the mistake of the Vietnam war, the deindustrialisation of the North, the war on terror, the Iraq war... I could go on. Something will be positively constructed by someone to bring the future into reality. If nothing is identified and articulated clearly, then the result is what happened in the examples I gave. Misery, endless, pointless continuation down a self-destructive path, the strong rushing in to fill a power vacuum.

Without concrete policies that can be understood and measured, we have only trust. When I consider the past actions of the Conservative party, of Gove, Johnson and Farage, I wouldn't trust them at all to deliver the kind of political future I want for my country. Far from it.

Secondly, what are the constraints on such a future, and consequences for pursuing it? Every choice is a trade off and a balancing act. In theory, in the political realm concrete 'constraints' per se don't exist. Technically anything is possible, but the consequences of 'anything' are too great for that to be a conceivable action. As much as the status quo always benefits some at the cost of others, the others also draw clear benefits from certain aspects of the status quo and won't be prepared to sacrifice them for a promised dubious, long-term gain.

I personally believe that the economic pain is too great a consequence, and the constraints the EU would place upon the UK if we wanted to continue a trading relationship closer than merely through the WTO too severe. The economic consequences of not doing so would be intolerable.

To my first concern, that is something each voter needs to decide for themselves. Do you understand and support this future? Do you trust those who will attempt to enact it?

To my second, I strongly reccomend watching a short lecture by Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool, which can be found at He explains the consequences of, and constraints upon, this proposed political future outside the EU. After watching, it is again up to you, the voter to decide if they are tolerable or not.

This is a modified version of an article that was first posted on my private blog at

Alexander McColl