There is no doubt that the repurcussions of the referendum will be long, hard and difficult. There will be a sense of chaos in the immediate term and an inevitable domino effect (which has already started with Camron’s resignation and the beginning of the implosion of Corbyn’s Labour party). But long-term, I’d like to believe it could be for the best.
Why? Because the UK was at a point of unspoken crisis and this “revolution” might just force people to open their eyes to the truth. Something had to give. And surely there is a point at which it is braver to accept that a system is broken, than stumble on armed with a big pack of sticking plasters marked compromise? But it is crucial that fear of the unknown does not dictate the forthcoming narrative. Whether anticipated or not, we could see this as an opportunity for change and we must adapt, it’s called evolution. What has happened could be seen as the long-overdue catalyst required for a urgent re-evaluation of our local and global political systems, the UK and the EU. As the German philosopher Schopenhauer once stated, “All truth passes through three stages: First. It is ridiculed. Second. It is violently opposed. Third. It is accepted as being self-evident.”
Here I try to explain why…
I am proud to live in Europe. And Britain will always be a part of Europe, with the French, Germans, Italians, Dutch, Swedes and so on our ideological and cultural cousins, neighbours and friends. There is absolutely no reason why this should not continue to be the case. We have not left Europe, we have voted out of membership of the essentially federal construct that is the European Union, a concept we joined 43 years ago. Today, representing 28 countries and ‘managed’ via the quartet that is The European Commission, The European Parliament, The European Council and the Courts of Justice, it is widely acknowledged to be cumbersome, unduly complex and unnecessarily bureaucratic.
And lets not forget, Camron tried to negotiate better terms with the EU for Britain but was essentially told to suck it up, get in line, or get out. Today we have the result of that. It could have been prevented. By the EU themselves. Afterall, divorce is rarely the fault of one partner alone.
Helpful ‘What is the EU‘ infographics.
I am immensely proud that I live in a country with a National Health service alongside one of the best education systems in the world, and where it is an inalienable right to be both educated and cared for for free. And I’m happy, as I believe most people generally are, to pay my taxes to contribute to funding this. But global corporations like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple benefiting from our freedoms and not paying full tax? Philip Green pocketing an estimated £580 million while 11,000 BHS workers lose their jobs and pensions? The inequities of the non-dom tax avoidance laws? Bankers profiting by short trading on failure? This I resoundingly resent. And it’s all legal, in the UK.
And yet immigration, being perceived as a situation where people take from a system to which they contribute little, is presented by some as the source of all our woes. (This is important because our ability to negotiate with the EU hinges on the free movement of people. And yet, in 2014 The Economist published a piece that detailed how European immigrants actually contributed more to the public purse than they withdrew. See excerpt at end of post.) But, our over-stretched welfare state, rising unemployment, deprivation, cities with industries that have been wantonly allowed to disintegrate, inner city crime, poverty and violence as well as able-bodied people choosing to live off benefits rather than work: these are all homegrown problems that need urgent solutions. They have nothing to do with immigration.
But immigration is a convenient source of blame because the reality of life for many in today’s Britain is unequivocably tough. As such it must be acknowledged that London does not represent the wider demographic of the UK. Whoever is in power needs to really understand that it must speak for the whole of our country. Statement of the bloody obvious and yet routinely ignored as political play frequently seems to reduce itself to a schoolyard pinch and punch fest with the needs of big business squatting over everything else, exacerbated when, for example, in the lead up to the referendum, George Osborne was quoted as saying, “For the sake of London vote Remain”. The result was a massive shout back of, “But what about the rest of the UK?”
This crisis point has been reached precisely because no-one is heeding the ever louder cries of disaffected anger from north of the M25. We simply cannot continue to sport Metropolitan earplugs against the din of those outside London, or turn a blind eye to the growing, and increasingly violent, discontent across Europe.
Scotland rebelled against its power devolving to Westminster and caused a change in the profile of the government to one that better represents it. Surely that was a good thing?
And now they may well want out of the UK. Who could blame them? But why do we persist in clinging onto romantic notions of the status quo when a pragmatic review might be better? Could we lead by example of how to handle Scotxit negotiations?
But what can/must change to enable a better governmental representation of England? And who’s responsibility is this? Is it about Labour vs Conservative? Many feel that a huge burden of responsibility falls to the Labour party as the supposed voice of the working class. A party now in utter disarray. But then I feel the rot really set in there when a Labour leader who chose personal ambition over ethics, morality and integrity was elected. Never forget Ed Miliband came into the race at the eleventh hour effectively stabbing his brother in the back to get what he wanted. Why then was anyone so surprised at his subsequent failure? Right from the start, at a supremely fundamental level, he demonstrated a complete absence of the required qualities for true leadership.
In many ways, we saw the same thing again when Nick Clegg chose coalition over the back benches. The Conservatives could have been left as a minority government with every step challenged in the open from the outside. But he chose a perception of power instead, and destroyed his party.
For government of any hue to lead well, it must have good opposition.
Some sort of conclusion…
The emotional, essentially revenge, rhetoric being spewed by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, of “punishments” and the UK “being made an example of” to discourage others from leaving is abhorrent. It has no place in a governance supposedly driven by common values and integrity. And this level of dialogue is/was a key part of the problem in the first place! At least the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been quoted as saying she seeks a “good, objective” climate for talks about Britain’s departure from the European Union, and that there was no need to be nasty. Additionally adding that the EU must work with member countries that are unsure about the benefits of union membership. It is a wise recognition of the growing inherent discontent that existed way before Brexit. They all need to calm down and see that they have been presented with an opportunity to reform. They must seize it.
Yet five days after the referendum, even here in the UK it feels like too few voices are urging calm consideration of next steps. The democratic die has been cast, a majority voted out, we need to quit bleating and move on. After all it is the very pre-referendum doom-mongering of our financial institutions that precipitated the market’s “panic”, the definition of which is “sudden uncontrollable fear often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.” They need to get a grip! And turn it around. Rather than the picture of abject negativity that the popular press seem so keen to paint, could this not be seen as the catalyst required to prompt a new kind of Progressive Politics.
Caveat: one in which Nigel Farage should/could have no part. The man is an idiot on way too many levels to go into here. But painting all Brexiters as racist, unintelligent, Little Britainers is absurd, damning, divisive and unduly simplistic too.
What we need is someone with real ethical integrity to take up the Progressive baton and lead us forward, and herewith my real fear… I’ve no idea who that could be. Or to put it another way, I fear that those who could, will not want to.
Cue Bonnie Tyler “Holding out for a Hero“.
This article by writer Paul Mason presents a potential roadmap for Progression that references many of the points I make above.
Research by Christian Dustmann of University College London and Tommaso Frattini of the University of Milan proffered the following…”By calculating European immigrants’ share of the cost of government spending and their contribution to government revenues, the scholars estimate that between 1995 and 2011 the migrants made a positive contribution of more than £4 billion ($6.4 billion) to Britain, compared with an overall negative contribution of £591 billion for native Britons. Between 2001 and 2011, the net fiscal contribution of recent arrivals from the eastern European countries that have joined the EU since 2004 has amounted to almost £5 billion. Even during the worst years of the financial crisis, in 2007-11, they made a net contribution of almost £2 billion to British public finances. Migrants from other European countries chipped in £8.6 billion.”