On June 23rd we're invited to vote yes or no to the following question:
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
We had a Scottish Referendum in 2014 to decide whether or not the Scots should remain part of the United Kingdom. They voted to remain. Now, I'm willing to wager that the vast majority of Scots want to remain part of the EU and this fact weighed heavily in their decision to stay in the UK. This highlights one of the problems with referenda as a means of deciding things. When something as big as EU membership changes won't the Scots demand a re-run?
This is what I think:
The people who decide to hold a referendum think they already know the result. Otherwise they wouldn't be having one. The government wouldn't be holding one if they thought we'd vote to leave.
The purpose of the referendum is to get rid of the issue once and for all rather than have it constantly colouring every governmental decision. All the anti-EU campaigners can then be fobbed off with 'the people have decided' argument.
In other countries when such a referendum hasn't yielded the required result they've kept on having them until they get the result they want. Then stop. That's what we'll do in the unlikely event that we vote to leave. The government will 'renegotiate terms' and try again.
The EU wouldn't survive in its present form without the UK. Many of the more recent members rely heavily on UK trade and free passage of workers. The EU wouldn't be all that attractive for them if we left.
Most people fear change of any kind. Even if they don't particularly like the EU, lots of people will be wary of opting out in case something bad happens.
So, we're staying in.
Even if we vote to leave, we'll be asked to reconsider and vote again until we give the right answer.
Nothing much to get excited about, then. Unless you're Scottish. Pro-independence Scots might consider voting for the UK to leave so that they can have another go at independence. That might send shivers through Whitehall as the Scottish vote is expected to be heavily in favour of remaining.