Ok British and European Readers – “The Nation”

 

Ok my British and European readers!  It’s time to give us your take on Brexit!

Here is today’s article in The Nation on their views as to the reasons for the result; the piece was written by Dawn Foster.

https://www.thenation.com/article/political-elites-set-the-stage-for-a-brexit-vote-they-hated/

At 4 am, following the UK referendum on EU membership, Nigel Farage, the leader of the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party, gave a tentative victory speech. Bullish and beaming, but couching his cheer in caveats that not all areas had declared results, flanked by young men in suits jeering and pogoing, Farage announced that if the Leave campaign had won, “We will have done so without a single bullet being fired.”

This isn’t quite true. One week earlier, the pro-EU Labour Party MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death in her constituency, by Thomas Mair, a local man with links to far-right groups including the English Defence League and the pro-Apartheid Springbok Society. Several days after her murder, her husband, Brendan Cox told reporters, “She was a politician and she had very strong political views and I believe she was killed because of those views.”

The EU referendum became a conduit for anger on many issues: immigration, economic inequalities, London’s disproportionate economic boom, and disenfranchisement by an aloof political elite, an elite that after the vote appears shaken. At 8:30 am, David Cameron announced his resignation. The speed of his resignation threw prominent Leave campaigners into disarray: Former London mayor Boris Johnson was busy arguing that Article 50, which triggers the mechanism for a country to leave the EU, didn’t have to be invoked immediately. The swift resignation of the prime minister signaled that Conservatives were happy for the Leave campaigners to be forced to confront the consequences of their wishes as soon as possible.

For the left, the outcome will prompt much soul-searching. The Labour party could use this opportunity to shore up support and lead a progressive fight for the best possible trade and migration terms. Instead, several Labour MPs have put forward a motion to condemn Jeremy Corbyn, dredging up longstanding disgruntlement that has split the party since Corbyn’s surprising victory last year.

Throughout the campaign, polls showed a close battle, with both sides expecting a paper-thin victory at various points. Politicians and commentators spoke of a divided Britain: one of young “metropolitan elites” in cities voting to remain, in contrast to older ordinary voters in smaller towns still weathered by the recession and angered by the free movement EU membership allowed. The reality, as it has an irritating tendency to be, is more complex: Voters were more divided more by educational level, social class, and income than by age. But the votes were also geographically divided: Some large cities such as Sheffield and Birmingham voted to Leave, while London had some of the highest rates of Remain voters. More interesting is the fact that Scotland voted unanimously to Remain and Northern Ireland was overwhelmingly pro-EU, while Wales predominantly backed the Brexit option.

So voters are divided, but now countries are too. Both Scottish and Northern Irish politicians have stated they will seek to vote on splitting from Britain, Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein calling for reunification with the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland considering another independence referendum after 2014’s rejected vote. The ramifications for peace in Northern Ireland are at stake, but if Scotland alone secedes, the future face of Britain will change markedly, with little prospect for a Labour majority, which depends on heavily today on Scottish voters.

On the face of it, the vote was less about EU membership, despite arguments couched vaguely around sovereignty, and more a referendum on immigration: The Leave campaign’s slogan “Take Back Control” vaguely centered on law-making powers with the implicit but often explicit message that control pertained to borders. Free movement in the EU became a bogeyman: The Conservatives were keen to force the vote before the summer when newspapers fill with photographs of desperate refugees being rescued from flimsy dinghies, ramping up rhetoric that the EU is being “swamped” by people fleeing their country of origin. Across the Channel in Calais, the migrant camp has rarely been out of the headlines, with migrants doggedly trying to enter the UK to claim asylum.

Many of the areas that voted to leave the EU actually have low migrant populations, but share a sharp rise in poverty over the past decade. After the recession, the UK economy has precariously recovered, but recovery is geographically tilted toward London. In the capital, house prices have risen massively, and wages are far beyond the average seen elsewhere in the country. Outside of London, jobs have been lost, wages depressed, and public services cut massively. Since 2010, the Conservatives’ austerity measures have slashed funding for the NHS, welfare spending, and budgets for social and public services: The keener the deprivation in an area, the higher the cuts, proportionally. So the poorest have borne the brunt of austerity, and had little left to lose. Warnings that the UK faced economic ruin if it voted to leave, borne out by sterling’s collapse to its lowest point since 1985 today, had little effect on communities that already feel excluded from the reported growth in other parts of the EU.

Toward the end of the campaign, both sides began to address this angle—those expressing what often amounted to racist views were described as having “legitimate concerns,” a hackneyed and euphemistic phrase that caught on quickly, but did not address the scapegoating of migrants. Switching the scapegoat from the government to the faceless migrant, whether from Syria or Poland, is easier when people are scared for their livelihood, and more convenient for the politicians campaigning on both sides.

In a country racked by inequality, fear is easy to capitalize on. But as well as being afraid, people feel disenfranchised—and they are. Both Labour and the Conservatives have for decades withdrawn into themselves, creating a political class that is drawn predominantly from a homogeneous and elite tranche of society, wealthy and socially removed from the constituents they represent. Many politicians attended the same university, Oxford, and even studied the same course—Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The media are much the same. It’s easy then to believe the establishment is a stitch-up designed to perpetuate inequality and keep an eye out only for themselves. Recent paranoia about media outlets, including the BBC, indulging in “blackouts” of protests reflects this fear. And during polling hours, a conspiracy theory circulated that pencils were issued in polling stations to allow government bodies to erase votes, with people on social media encouraging voters to bring pens.

This alienation, coupled with the opportunity to kick back at the establishment, led to a seismic vote to withdraw from the European project. For the left to win back lost voters, the root causes of this paranoia and ennui have to be addressed, and that requires a committed anti-austerity movement that can properly challenge the current consensus, rather than bow to it. But at this point, it might be too late to fully repair the wounds inflicted by years of economic deprivation, and the withdrawal from the EU that has now been triggered.”

Is the the beginning of the end of Great Britain?  Will Scotland leave the United Kingdom?  Northern Ireland?

How about the EU as a whole?  Is this the beginning of a return to the Europe before the war?  Dominated by Germany and France, a second tier of pretenders headed by Italy and a whole polyglot of small countries erecting walls and basking in their nationalism?

Views please,

 

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About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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8 Responses to Ok British and European Readers – “The Nation”

  1. beetleypete says:

    Well, Frank, you know that I am going to have a view on this!

    This article is actually a fair representation of the campaign overall. However, don’t be too concerned about the publicity given to Nigel Farage, and his UKIP Party. They have only one member of parliament here, and Farage himself, a rich man, married to a German, and a Member of The European Parliament (MEP) failed to get himself elected in a by-election. Racism and xenophobia were hailed as the only reasons why the UK voted so convincingly to leave. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If it was true, then these racist supporters could have returned a UKIP government in the last general election, but they didn’t.

    In one of the largest turnouts in our history, ordinary people got off their sofas, and went out to vote against politicians that had patronised them, sidelined them, and marginalised their plight for decades. They didn’t all do this because they are racists, believe me. I voted leave, and I am not remotely racist. As a former communist, union official, and a life-long member of the Left, my credentials are sound.

    We do not want to become a Federalised state of a area that doesn’t really want us to be in it, just to take our money, and asset-strip our industry. We do not want to adopt the Euro as a currency, and it is doubtful that we would welcome Turkey joining either. We don’t want to be part of a European Army, and pass all our rights and law-making to faceless people in Brussels. And we definitely do not want to be told what we are, and how we should think, by British scientists, intellectuals, and the intelligentsia, looking down at us over their newspapers, from comfortable houses in the nicer parts of the Home Counties, or their holiday homes in the Dordogne.

    What happened surprised me, and I voted to Leave. I didn’t expect to win, much less by such a convincing margin. This was the little man fighting back, the worm turning, and the voice of the people actually being worth something, after all this time. Hard times may follow, but we should joyously celebrate the fact that we finally did something. At long last.
    I wrote this today.
    https://redflagflying.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/23rd-of-june-2016/
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

    • jfwknifton says:

      I won’t bother writing my reply to Frank’s post. Pete has nailed it absolutely correctly in his post. People who had never voted before, such as the girl in our local supermarket, went to the polls and voted. They had had enough of orders from rich politicians, desperate to block the gravy train’s departure from the station that the ordinary man had paid for, built, and painted according to their colour scheme.
      And the number of people arriving from the EC has been astonishing. The government’s own figures speak of 350,000 people per year coming to live here. That is, annually, more than a new St.Louis or a Pittsburgh every single year. And they are all entitled to free school places, free medical care and a welcome to England teddy bear.
      This was the day when the poor ignored working class victims of our society all stood up to be counted and gave all the smug billionaires a blood nose.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Hi Frank, While I respect the views of Pete and Mr Knifton, I can’t agree with them. Almost everyone I know here in Belfast was dismayed at the result. I am sure that many of the Eurosceptics were not motivated by racism or xenophobia. I am also quite sure that many of them were. I think Boris Johnson’s agenda was basically about Bor-in rather than Brex-it. Getting to Eton with a scholarship hardly qualifies him as a working-class hero. What will the results be? I hope I am wrong, but I think we will all be poorer. I think it will have a destabilising effect on our still-fragile peace here, though talk of a referendum on the border is a non-starter. I would vote for a united Ireland. I’m sure not enough people, north or south, would vote the same way, so there’s little point in even considering it. As for Scotland, I consider it likely that there will be another independence referendum and that Scotland will become an independent country within the EU. I also think the majority of people who voted for Brexit will find themselves deeply disappointed in a year’s time when they are poorer, when the immigrants are still here and millions and millions of pounds haven’t been poured into funding the NHS, because if we can save millions of pounds a week which would have gone to the EU, that money will be spent on bonuses for bankers or bombing the crap out of complete strangers. (Because, if you cast your mind back, it wasn’t a European army that destabilised the Middle East and caused those millions of poor people to risk death by crossing the Med in flimsy boats. It was the British following their ‘special relationship’ with the USA after Saddam’s special relationship with the USA had broken down.) I hope I am wrong about all this and that Brexit turns out to be great. But those of us who voted to stay (48%) aren’t all billionaires. I don’t have a house in the Dordogne. I live in an ordinary street and I have Polish neighbours. I think people have been led into making a terrible decision. And once again, I really, really hope I’m wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • beetleypete says:

      You make a good point about a unified Ireland. I for one support that completely. An independent Scotland might be a possibility, but that’s also about time too. I know that many people who voted to remain are living ordinary lives, and that includes some of my own friends and family. The people I was referring too were the elitist commentators who thought that they knew best for the ‘plebs.’

      Coming from Northern Ireland, you are in a community that lives and breathes politics, whether the reasons for that are good or bad. That passion ceased to exist on the mainland, with a passive electorate losing hope in the very concept of politics and democracy, and opting out instead, taking what they were given, without much protest.

      Last Thursday, that changed. If we are affected financially as a consequence, then so be it. The change was worth it, in my opinion.
      I hope that one day you get a united Ireland. It is long overdue.

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Lara/Trace says:

    The world is looking closely at it’s definitions and borders and rulers. We need that badly.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for that, Pete. As I say, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. And I understand that there is an aspect of populism to the Brexit vote, that political elites had lost touch with popular opinion. Whether the political elite we now get in an ‘independent’ UK will be any less patrician and upper class and dismissive of ordinary people is another matter. As we say here, is maith an scéalaí an aimsir – “time is a good storyteller”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s just hope it’s not a horror story …

    Like

  6. Pingback: Old Europe | toritto

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