EU Referendum

European Union: In or Out?

June 16, 2016 | Nick Taylor

(Tracy Holland) The referendum on our membership of the European Union has opened my eyes a little bit to an uncomfortable truth about politics. It’s not that I didn’t know about the fuss and bluster, but until this referendum I had thought there was a far higher percentage of fact available.

In Britain, our political campaigns usually seem to be serious and reserved affairs in comparison to those held in some other countries. I have always thought that ours are more about policies than people but now I’m not so sure. I’ve listened to much of the campaigning and debates but I’ve heard precious little that I feel confident is fact. I don’t think I’ve heard anything that I’m completely sure is the entire truth. It feels as if, as with any election, we’re casting our vote for promises, yet surely in this matter there are some actualities if we could only recognise them. Speculation is inevitable because no one can absolutely know the future, but with this decision there seems to be little else. The maelstrom of impassioned conjecture brings to mind the famous quote accredited to Benjamin Disraeli – British Prime Minister: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’. In my opinion there are far too many variables whether we leave the European Union or remain part of it, so even if we could distinguish the accurate information on offer it’s still a gamble either way.

The referendum on our membership of the European Union is an emotive subject, and the emotion displayed by staunch campaigners on both sides really isn’t helping us ordinary voters. I don’t think anyone could seriously argue against there being both benefits and disadvantages to both sides. We can only carefully weigh them using our own judgment and make the best decision we can.

When I cast my vote for anything I always try to separate emotion from fact, but it’s difficult because emotion plays such a very large part in any communication whether the communicator intends it to or not. We listen more to people we identify with. When a stranger speaks to us we begin to form an opinion from the input of our other senses before they utter a sound. And we’ve probably already processed some historical information about the speaker and the subject matter, whether fact or hearsay. All of this can stop us from listening and hearing the true message without bias: to listen with a truly open mind takes much conscious effort.

Some things are very difficult to talk about: subjects so enshrouded in thorns that we fear speaking of them and steer the vulnerable away. Today this problem is perhaps more significant than ever, so it is on the front line of our work at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Our Holding Difficult Conversations programme empowers those who work with children and youth groups to discuss the sensitive and emotive issues around conflict, violence and peace. We provide the tools to promote open discussion safely and to counter the negative and harmful messages that individuals have been exposed to. History has proven that the antidote to violence is not more violence, it is peaceful discussion – through our Holding Difficult Conversations programme we empower others to promote that to great effect.

Please take time to look at our Holding Difficult Conversations programme. We give professionals the skills and confidence to conduct these discussions safely and effectively. Please help us to reach more groups by sharing this link with schools, colleges and youth clubs: http://foundation4peace.org/projects/holding-difficult-conversations