There is one simple difference between the referendum to leave the EU in 2016 and the vote to join in 1975 that is often overlooked, but is perhaps the most important moral issue of all.
41 years ago there were no tangible losses for the losing side in the sense that there are for millions of people right now.
41 years is a long time during which millions of people used the increasing freedom that EU membership gave them to establish new lives and businesses on either side of the Channel, as well as the North Sea and Irish Sea. They formed new partnerships, started families, found new customers and friendships.
The losers include over 5 million people who have led their lives on the basis of being European, and now face the prospect of losing the right to live in their homes, to keep their jobs and to keep their children in schools, and to stay among friends they have known all their lives.
The losers aren’t just London’s bankers and lawyers, but countless small companies and self-employed people in small towns and villages throughout Kent and all over the UK, who provide a wide range of services to clients on the continent. Without the right to work freely in other EU countries, they are now threatened with anything from a 10-25% loss in turnover for some, to a total collapse of their business model for others, as their home market shrinks from half a billion to 65 million.
The losers also includes millions of Brits who never left the UK, but have benefited from a great variety of rights and standards that the political establishment in the UK was often unwilling to grant- especially in matters of environmental health, such as legislation that prohibits the use of potentially harmful additives in food.
Having so many losers puts the lawfulness of the entire referendum into question. Is it ever really democratic to have a vote about destroying people’s rights and lives?