There is a kerfuffle involving a royal, and not just any royal but the one who may be the nation’s favourite. Prince William, speaking at an FCO awards ceremony last night said the following:
“In an increasingly turbulent world, our ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential. It is the bedrock of our security and prosperity and is central to your work. Right now, the big questions with which you wrestle – in the UN, Nato, the Middle East and elsewhere – are predicated on your commitment to working in partnership with others.”
Some of you might be thinking, okay, that was pretty innocuous. I mean, is anyone in the country going to disagree with the notion of “commitment to working in partnership with others”? There might be endless bun fights over what those words actually mean, but given that’s all the prince said, it can indeed be interpreted in whatever way you see fit.
And thus it has been this morning. The Guardian ran a story with the headline: “Prince William appears to signal support for remaining in the EU”. Stronger In have alluded to it by saying that “people from all walks of life are getting behind the campaign”. Leave.EU were more explicit in trying to claim credit for Prince William’s sentiment, telling the world that the royal could just have easily been saying we should be out of the EU, rolling onto all that Brexit bollocks about rejoining the world, etc.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the prince dryly noted that Prince William had never used the word “Europe” or indeed the acronym “EU” in the entirety of the speech. An entirely valid point.
I suppose the real interest for me in all of this is two-fold: one, the limits our unwritten constitution places upon what royals can and cannot do or say, and how that can wobble a bit. What if Prince Charles wades in on one side or another? What does the government actually do about that? Two, the way everything that could or could not refer to Europe over the next four months looks like it will be analysed under a microscope by the press. Could that oblique reference to the works of socialist biographer Issac Deutscher by well known fashion designer Eclat Coolio actually be a coded note to the kiddies asking them to turn out and vote Remain on June 23rd?
Perhaps it won’t be like this – I really hope not. Because if I’m going to find that annoying, people who really, really don’t care about Europe or the EU at all will find it almost unbearable. Which side will Euro burnout help in the referendum? Hard to say, of course, but my bet would be on Remain. When people get sick of a debate upon which a plebiscite is to take place, they often vote heavily for the status quo. The Scotttish referendum was a case study in reverse – it was such an existential question being asked that tension went to the wire. Will the EU referendum be more like the AV one, where the whole debate never caught fire and thus sputtered out? It looks like we’ll all find out soon enough.