A few thoughts on the EU Referendum

This is clearly going to be a very significant week.

By next weekend, we'll know at last what the UK electorate has decided in the EU referendum. For now, it's all completely uncertain - the one thing we learned from the last general election is how little value there is in polls - but however one looks at it, Brexit is very much a possibility.

When I was at school that would have been a very exciting prospect. Now, a few years later, it's profoundly depressing. In that time I've been to university and met a far wider range of people than ever before, I've studied law, and I've paid attention to what's going on in the world around me. I've come to believe that the EU is a huge step in the right direction, and the idea that we're going to abandon it leaves me quite miserable.

Why is that? Well, the economic case is pretty compelling. I know I've not got the knowledge to put together an argument here about how being part of free trade zone with our closest neighbours and trading partners, and taking advantage of our combined negotiating clout with other countries, is in the best economic interests of the UK. Fortunately plenty of others do, and almost without exception they're warning that Brexit would be economically awful for us. I don't know why these warnings aren't being heeded. Maybe people are so used to voting not changing anything that they've forgotten it really can. The one thing you can say about this referendum is that it gives us a chance to democratically make the most tremendous mess of things.

But to some extent that's all beside the point. Even if ten years down the line by some miracle it turns out that all of these economic experts got it completely wrong and we didn't plunge back into recession, I wouldn't be any less upset about it. That's because the EU, whatever one may argue was its original purpose, has taken on a significance beyond simple economics.

It's an idea that we can build a better continent by working together. That co-operation makes us all better off. That we would rather embrace our neighbours than turn in on ourselves in isolation.

Not everyone agrees. I've heard a lot during this campaign about how we need to restore our national sovereignty. Now, maybe national sovereignty was a pretty cool idea in the nineteenth century, despite all the wars and atrocities that ravaged Europe before the foundation of the EU. But that was a long time ago and the world has changed a little bit since then.

Globalisation isn't just a buzzword. We really are connected with other countries in so many ways, through trade, culture and everything else. For the most part the internet doesn't recognise national borders, and increasingly nor does our shopping. I've got friends across the continent and travel as much as I can afford. I've been an EU citizen for virtually my whole life, ever since that concept was introduced in 1993, and increasingly I am starting to see that as a more significant part of my identity than being British or English or anything else.

More substantially, every major problem facing us today is one that can be better solved by international co-operation. The economy, climate change, terrorism - there's only so much we can do on our own. If we want to make a real difference, we need to work together. Sovereignty over what happens within your own borders doesn't count for much these days. What happens in other countries can affect you just as much, and controlling that is what really matters. For the moment we're part of an organisation that gives us that power. Call it pooled sovereignty, if you really can't let that word go.

But of course, this time next week we may have turned our back on all that. Perhaps we'll be embarking on the first step of the long and arduous road out of the EU. The road away from the future and into the past, into isolation and irrelevance, on which I'll be stripped of my EU citizenship against my will. I can hardly think of a more depressing prospect.

Maybe we won't, though. Maybe we'll see sense and decide to stick with what we know. Maybe then we'll decide to spend more time and energy on trying to change and improve the EU than we do complaining about it. Maybe this is where things start to get better.

It all comes down to what happens on Thursday. I've already posted my vote. But if you haven't, and you want to stay part of the EU, then make sure to cast yours, because as close as things appear to be every vote counts.

This is a turning point for the UK, and possibly for the whole of the EU. I can only hope we turn in the right direction.