As I’m making a fresh start with this website though it is taking rather longer than intended as I create totally new content, I thought that I might end here with doing a tidy up on one particular current affairs topic and that is Brexit or more specifically, my views on Brexit so that moving forwards, I can avoid constantly returning to it because the whole subject has got all quite tedious for the vast majority of us.
Before I trash all the previous content on this site, I find that I had posted some 261 articles since October 2014 when I had last refreshed this content and site design, of them 192 were on “Current Affairs” and probably 60% of those were on the topic of Brexit or things related to it so the question is, how can you write so much crap on just one topic ?
I wrote the stuff but going back wasn’t that interested in reading every article I posted so I just ‘speed read’ through the majority of it and it did make an interesting tale in a personal sense so I thought that I would sketch that out here because it may mirror other people’s personal experiences regardless of which way they voted in the EU Referendum.
David Cameron originally offered the possibility of an EU referendum for purely party political reasons, to prevent UKIP splitting the right wing vote in constituencies that might result in Conservative candidates losing Parliamentary seats to others like Labour or the LibDems, UKIP actually winning the seat not being the Tory Party’s main concern.
In all truth and whilst culturally from time to time, being part of the EU was ‘uncomfortable or irritating’ it hadn’t been an election winning platform for any party though it had created internal divisions for them, the British electorate on the whole were not that engaged with it and the EU hadn’t done anything significant enough to really annoy them. Polls for members of the European Parliament attracted low turnouts and sending a load of UKIP candidates to Brussels was considered a “bit of a laugh” because the EU Parliament never had any traction in UK political life, as it probably doesn’t in most if not all EU countries come to that. The interesting thing to contemplate is just what changed that British indifference ? The answer is likely a combination of things rather than just one specific thing.
The starting point was the European Constitution which was killed off by French and Dutch voters in referendums which achieved two main things, the end of federalist dreams for a “United States of Europe” and also, a total distrust of both the electorate and giving them referendums by the Brussels elite. However, they were persistent and the failed EU Referendum morphed into the Lisbon Treaty which the then British PM, Gordon Brown made a complete pigs ear of by turning up at the backdoor to sign it when everybody else in the EU had left. Then under pressure from the EU and the former PM Blair, he refused a referendum on it and made it a purely “Parliamentary Ratification Process” the public weren’t allowed a say.
In the end this didn’t matter so much as we all became engulfed in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/2008 but it did leave a legacy that would later play out as the UK started to get an increasing flood of people from other EU States as the UK economy offered greater economic opportunities than they had back home. Now the truth is, there were jobs for these people and they made and continue to make a substantial contribution to British society but the numbers should not be ignored, over a short time some 3 million people have settled here and that has impacts on all sorts of infrastructure as well as the indigenous population’s perceptions of immigration.
The global crash certainly threw into sharp relief some serious failings within the EU and particularly with that “bastard child” of theirs, the Euro, a currency found seriously wanting when put to the test because it lacked the basic support structure to make a single currency work. The belated attempts of the Northern Europeans led by Germany to inject the kind of basic disciplines required for a single currency just led to the Mediterranean economies going into a sharp decline which culminated in the crucifixion of the Greeks, a serious mistake by all the parties involved.
The next big blow to any concept of EU competence came with the floods of refugees from Syria and most points east of it too which led to Merkel’s insane ‘open arms’ declaration and the complete lack of any common EU based action plan to deal with the influx. Once Germany realised what a mess it had got itself into, the EU started talking about EU countries having immigrant ‘quotas’ imposed upon them which didn’t go down at all well with the Balkan and former Communist countries, uproar and total inaction followed.
Into all this came David Cameron with his aim of ‘reforming’ our relationship with the EU a project that went absolutely nowhere and although he was given nothing of any value, he made out that ‘great things’ had been achieved. This was a serious mistake, he should have walked away and returned to attempt it at a later date because it was obvious that the EU needed radical reform because it could no longer encompass all the needs of its 28 member states. Increasingly it was obvious that it was not just the UK that had a problem with the way the EU operated, other countries too had their own issues.
Looking Back on My Posts
Although not a great fan of the EU, I was prepared to vote Remain if Cameron got a reasonable deal where it looked like the EU really cared about the issue and wanted to keep the UK electorate on side and this showed up in the various blogs I posted at that time. For me my views hardened when it first became obvious that Cameron was getting nothing out of the EU but they only really turned when it became clear that Cameron was going to pretend that he had achieved something and go for an early referendum which I considered a big mistake he really should have hastened slowly over that but he was a man in a hurry.
Once the campaign got underway, it was obvious that Cameron and the Remain camp considered that the referendum was just a formality, they would certainly win and their whole approach was based around that, their arguments veering between the lazy and the arrogant, this changed dramatically in the closing stages with “Project Fear”. Of course I could not argue with them because on paper at least, there was no chance that Leave could win this referendum. Only 13 months previously at the 2015 general election, the only party devoted to exiting the EU, UKIP, didn’t get 4 million votes nation wide. Obviously on a single issue, the EU this would change so Leave polling some 8 million was a certainty and at a push, perhaps topping out at 12 million as their high water mark which would easily deliver the anticipated 60/40 vote for Remain that was anticipated.
Never the less and although almost certainly being on the losing side, I decided to vote Leave and would not have fussed about losing. The reason for this was simple, I had come to the view that the EU as we know it today will not exist in its current form in 5-10 years, blown apart by its own contradictions and especially the increasing burden of the Euro. So although on the losing side, to me it was just a delay in our inevitable departure, I have a similar view about a “Transition Period” in a years time for the following 21 months, a minor delay to our leaving and no more than that.
The Shock Result and its Aftermath
On the Friday morning following the poll, I was more interested in the overall percentages and like everybody else, was totally stunned by the result, 17.4 million people, a majority, voting for Leave, Good Heavens above, even the Leave Campaign was stunned !
What followed with David Cameron effectively running away and a Tory leadership contest was high drama or high camp according to your personal preferences but one key factor emerged, a bitter and unremitting rearguard action by the Remain camp that continues to this day.
This given that our democracy is based on first past the post and we reaffirmed that during the Coalition Government of Cameron and Clegg, was and is, totally incorrect, our “British Way” is to accept the democratic result. Their justification for assaulting the result which they would have accepted if it had gone their way, that it is “Too important” and that all Leave voters were, “old, lacked any education and were knuckle scrapping idiots” who were clearly incapable of understanding the issues was totally and obviously incorrect given that it was 52% of the poll on a high turnout.
So what to make of it all in this most civil and democratic of countries where its strength comes from trusting in our tried and tested institutions and processes ?
In all truth as I wrote about each new assault launched by The Economist, FT, Independent etc over the following 18 months, I was just fire fighting, in my own way and whilst involved in that sort of activity, it is often too difficult to see the wood for the trees. However, once I stepped back after writing my last post on my old version of this blog in mid February, I created the time for myself to mull over events and started to see a bigger picture emerge which I share as below.
Both Old and New
It seems to me that the EU issue has a British historical equivalent and I suspect that the eventual outcome of current events will mirror that as well. If we look at it through the prism of the English Civil War we have an exact parallel, Remain are the Royalists, Leave are the Parliamentarians, if you prefer, Remain is for the status quo because they believe it suits them personally whilst Leave is for change because the current situation doesn’t suit them personally at all.
Just as Parliament won the war so too did Leave win the Referendum however and as history tells us, in the 17th Century the Restoration of the Monarchy followed within a relatively short period of time. When that happened though, a substantial change had taken place in that the Monarch no longer had the same powers as previously, Parliament was the place where the executive power had migrated to, we were on the long process that has culminated in our constitutional monarchy of today.
Likewise today and however drawn out and tedious they are, the Brexit negotiations are laying down a blueprint for a major change in the way the EU will operate in the future for potentially all member states and not just the UK. This is a road map to the changes needed for a reduced and leaner EU able to survive and prosper in the future, a more flexible structure that will better reflect the economic and social challenges ahead for the whole of the global economy.
Although David Cameron’s attempt to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU had its origins in UK party politics and because the tide wasn’t with him, was doomed to failure, never the less it set in train important and I suspect, eventually beneficial events not just for the UK but also the EU itself. Well that is my prediction so for now, I will put the topic to rest, whatever will eventually happen is already in progress !