The referendum result is widely deemed very hard to predict. Which won’t stop pundits of all persuasions and all levels of expertise or none trying to predict it. So let me try – not just to predict the way the vote will go, but some of the possible consequences.
I won’t try to persuade you to vote the same way as me. I won’t put the case for either side – plenty of other people are doing that (most of them rather badly). I will admit that it looks a pretty unappetising choice. Lesser of two evils. Devil or deep blue sea.
And it’s for this reason that I expect the great British public, however reluctantly, to opt in the end for the devil they know over the devil they don’t.
The opinion polls look close. They may well get closer still as the real poll approaches. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Leave supporters – currently still showing as the minority – actually take the lead in the last few days of campaigning.
We have precedence here, in the shape of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The Yes campaign, full of fervour, appeared to pull ahead right at the last. Until the day of decision, when the weary Noes dragged themselves off to the booths and cast their votes in favour of staying British.
The marriage survived. Just. And that’s what I expect to happen with Britain’s rocky marriage to mainland Europe.
If the democratic process had some way of measuring enthusiasm, there’s little doubt the Leavers would win. It’s easier to get fired up by the prospect of change than by merely retaining the status quo.
Which is why the voices calling for Scottish independence sounded louder than those for staying in the union. And it could be why the Leave campaign sounds louder now than those in favour of remaining European. That and all the noise generated by Boris Johnson.
But democracy counts heads, not what’s in them. Neither the degree of excitement nor the degree of intelligence, which are often two very different things.
So I expect David Cameron – who rather needlessly brought this whole thing upon us – to be breathing a huge sigh of relief on June 24 when the result’s declared. But he could, even then, find himself in “be careful what you wish for” territory.
For it may, in the end, not just be Britain’s relationship with Europe that’s at stake here, but Britain’s relationship with itself.
If there’s one part of the still-united-for-now kingdom where opinions seem pretty clear, it’s Scotland. The Scots want to stay in Europe – and not by a narrow margin. In England it’s a lot closer – too close to call with confidence but maybe leaning towards Leaving.
So what if the overall result is a vote to quit Europe – against the wishes of maybe 75 per cent or more of the Scots? That would certainly renew calls for Scottish independence. Calls that would be hard to resist.
And what would that mean for Wales, and for Northern Ireland?
The latest polls suggest Wales, even more than England, favours Brexit. Much as many Welsh people distrust Westminster politics, it seems they distrust Brussels still more.
In Northern Ireland, however, European investment has done more than anything to smooth over the old divides. The Troubles were always more about inequality than religion. It was just that the Haves went to one church, the Have-nots to another. Prosperity based on Brussels cash took the sting out. No wonder Ulster is the most pro-European region of the UK.
One result of a Brexit could be a reopening of the Irish question: Unionists in one corner, pro-Europe anti-Brits in the other. Potentially very nasty.
Now let’s look at it the other way. If the latest polls are right, the decision will be to stay in the EU. Which, according to Cameron, would put the matter to bed for a generation.
But there’s a but. It’s that England and Wales could vote Leave, but be kept in Europe by all those pro-European voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
That, in fact, is exactly what recent national and provincial surveys suggest will happen.
Will there then be a movement in England and Wales for independence from Scotland and Northern Ireland? Led, perhaps, by that apparent majority of East Anglians who want out of Europe?
There’s an awful lot of uncertainty here, but one thing seems certain. The rows and the wrangling – the custody battles, alimony fights and disputes over furniture – won’t be over on June 24. Whether the marriage survives or not.