We know, now, the date of Britain's referendum on membership of the European Union – 23rd June. Soon, the campaigning will begin in ernest, as politicians attempt to convince us either to 'Remain' a member, or 'Leave' the EU.
Personally, I am undecided on how I will vote. I can see good arguments on both sides – and I can see wild hysteria and condescension on both sides too. However, it's my view that the burden of proof is on those who wish to 'Leave'.
The lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green writes on his blog Jack Of Kent that he is 'neutral' about 'Brexit', observing that the referendum's outcome will make little difference to law and policy, on a practical level. Neutral, perhaps – but in reality this is a de facto argument to 'Remain'. If things will be basically the same either way, why would we go through all the hassle of leaving, and all the tremendous upheaval that will entail? Unless we can be fairly sure that getting out of the EU will tangibly improve life for most people in Britain, aren't we better off just staying as we are?
To my mind, 'Brexit' is not a matter of life-and-death. The UK will basically be fine, whatever happens. For all that the zealots on both sides of the argument would have us believe otherwise, neither result will truly be a catastrophe. Maybe I will lose some friends by saying that – but friendship shouldn't be contingent on sharing a particular viewpoint on the European Union, should it?
But as I say, the onus is on the 'Leave' camp to make their case – and unless they can convince me of some very real benefits of leaving the EU (and I am still open to being persuaded), I shall end up as 'Remain' by default.
Maybe this seems uncaring, or half-hearted; a rather uninspiring way to make a decision about the future of the country. But if it would be a touch unfair to say this is a vote about minutiae, it is at least a vote about something which few people really see as the crucial matter of our time.
For those of us who follow politics closely, it's a chance to spend a second year in a row geekishly obsessing over exit polls and sitting up all night eating takeaway food and watching David Dimbleby looking for something to say to fill in time – however, I think the wonks who inhabit the fringes of political society for whom Europe has always been a burning issue seriously overestimate the number of people who hold strong, passionate opinions about the EU.
To large amounts of people, the European Union matters vastly less than those who shout the loudest on either side of the debate could possibly comprehend. Plenty of people are, like me, quite happy muddling along as we are – unless the case emerges that 'Brexit' would leave us decidedly better off. Perhaps the initiative in this referendum campaign will ultimately be seized by whoever is the first to grasp this.