Brexit: a political catastrophe

by frankbeswick

The vote for the UK to leave Europe was a disaster that threatens the unity,prosperity and stability of the country and damages Europe.

A poison brew that was well-prepared and took a long time a-brewing, that's the only way to describe the momentous and basically foolish decision by a misled electorate to take the UK out of the European Union. I was in the Remain campaign,and am proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, the only party that has pledged to take the whole UK back into the European Union after its departure.

Picture courtesy of Tindo

Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Smile at us, pay us pass us, but do not quite forget

That we are the people of England, who have never have spoken yet.

G.K.Chesterton, The Secret People

Well,we spoke and fifty two percent of us were sufficiently beguiled by demagogues and their right wing supporters to vote out of  the  institution that was insisting on workers' rights. For years the Conservative Right have opposed the European Union, not because of its advocacy of free trade, they love that, but because it insists on workers' rights, which they don't love, so a long campaign of misinformation was launched. They did not directly say that they primarily objected to workers' rights, but they used deception and stoked up fears of immigrants,promising that if we left Europe then we could stop the massive flow of immigrants to our shores. True, there is an a problem with migration, but leaving the EU won't stop it. Even more deceptively they promised a more democratic Britain, a Britain able to make its own laws again, one that was truly democratic. Sounds wonderful, does it not?

But a Pandora's box was opened. The racism that has been bubbling under the surface of Britain has found its head. There have been  incidents of people telling immigrants to go home,for after all, the ignorant racists that we have among us were so stupid that some of them thought that the day after a vote to leave immigrants would be chased out, and then these often hardly employable racist types thought that they might  get a well-paid job that their skill base does not merit. I am worried,my eldest son is married to a black,immigrant woman and I have a mixed race grandchild; and my son is already preparing for the eventuality of having to take his young family elsewhere for their safety and economic future. He is applying to activate his right to Irish citizenship. 

Within a day of the result the leaders of the Leave campaign were not looking very joyful, as the realization that they had no political and financial plan hit them. Already the pound had fallen against the dollar and businesses were having contracts cancelled. My nephew lost a contract on the first day. Another reason for their joylessness was that they had expected  the prime minister to instantly begin the quitting process and then stay on to manage it, but he has left it to his successor, who will be in place by October, leaving  them to bear the massive burden of leaving. You can see the plan,leave the work to someone else and then take the credit for leaving when he is overthrown or resigns. But he has delayed to start the formal process and that shunts the burden onto his opponents. The over-confident Brits who thought that we could dominate negotiations with Europe have had a shock, for the European leaders are taking a hard line about the deal.Strange, the Leave campaign thought that they would come a-begging to us.

Moreover, already promises are being broken, two gone and it's only a few days.The Leave campaign stated that the money that we commit to the EU could be spent on  the National Health Service, but now that they have won they are backtracking. Furthermore, we were promised a speedy departure, but Boris Johnson,  the leader of the Leave campaign, is now declaring that we are in no hurry.

And to cap it all, the Scottish Nationalists  are demanding another independence referendum, that will fracture the United Kingdom for good. Many people are applying for Irish passports to maintain their EU rights. Otherwise we are told to rejoice at our independence!

 

Why it happened

Demagogues and population flows

Two things are sure: population flows destabilize societies and demagogues make use of them for their nefarious ends. Europe has been struggling with an immigration crisis as refugees from Syria etc and economic migrants flock across borders, and once-welcoming states put up the barriers out of fear that they will not be able to cope. Britain does not suffer anything as bad as this, but we are a densely packed island and in particular the South East around London is packed and there is a housing crisis. This crisis is due to the fact that the previous Labour government was basically incompetent at doing what Labour is supposed to be good at, public works, and it was worsened  by the fact that though the Conservatives have been better than Labour  at house building, they don't care about ordinary people and so have under-provided social housing. The result is that house prices and therefore rents have soared and many are in cramped accommodation, and others are homeless.Migrants do put greater pressure on  housing, even though migration is good for the economy, so you can see the pressures. 

The Leave campaign played on fear while blaming their opponents for playing on it. The great fear was Turkey's future accession to  the EU. "Seventy seven million Turks could come to the EU" the propaganda declared, even though there is no evidence that Turks want to  move in numbers at all.Terror was created in the minds of already stressed out people; and what is more, Turks are Muslim,so the spectre of being overrun by Muslims was raised.

The stresses to which the people were subject have been  added by the fact that Britain is a case study in economic injustice. As the economy has boomed profits have risen, but wages have risen little at all. Chief executive officers, executives, managers  and directors have seen their earnings rise with productivity as wages for the rest have stagnated. Britain's wage differential between chief executive officers and workers is an obscenity.  To add to the problem,  capitalists were employing cheap immigrant labour at wage rates below official minimum wage, and so wage levels were being depressed.  Again, stresses are being felt by the poor.

There is a wealth gap between North and South, with wealth being disproportionately found in London and the South East, while northern and western areas have a disproportionately low share of the country's resources. As people struggle with the injustices of capitalism, the right saw its chance. "Blame Europe for your woes!" And you see the consequences.

The right wing press has been campaigning for years to get us to leave Europe, and there has been a steady stream of propaganda stories, all distorted, to maintain the pressure. The EU bans bent bananas,  we are told. Seems mad, but there were quality control rules emanating from the EU about what could be sold as top quality fruit, that's all. But the lies accumulated in less educated minds, and the demagogues could play on them.  

However, there has been discontent across Europe with the continent's political elites, some of whom have become distant from the ordinary people, so again another source of tension and stress for the burdened populace. Political correctness has led to many progressive left sneering at the English identity while celebrating every other one; and many ordinary folk felt that immigrants were favoured. Not by the government, certainly. But  many British people felt belittled and undervalued in their own homeland.

"Give us back our country" was the slogan, but they chose the wrong target. The real thieves are the one per cent who own the land of Britain, a country which has a long history of monopolization of land by a minority; the thieves are those who pay miserable wages  and who charge exorbitant rents; but these characters are good at deflecting blame onto the immigrants and the foreigners.

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What Next

Forty eight per cent of Britons voted to stay in Europe, there is a petition for a second referendum signed by over three million people, with the numbers still rising;and Scotland voted to stay by a high margin, so now it is restless about its future. Not  a bad epitaph for David Cameron's prime ministerial career, to have destroyed two unions,  one of which he claimed to love. The younger the age group,the more likely they were to vote remain, so the demographics are in favour of a majority to re-enter the EU in future. But the UK could break up over this issue, and the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who  has come out of this referendum with her credibility enhanced, [as has her fellow Scotswoman Ruth Davison, the Scottish Conservative leader] bats off demands from Leave campaigners to get behind the government, for Nicola rightly says that she has a responsibility to Scotland. The irony of the petty nationalists of the Leave campaign telling Nicola, the Scots Nationalist leader,  that she should not put her country first  should not be lost on people. 

The referendum is advisory, so parliament has to ratify it, though it will. Parliament will also choose a new prime minister. The Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson is aiming to be the new prime minister, but many rightly or wrongly believe that he did not really believe in leaving the EU, but  opted for the side that furthered his ambition to  be prime minister. It was quite pleasing to  see him booed and jeered in London, the city of which he was once mayor, but which voted to stay in the EU.He may have scuppered his  chances of having the job that he craved, for many say that he sacrificed his country for his career.

The European ideal will not, cannot die, for it grew out of the high aspiration that the continent that had been so riven by wars and which gave us the holocaust would never again be at war. The ideal was that the European peoples had a common identity which did not replace national identities,  but which supplemented, enhanced and enriched them. The  ideal is too great to be killed off by one defection. But the British exit, Brexit as it is known, has fueled not only latent xenophobia in Britain, but also separatist pressures in other countries, such as France and the Netherlands.Is it any wonder that instead of the good exist deal we were promised by the Leave campaigners, the embittered Europeans give us as little as they can.   

As for me, as a Liberal Democrat I am a member of the only fully nationwide political party to commit itself to rejoining the EU. We are small and struggling, but we recruited five thousand new members after the referendum defeat. I am also a Roman Catholic, a member of a church whose political thought emphasizes the importance of international institutions and which always wanted European unity as a means of avoiding war. We keep on trying.

 

 

Updated: 06/28/2016, frankbeswick
 
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Guest on 10/26/2016

cool stuff

frankbeswick on 09/21/2016

Completely right. There are too many politicians who are quite under educated for the job they are doing.

georgebass on 09/21/2016

This is becoming a new phenomenon worldwide. It is as if the discourse of some politicians were in serious trouble -- look at that of Donald Trump's, which is catastrophic too.

frankbeswick on 09/21/2016

It was noted in today's Independent that a report by the Labour Party's Fabian society showed that areas that voted for Brexit were those that had been neglected by the British government and had not received a fair share of government spending. This shows that the problems that drove us out of the EU were to some degree home-grown and of our government's own making.

frankbeswick on 09/21/2016

BSG, physicist, you are going to love this on-line discussion between a professor of physics and a leading Brexit campaigner and member of United Kingdom Independence Party, Douglas Carswell, reported in the Independent today.

The professor was discussing trade between Britain and the much larger China, so he drew on a scientific metaphor, but did not anticipate the response. "Jupiter is big, but it is the moon that controls the tides" stated the professor. Not only did Carswell not recognize the metaphor for what it was, he replied that the professor should know that it is the sun's gravity that causes the tides. The professor corrected him, only for Carswell to express surprise that the head of scientific research at a university did not know that the sun causes tides. The professor concluded with a reference to Newton's Principia. I believe that this level of scientific ignorance should be given world-wide publicity, as we need to call politicians to account.

But Brexit campaigner, Conservative Michael Gove, who has an English degree from Oxford, declared on television that he does not listen to experts.

As further testimony to the quality of thought in the United Kingdom Independence Party in 2014 one of their councilors was suspended for claiming that the flooding in Somerset was God's punishment for Britain's allowing gay marriage. So to show that he disapproves of gay marriage God floods Somerset! These are but a few examples of the idiocy that seems to be found in concentrated form among the Brexit campaigners.

frankbeswick on 09/21/2016

Europe was not perfect, we know that, but I strongly suspect that the British people were beguiled by hard right capitalists into supporting a Brexit in which their workers' rights protected by Europe would disappear. Heaven for the capitalists,poverty for many others. Environmental protections would be weakened by Brexit. The false promise made by the Leave campaign that money spent on our subscription to Europe would be spent on the National Health Service has been dropped without excuse, now that the lie has worked.

You are right about the importance of education.

georgebass on 09/20/2016

In my opinion, the UKIP was right in pointing out that the European project has been a failure so far. I wouldn't like the UK to leave the EU, though.

I live in Spain, and I can tell you, there's a huge cultural gap between the Mediterranean region -- Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, etc. -- and the countries of Northern Europe, it's a question of mentality towards looking at things. Here's a big issue.

Regarding the lies mentioned in this post, well, lies are expected to be found in ***** politicians. Good quality, free education is the basis for any free society; otherwise it is mind manipulation techniques.

frankbeswick on 06/30/2016

The leading Leave campaigner, Boris Johnson,has suddenly declined to stand as David Cameron's successor, after his staunch ally, Michael Gove suddenly withdrew his support in an act of political backstabbing and said that he would himself stand. It is said that Boris' enemies have been building a dossier on his colourful private life, which has included an unspecified number of affairs.Keep an eye on the UK , as there might be interesting news leaking out.

frankbeswick on 06/29/2016

The possibility of the EU collapsing lurks like a spectre over the institution, but that would be a disaster, but certain people of far right disposition want it to happen.

frankbeswick on 06/29/2016

Thanks for your comment. My eldest son worked in Scotland for a while and has friends there with good connections in horticulture, but he loves Ireland and has connections there who say that they would offer him a job if they had one available. I would go to Ireland if the right move were possible, as I have lived there and love it. I told my wife that I was tired of living in Britain and that I would aspire for us to move away when our commitments have been fulfilled, but whether that will happen I know not.

Already though some politicians are expressing fears that the economy will contract so seriously that parliament might override the referendum result, which it can do, but there would be social unrest in certain areas. Some are suggesting a second referendum to confirm the settlement. But a reality check is waiting for us. The character who said on television that we are Great Britain so we can handle anything needs to wake up to reality; and the brigade who hark back to our standing alone against Hitler forget that we only survived with American help, and anyway, who wants to have to stand alone? The demagogues who declared that we are the fifth largest economy in the world implied that we were so without the EU, but the declining economy indicates that our position was partly because of it.

The trouble is that the vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric in the campaign has legitimized racism in the eyes of some who have been waiting for their chance to turn on the immigrants. There was a racist incident on a tram near where I live, and while the mixed race victim was merely offended rather than hurt and the police have arrested the culprits, it is unsettling. The government is warning racists that they will be prosecuted, but the racist geni is out of the bottle, and no matter how few the incidents, it is not pretty.


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