3. The Great Unknown

8 10 2016

Brexit Blog 3:  The Great Unknown

The Bizarre Nature of the Referendum

The most bizarre thing about this referendum has been the great uncertainty factor. The government led by David Cameron and George Osborne in particular made big play about how terrible it would be if we left the EU and they rounded up and pressurized a whole bunch of influential leaders all of whom produced a whole variety of prophecies of doom. In the short term at least these have been proven to be very wrong.

In the debate between Nigel Farage and David Cameron, the then-leader of ukip was first asked why all the experts were saying leaving the EU will be a catastrophe. He cited the advice years ago from the experts to join the ERM which went wrong and then later advice to join the euro with warning of how bad it would be if we didn’t, and they were wrong.

While not wanting to rely upon a leader who appears to move in and out of the leadership of a party which some say has outlived its original purpose, there is a truth that is quite evident that actually trying to forecast how the future will work out is a mug’s game, and in the short-term at least that forecasting has been largely wrong.

The campaigning before the referendum, on both sides, was often frenetic with wild statements being made while the rest of us looked on and knew deep down, NO ONE KNOWS how it will work out either way.

Blinkered Vision – Limited Knowledge

Looking back on the campaigning it seems like there was either a loss of reality that personal bias brings or things were being said with the intention of steamrollering truth for the reason I’ve just given and so the outcome was, “We must say anything to win our case because we don’t actually KNOW what outcomes there will be, but we are sure WE are right!”

There have been those who have said, “We need to have another referendum because the  Leave people were not told the full facts and the vote was taken on imperfect information.” I like the old adage that says, “The one thing about history is that history teaches us nothing.” I say this because if this is true – and it is almost certainly true of both sides because neither side could see with a certainty what will happen – then history is indeed repeating itself.

Andrew Marr in his weighty tome, “A History of Modern Britain”, makes an interesting point when he covers the referendum that took us into the EU when he says, “More than thirty years later, the bigger question both about Heath’s triumph in engineering British membership and then about the Labour referendum, is whether the British were told the full story and truly understood the supranational organisation that they were signing up to. Ever since, many of those among the 8.5 million who voted against, and younger people who share their view, have suggested that Heath and Jenkins and the rest lied to the country, at least by omission.”

He goes on to suggest that may not be entirely true yet concludes, “Yet both in Parliament and in the referendum campaign, the full consequences for national independence were mumbled, not spoken clearly enough.”

From all he says, going on his information, no doubt voices were raised in all directions but with such monumental decisions, it is almost certain the entire truth will never be known.  Back then we took a leap of faith. This year we have taken another one. The past forty years have suggested many ups and downs of life within the EU and no doubt, in the next however many years, there will be similar ups and downs but now on the opposite side. The question has to be, will we do all we can to make it good? Some of the ramblings on this blog may, hopefully address some of the aspects of what is happening and what might happen.

Self-fulfilling prophecies of doom or success?

In the aftermath there have still been predictions that it will yet go pear shaped from doom-mongers of Remain which somehow feel like ‘sour grapes’, we didn’t get our way so we’re going to make it sound bad so it might go bad and we’ll be proved right and you wrong.

IF this is true, then surely this is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Fact 1: We had an election. Fact 2: That election was won by the Leave side.  Fact 3: We don’t rerun elections because we didn’t like the outcome. Fact 4: The present Prime Minister in her desire to honor the will of the majority people as shown by the referendum result has decreed we will honor that and Brexit means Brexit.

It is always possible that this decision will turn out to be the worst decision made by the country for a long time (although I personally don’t think it will) but surely it is in all of our interests to do all we can to see that that decision works for us as a nation, and for Europe as a close trading group in the rest of the world.

One with the EU?

In a remarkably statesmanlike and somber mood, Boris Johnson on the morning of the result said the following: “it does not mean it will be any less European. I want to speak directly to the millions of people who did not vote for this outcome, especially young people who may feel that this decision involves somehow pulling up the drawbridge because I think the very opposite is true. We cannot turn our backs on Europe. We are part of Europe, our children and our grandchildren will continue to have a wonderful future as Europeans, travelling to the continent, understanding the languages and the cultures that make up our common European civilisation, continuing to interact with the peoples of other countries in a way that is open and friendly and outward looking. And I want to reassure everyone Britain will continue to be a great European power, leading discussions on defence and foreign policy and the work that goes on to make our world safer.”

Who back then, at the time of the referendum could have guessed that the wisdom of a new woman Prime Minister would ever make that speaker the next Foreign Secretary?  Whether those words can be fulfilled will, in a measure, be determined by the EU itself, and that subject must be part of a separate discussion. Watch this space.

2. Why we voted as we did

7 10 2016

Brexit Blog 2: Why  we voted as we did

Why we voted as we did: an initial response

From the outset many voices have been raised in trying to explain the outcome. Bearing in mind, the referendum occurred on Thursday 23 June 2016 with the results coming out on the 24th, the following is a remarkably apparently accurate ‘instant’ assessment: “Although the vote has to be interpreted as an instruction to withdraw from the EU, it sounded in the early hours of Friday more like a howl of rage and frustration by one half of the country against the system of power, wealth and privilege perceived to be controlled by an elite residing, well, elsewhere.” (Rafael Behr – The Guardian – 24 June 2016)

I say this in the light of the Rowntree Foundation report that came out in August 2016 and which stated, “Put simply, older, white and more economically insecure people with low levels of educational attainment were consistently more likely to vote for Brexit than younger people, degree-holders, minorities and the more secure middle- and upper-classes.” (Rowntree Foundation Report: Aug 2016)

Both follow the idea that there was a divide in the nation that has been variously been labelled as London versus the rest, or north versus south, or rich versus poor, or old versus young.

Why we voted as we did: wonderings

Having said what we have said, I have my own personal wonderings, and that is all they are. Before the vote I was aware that in my family, my sons, and to a lesser measure my son-in-law, were all verging on definitely remain while I, the patriarch of this family was definitely for “let’s leave!” This seemed to conform to the patterns above but then as there were soundings being taken around the country on TV, I was surprised at the number of young people who were saying they wanted out – but it is of course possible that they fitted into the lower educated or economically insecure groups that Rowntree spoke of, who really know?

If it was young versus old, then here is my take on that. I am absolutely certain that for the last fifty years there has been a trend in demeaning Britishness (I will look at this again in a later blog on racism). On one hand we have become more affluent and multicultural while on the other hand we have become less secure and less proud of being British, and subsequent governments have allowed ‘foreign investors’ to take over large parts of industrial Britain so we are very much tenants of a land increasingly owned by others.

One of the surprising features of the post-referendum period has been the violent opposition to Brexit by those who quite obviously voted to remain. Never before have we seen the idea of “we don’t like the result of this election so let’s have another one until ‘we’ get our way”. I would suggest that behind this is fear of going down a slippery slope of isolationism into poverty because we are no longer being nurtured and cared for by the EU. (I believe that is an inaccurate perception anyway).

My own voting to leave came purely from a gut feeling that this was better for us as a nation, providing a possibility of challenging us (and our young people) to think better of ourselves and take on a new national pride (which I will no doubt refer to again in the future) and all the good things that can go with that.  I have a punchline comment to all this but will leave it to the next blog as I want to limit the length of each one to make it more readable.

Brexit: 1. Intro & Referendum Results

6 10 2016

Brexit Blog 1: Referendum Results

Why write

I suppose before I really start writing I ought to acknowledge why I am writing about this particular subject on this blog. I suspect it is because I have a feeling that history is rushing by and, as I have come to notice recently, so often we miss so much of what is going on around us, and then we look back with a sense of loss. It is, I suppose, the inevitable outcome of being in a news saturated society, and a world that is so busy and constantly changing.  One of these days someone will, no doubt, write a book cataloging just what went on in this momentous year for Britain but all I hope to do is catch up in a most basic way on some of the key aspects of the referendum and the Brexit phenomenon.

Unlike my other blogs, this one has no intention of being spiritual as such. My qualifications for writing are that I have a background of Law and Economics which have given me a certain ability to read and legalese and to observe the goings on of governments, and I am a keen observer of the reporting of the media. It is my intention to pick up on a number of aspects of the referendum and of Brexit, noting particularly what others say and making some basic comments thereon. In this first blog of this subject, I will simply catch up on the results of the referendum as a starting point.

What Happened

It is now over three months since that momentous vote that said ‘we want out’. To remind ourselves the results for the UK as a whole were

                      51.9% (17,410,742 votes) votes for out, and

                     48.1% (16,141,241 votes) voted to remain.

The results for the individual parts were:

England: Leave 53.4% (15,188,406 votes) Remain 46.6% (13,266,996 votes) Turnout: 73.0%

Wales:  Leave 52.5% (854,572 votes), Remain 47.5% (772,347 votes) Turnout: 71.7%

Northern Ireland: Leave 44.2%(349,442 votes), Remain 55.8%(440,707 votes) Turnout: 62.7%

Scotland: Leave 38.0% (1,018,322 votes), Remain 62.0% (1,661,191 votes) Turnout: 67.2%

England and Wales went for Out, Scotland and Northern Ireland went for Remain. It is interesting that the two ‘Out’ regions both had higher turnouts than the other two.

The Significance of the Vote

I realise I have now used the word ‘momentous’ twice above. The dictionary defines that as of great importance or significance, especially in having a bearing on future events,’ which I think is a pretty fair description of what has happened this year and is why I am now writing.

A Guardian writer called it ‘historic’: “The UK’s historic decision to end its 43-year love-hate relationship with the European Union represents a turning point in British history to rank alongside the two world wars of the 20th century.” (Patrick Wintour – The Guardian – 24 June 2016) Dictionary: ‘historic = famous or important in history, or potentially so’.

What is interesting about those two words is that one seems to look forwards to the future outcomes and the other looks back and compares it with comparable events in the past. Whether it ranks alongside the two world wars, I’m not sure and only time will tell.