Full disclosure. I am very much in favour of the idea of the EU.
I believe we have gotten to the point where we have no choice but have an EU type community. When I say we, I mean our nation’s law makers who must look forward decades and beyond when creating policy and introducing social structures. Our post war union of sovereign states was based on a principle of maintaining peace. But I see this union as much more than that. The modern European union is the first proper adult attempt at harmonising multiple societies, managing our dwindling resources and at the same time maintaining our diverse cultures and national interests.
We have to make this work, our world is getting rather full (though here in Finland you would not notice) Soon we homo sapiens will number eight billion. For reference, in the period around world war 1 and 2, the world’s population was at 2.5 billion. Even back then humanity wasn’t able to live with each other without regular acts of wanton genocide. Imagine what will happen in the near future with 8,9,10 billion mouths to feed and hydrate? The current tactic of closing borders and boxing people into inhospitable areas to suffer will very soon not be plausible. The human inbuilt need to escape hardship will always break down barriers, no matter how high they are built. We are going to have to find a way through this dilemma. Co-operation is the only answer. The EU is the pilot program for such a co-operation.
And so…..to Brexit
I don’t think I need to explain to people reading these web pages what Brexit is so lets skip the intro. As a person who grew up in England, Britain’s departure from the EU was not a shock to me. Those cards were on the table ever since John Major’s minority government was held hostage in the early 90’s by the Libertarian Eurosceptic caucus within the conservative party elegantly named Clear Blue Water.
Britain only had to wait for another Conservative government for that fruit to ripen, and then sour. Where as the other member countries in the bloc entered fully and whole heartedly into the project, Britain merely dipped its toe into the water and decided to wait by the shore as the rest of Europe sailed forth. Always scowling in the background of the picture but never quite in focus it wanted all the benefits of the project without any of the responsibilities. And it managed to get its way.
I campaigned hard for the leave camp as I did not wish the UK to have a vote on the EU council, have access to almost interest free ECB loans ( provided by my tax money) and then refuse to provide in return, the same commitment and rights to it citizens that the rest of Europe afforded theirs. It was morally wrong.
Britain, and England in particular, was not ready to enter such a modern treaty with other nations based on round table equality, as the UK never practiced that kind equality within their own society nor obviously in any of the 178 countries they attacked or occupied over the years. The UK population does not enjoy the reassurance of a written constitution or any other similar document that the rest of us in Europe have as its back stop. And while the UK clings desperately to the dry, faded pages of empire’s past, its citizens will always be regarded by it’s ruling classes as little more than cattle, much in the same way the English people themselves views to a large extent, its ex colonists and other countries around them.
…it was so quintessentially English.
This exact attitude was the sole cause for my leaving the country some twenty odd years ago, vowing never to return. I will not go in any detail here how the English treated us Irish living there, I will save that for a separate post. I hoped that, as the generations grew further away from the glorious empire era, the character of its people would develop into something closer a member of the world community rather that the whip hand of a slave ship. How wrong was I ? Very.
I wont mince words here. The Brexit result was based on racism and a belief that the nationalist white man’s burden was actually a real thing. People have shaded it as a ‘pushback’ in the face of globalisation and automation. But as we witnessed, in the face of these modern challenges, the citizens of Britain decided to assign the blame for their local problems, not on the real problem of unchecked neocapitalism which it created, but on the foreigners themselves. it was hateful, malicious and without shame, it was so quintessentially English.
Not a single pro leave person I spoke to, including my family, had a single case point other than immigration. Not a single one. The pure resentment could not be hidden from their tone. Within my family alone, the shades of hate are various, some hate the Polish , which is the standard position in the UK and also the non EU member, Turkey. Its worth noting that my family is Irish/Scottish. Wondering how the country went from inwardly to openly unpleasant, I think we must go back a few more years.
These continuous moments of silence served as a way to silence national dissent, lest it be considered treasonous.
I listen to the BBC World Radio service a lot. During the 100 year anniversary of World war one there was a lot of programming about the war. It is important to remember key historical events especially when so many people died.
These programmes both on the radio and TV aired several times and day and at length, everyday, month after month after month. No other country was bombarding it people like this. After a year it no longer felt like commemoration rather than a deliberate dragging up of the past for some nationalist reason. Perhaps it was conscious effort to shore up the British identity as troops came home from a seemingly failed Afghan war. Perhaps it was just plain pedestrian propaganda.
During that period I had visited London several times. I happened to be near the final military parade of remembrance (of which there were so, so many) and I just so happened to sit in a bar next to one of few veterans still alive from that time. We talked at length. I asked him about how he felt about this continuous dawn to dusk reenactment of the great war. His answer was tentative, overly polite but not at all positive. I felt it too, obscene.
With every visit back, I could see the country regressing. It looks similar to the way Turkey is heading now. Flags everywhere, military parades seemly weekly and the regular compulsory reverent moments of silence that comes with remembering those who lost their lives. These continuous moments of silence served as a way to silence national dissent, lest it be considered treasonous.
Not long after this, Prime minister Cameron announced his half hearted referendum.
Britain could bring Dodd-Frank to a global scale!
Returning to the present, there are a few positives that may be gleaned from this massive infliction of self-harm. It might be the final closure of that empire state of mind that the UK has desperately needed. Rome was famously sacked by the vandals, the Ottomans suffered a sudden loss of the east after the Arab uprising in WWI and the French, well, the French were just rubbish at empire building. Proper, proper rubbish. Britains decline in contrast was slow and in controlled steps. Rather like my expanding waistline, both happening slowly and without much attention being paid. However our mindsets are still locked into ‘thin-ish, sexy wee bastard mode’ and Global controller.
An important positive to consider regards timing. Had this withdrawal happened ten or fifteen years ago before the internet liberated the markets of bricks, mortar and paper big business would have to concede somewhat to the demands of the UK who is an important finance hub
Trump’s arrival must be a proper, ‘fall down on one’s knees and sing to the sky’ moment of good luck for Britain. As the orange one tweets his country out of the sphere of world influence and credibility, Britain should try and take up some of that slack. At least until a better President comes along.
As the England was central to the creation of neoliberalism and supply side economics, (which they moan so much about now) I would expect the country to become a tax haven. The current Conservative government is essentially libertarian by nature and so I would expect no less when it comes to business taxation and regulation. Just a month before election day the government quietly released a document called ‘ EU’s 100 most wasteful regulations’ which when read was actually a list of worker, environmental protections and limits on damaging speculative trading. Who would have thought that it was regulations of lead, asbestos and mercury exposure in manual labour that was holding the UK beast back!
Speaking of speculators, it would be beneficial for all if the UK would set up a ‘coalition of speculators’ where all the offshore tax havens would join together and host the whole speculative banking sector. This would keep the consumer arm of the banks (to be HQ’d in Frankfurt for safe keeping) separate and insulated from risks. Britain could bring Dodd-Frank to the global scale!
The second Article 50 was triggered, the process turned from a political dialogue to a business negotiation
This will, of will course mean nothing for the commoners. In fact the only real benefit I can summon up in regard to the unwashed public would be employment. Happy now, with all the darkies and Slavs gone there will be plenty of career prospects in care-homes, agriculture and cleaning. And with all the workers rights and safeguards gone (they were EU laws not UK’s) I would imagine the period of job seekers benefit to be greatly reduced in order to ‘encourage’ people to fill those low paid, low valued vacancies.
The die has been cast. No amount of moaning will affect the outcome, short of labour getting into power. So it’s time to crack on. The second Article 50 was triggered, the process turned from a political dialogue to a business negotiation. There is no room for sentimentality in a business deal. It’s about extracting every single penny and compromise from a weak, poorly briefed government. The UK of course, will blame the other 27 countries for their bad deal and in turn the population will believe it.
This is indeed a lose-lose scenario for everyone. But there is lose-lose and there is LOSE-lose.
The British people have decided to follow down the same path together with Turkey, Belarus and hungry as a kind of ‘New-Right’ axis of states that fell oh so easily to Russia’s new found leverage in Europe. The UK will, for a while, diminish. They always had to diminish. In order to rejoin the modern world they will need to a rebirth. They just decided to do it the hard way.
I wish them luck. But that would be all.