Let’s consider what our country would feel like if we woke up on Friday 24 June with Britain about to exit the EU after more than four decades.
The issue is more than a debate about immigration statistics, economic prospects and budgets for Brussels. It is about who we are as a country. How we define ourselves. How we behave towards each other and those who visit or settle here. Fundamentally it is about values.
If you are someone who feels comfortable around and enthused by people who do not share much of your own background, you are likely to feel more relaxed about getting together with them to work on common problems.
But if you feel threatened, inferior or superior to them, you are probably less likely to want such co-operation.
It’s a generalisation of course.
But exit would feel like suddenly changing your character on your typical urban street. It used to be a relatively calm place to live with neighbours mingling, children playing together, morning greetings exchanged, windows left open and nextdoor’s holiday plant-watering promise fulfilled. There might be the odd tiff over irregular parking, gobbling all your BBQ sausages or an extension application, but it is mostly a contented community.
But on 24 June it would be as if the normally cheerful Brits at number 12 decided suddenly to fold their arms tightly, purse their lips, close their windows, keep the kids indoors, stride belligerent and blinkered to the station each day and generally ignore the neighbours. It would then stumble into repairing relations with them ignorant of how it would end up.
It’s like taking an insecurity pill which suddenly transforms a relaxed and friendly household into a charmless, buttoned-up, po-faced family that cancels its annual Christmas drinks party, withdraws its offer to mow Gladys’ lawn at number 14 and stops the kids sharing their toys at playdates with number 11.
It smacks of a fundamental insecurity and suspicion of others. It exploits base values. And that’s why I freely admit my emotions are now driving my referendum choice to remain in the EU on 23 June as much as the facts and my supposed early career policy expertise.
Now, who in my street has an axe I can grind?