Monday, 22 February 2016

Better the Devil You Know?

If you live in the UK, it can hardly have escaped your notice that we're being given a referendum on whether we want to remain in the European Union or leave and go our own way. What's more, what was once to have been 'by the end of 2017' it is now only 4 months away.

Each of us is being asked to make a decision, to give our answer to such a deceptively simple question. Over the coming months, many different aspects will debated. One side will assert one thing, the other side the exact opposite. Who do you believe?

Many of the arguments will hinge on complicated economic and political positions, and it will be a challenge for most voters to decide which side to believe. Lots of differing statistics and competing theories will be explained by campaigners and commentators to try and help people make up their minds. There is however, at least one aspect to the debate that voters can judge on common sense alone.

Both sides in the campaign have already tried to argue that their way is the least risky option. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers told the BBC that leaving the EU was a safer option than staying in, and political heavyweights Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson have echoed these sentiments. Prime Minister David Cameron has however said that voting to leave the EU would be "a leap in the dark". Who is right?

Fortunately, this particular argument doesn't require a PhD in Economics from Oxford to figure out, it is a judgement call. You can decide for yourselves, but in my opinion this is an easy one. The phrase "better the devil you know" isn't such a well known phrase for nothing. We have a very good idea what will happen (at least in the short to medium term) if we vote to stay in the European Union. We have no concrete idea what will happen if we vote to leave and what impact it will have on the economy and the country. Putting aside the much more complicated question of which is the best course of action, or whether what we think will happen is a good thing, I think common sense will help you find the answer to which is the least risky option.

As to the more complicated questions, I'll try in the coming weeks and months to help you answer these too.