Mark Steel in The Independent
Oh I don’t know what to do. On the one hand, if we vote to stay in we’ll get David Cameron waving and smiling and looking triumphant, and doing anything to make that happen will make your soul go dark yellow and spew up green sticky liquid. But if we vote to leave, that would please Farage, and pleasing Farage must surely be illegal if we’ve made any progress at all since the thirteenth century.
It’s like watching Manchester United play Chelsea, you spend the whole time thinking of a way that both sides can lose.
Half the country seems to be this confused, changing their mind depending on who they last saw talking about it, going “Ugh, Blair wants to stay in, I’m voting out, but ugh, Duncan-Smith wants to come out, I’m voting in.” The best strategy for either side would be to get their most prominent supporters together, then all go and live in Nigeria until it’s over and win by a landslide.
Instead, the debate is about which side will manage to be more horrible to immigrants. So the Prime Minister makes statements such as “Due to the success of these talks, Romanians living in Britain will no longer be allowed in a Post Office until they’ve been working here for nine years.”
But Farage replies “What the British people want to know is when are Bulgarians going to be stopped from using our pavements? These are paid for by the British taxpayer, and if they can’t be bothered to hover, frankly they can go back home.
George Osborne will retort that only if we remain within Europe can we complete a pan-European plan to build a giant electric fire and drop it in the Adriatic Sea so any Syrian falling in gets instantly electrocuted.
Then the Vote to Leave Campaign will explain that once we’re out of the EU, Poles will still be allowed to work on building sites but no longer be allowed sharp objects so they have to drill holes using a balloon, and they’ll have to commute every morning from Poland and go back to Cracow when they need the toilet. “Our cisterns simply can’t take the strain of flushing away anymore Polish turds”, he’ll shriek at a rally, and everyone will cheer and wave a Union Jack.
The proudest moment for David Cameron has been cutting child benefits for immigrants. What an advert for humanity, that one side says “Through determination to stick up for Britain, we have secured the right to be utterly mean bastards. Indeed we are now proposing a Europe-wide Total Bastard Treaty in which all member states unite in an unprecedented pledge to reject any act of even the mildest fake kindness.”
But their opponents rage that none of that will prevent sixty billion Bulgarians coming to live in Ipswich, each of them entitled to bring a Balkan mountain which will completely transform the topography of Suffolk.
So the negotiations appear to have been pointless, as the arguments will be exactly the same whatever is agreed. Cameron’s campaign will try to scare people as they did in Scotland, by informing us that if we leave the EU our fruit will explode and our cats will turn inside-out.
Then the Out campaign will respond with a front page in the Daily Express saying "Now the French are insisting on European standard sizes for breasts, based on those tiny useless petite Gallic ones they all like, outlawing the huge British breasts we prefer because we won the war and didn’t roll over when Hitler came round".
After a worrying opinion poll, Cameron will announce sternly the Institute for Money and Spending has predicted if we leave, by 2018 everyone in Britain will be a cannibal.
Then UKIP will tell us the barmy bureaucrats of Brussels will destroy our agriculture by classifying the cow as a type of herring and making our farmers throw their cattle in the Atlantic.
The European Union does appear to be a corrupt undemocratic institution, with rules against nationalising too many services, and rules against electing the wrong kind of government, as illustrated when they demanded the Greek government followed the policies of the bankers, rather than take notice of the interfering population who voted for them.
But our government’s only complaint against this has been that the EU suggested too many controls on how much our bankers were paid in bonuses. What an outrage, dictating to us that our bankers can’t rob how much they like off us. Next they’ll be insisting our burglars should have to leave a couple of items of furniture when they ransack our house. That’s Europe for you, meddling with our historic right to be fleeced by the banks.
So the referendum won’t solve any of this. If we vote to leave, UKIP won’t be satisfied. Within a year they’ll be screaming “Why should we be part of Earth? This country is being held back by having to travel on the same orbit as poor places like Mexico, and why should we have the same gravity as Morocco?”
And if we vote to stay in, it will become clear these negotiations have been a contrived exercise to make Cameron look powerful. All the leaders wander into a room looking serious, then probably play games on their mobiles for seven hours, before emerging to say “It’s been a tough night but we’ve finally come to an agreement that everything will be done differently, even in a different font. The Hungarians took a lot of persuading but we hope that settles everything.”
It would serve them right on all sides if we voted to leave the EU and become a province of Peru.