A week or so ago, I asked our UK and Canadian friends to give us their views on the situation in their own countries, for we here in the U.S. have been so wrapped up in our own troubles that we may not fully understand theirs. Last week, John Fioravanti rung in with his take on the scandals surrounding Prime Minister Trudeau, and how they might affect the upcoming election. Three of our UK friends volunteered to give us their thoughts and views on the current state of their nation with the Brexit deadline just about 3 weeks away. Today, I am featuring Roger’s excellent analysis, tomorrow will be Colette’s, and on Wednesday, we will hear from Gary. These posts are lengthy … about 3 times as long as my usual posts, but theirs is a complex situation and cannot be condensed into a nutshell. I think you will find all three of these posts to be informative and quite interesting! And so, without further ado, I give you the words of our good friend, Roger Jacob!
Brexit- No. Let’s Discuss Something Simple Like Quantum Field Theory. (This is why you have a 2,500+ word post)
Before I commence the commentary let the record show:
(1) I voted to Remain in the EU
(2) I am so hard-left, Jeremy Corbyn and his folk are considered betrayers of the people for failing to control the narrative and throw out the Conservatives; thankfully for most people there is not the political party to suit me.
To make anything close to sense of Brexit it is essential to consider History, Social interactions, Folk-Memories, Human fallibilities and the force known as The Population. To try and take small slivers of events is to mire the reader and the writer in confusions. You cannot do Brexit in The Small. Buckle in for a long ride. For it did not start in 2016. That is only the bar-room brawl after a night of drinking and it’s not just the two who started it, it’s to do with the others who joined in or bawled and shouted their encouragement.
Brexit? Where does one begin?
In most histories it is common for some of the work to contain an account of events which precede the events being discussed. In the case of Brexit this is important when folk, be they natives or outside spectators wonder how the UK could have ended up in such a confused and humiliating mess which has taken on proportions of a Civic War (ie one is which mostly words of vitriol are used as weapons) with no indication of anything remotely such as order arising?
I will try and be brief in my own idea of a backdrop. Remember History has a long and pervasive reach.
In this we must consider the UK between 1914 and 1945 took part in two Global Wars which left the nation’s sense of pride intact but ruined the fiscal infrastructure and eventually relegated it to a second-tier power which lost its empire. In folk-memory terms this is a powerful matter to deal with, particularly when only 50-60 years ago you were top nation and won both wars. “Someone else must be to blame?” goes out the cry. Really? Oh yes. For certain. If you live in the USA ask any Confederate Waver.
On Thursday 5 June 1975 a referendum took place to decide whether UK should stay in the EU. With a national turnout of 64% across the United Kingdom, the target secure a majority for the winning side was 12,951,598 votes. The result was a decisive “Yes” to continued EC membership, which won by a huge majority of 8,908,508 votes (34.5%) over those who had voted “No” to reject continued membership.
Now bear in mind the Conservative Party officially supported joining, whereas the Welsh (Plaid Cymru) & Scottish (SNP) nationalist parties did not … Labour had no official opinion (they were in government) although it was split nearly 50/50 as a party.
Leave called ‘foul’ and continued to do so for the next 40 years.
Onto the second decade of 21st century and the wake of financial crashes caused by deregulations and a subsequent return to government of The Conservatives. By now this party was riven over the question of membership in Europe and Farage had become a bothersome but known political figure taking the previously margin comical UKIP and making it a force to scare the Conservative establishment. After a stunning General Election victory in 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron in an act which screamed for Hubris to come knocking, said there would be a referendum over EU membership in 2016. Even before the dates had been announced and campaigning formally started the battle lines were drawn and such words as ‘stupid’ and traitor’ were common currency.
Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% of participating voters voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017. Stats:
Total electorate: 46,500,001
Again, bear in mind …
Firstly, the question though: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”. The government of the day asked an opinion not a binding contract an important factor for the Remain wing.
Secondly 13,000,000 voters were conspicuous in their absence.
Anyway, it was fair democratic result. What a shame it wasn’t over something very usefully important but mundane like ‘Should there be a library in every population centre of 5,000 people’. However.
Here I mix facts mixed with commentary. My own sense of History and Politics takes over and I have to cry out:
‘Ha! God Love you all. Did you think it was going to be so easy to leave a 40-year-old multi-layered relationship?’
(I pause and for clarification’s sake admit to being a person who leans to the authoritarian in matters of the state management, and until I read 1,000 intelligent and well-argued statements in social media such as FaceBook I will maintain this stance – so sue me)
Overview of the Referendum
In short, it has to be said, whether anyone likes it or not this was a simplistic response to a very complex situation involving political, trade, economic, social, security and legal interactions built up over 40 years. If there was ever a time an electorate being unqualified to answer a question this was the time. Had there been a party with a political attention span greater than a fruit fly, perception deeper than allegorical skin-deep and an intelligent sense of how European History has worked over the past 1,200 years they would have run on a campaign for a slow, gradual and dignified withdrawal. But to be fair it was a difficult task when you represent or court the votes of ‘The Ordinary Person’.
So, let us consider the true Villains of the Peace in this matter. The ones who have been dodging the issue with self-righteous outrage and breath-taking unwillingness to reach across the divide.
Never blameless. It has to be said this time a howling mob shorn of rationale and perception. Slavering and spittle flecked.
Let us look at the Accused:
Where Were You:
Yes, there might be very good reasons why a small percentage of the 13,000,000 who did not vote were not able to. And Yes, there would be a goodly few who, so fuddled by the whole screaming match, could not make up their minds. But the ones who just ‘didn’t? In this case, when the very fate of a nation hangs in the balance…. ‘Social Irresponsibility’ is a phrase that springs to mind.
These, like most groups, are an eclectic mix. There are folk who feel small is better and a nation should run itself. There are those who think if we just leave then Britannia will once more magically rule the waves and all the money we need to build merchant fleets, large navies and all an island needs will appear. There are nasty mean-spirited racists candidates for re-education in large camps. There are folk who believe any scare story they are told. There are hard-left wingers who think the EU is a corporate stitch up (Looking at you Mr C). A number (excluding the racists) mean well. Sadly, there are an excess of the strident, belligerent and essentially ignorant and naturally attracted the attention of the politicians.
Another Eclectic group. Left-wingers who believe in Unity there is strength. Moderate Right-wingers who believe in stable markets, trade, whole trade and nothing but trade. Socially minded people who reckon whatever the opposition is saying has to be bad. Nationalists who, after the dalliance with neo-fascism in the 1970s, decided they can trust Brussels far more than London. The dogged ‘Why Rock The Boat’ folk allied to the ‘If It An’t Broke Don’t Fix It’ people. Remain also have a strident wing whose approach is to consider the Leave voters as essentially stupid (err…guilty on several counts – let the record show I was provoked)
Thus, we have in round figures 33,000,000 people who are so passionately divided that relationships and families have broken up, areas of the UK where you do not mention you voted Remain and a spike in racially aggravated attacks. A challenge for any professional politician to unite such a grouping. Sadly.
The financial collapse at the end of the first decade of the 21st century witnessed the rise of the simplistic populist and the demise of the professional, straight out of college, brief spell in something nebulous, politician. Long ago had passed the reasoned and eloquent debates to stir the heart. Thanks to the erosion of the attention span in which The People were cheerfully complicit, politics relying upon snappy sentences, regarding vague announcements on the future and condemnations of the last administration, with a suitable scapegoat minority thrown in for good measure, and of course a Popular Press who are nothing like the noble or gritty reporters of fiction.
As the populist, colourful or dogmatist took centre stage urged on by the voter base thinking Sunshine and Lollipops would be over the hill the result was a dilution in the capacities to discern, ponder and listen to the uncomfortable possibilities. They worked on the basis all would be splendid if they promised everyone what they wanted to hear. A simple, uncomplicated answer to complex matters. ‘We need to go to the moon’ ‘Fine I will build you a big step ladder’ ‘Hoorah! They’ve got my vote’
Yes, there is no avoiding this, the driving force all along has been the passionate and ill-informed voter. The person who thinks Shakespeare, Marlow, or the latest over-heated fiction set long ago is history (and that’s before we get to TV series or films). Admit it, we’ve all fallen for it, imperfect creatures that we are. Never did any of us stop and think … A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.
We The People screamed at the politicians to ‘Do Something’. We sent them hysterical e-mails, we wrote hate mail, we threatened them and their families, we chanted endlessly and waved flags, we marched, we organised petitions, we ranted, we vented spleen, our more actively inclined few said we would not have them as MPs and find someone more simplistic. Small wonder that when faced with this barrage of invective, howls of fury and mindless baying set against the mountain of complexity that is the EU and the understandable intransigence of impatient other states MPs became entangled in complex debates and curious votes which would have challenged the capacity of the best of philosophers to analyse.
People, the MPs were only reflecting you. Yes, You. You are at fault, this is Yours. Admit it.
Meanwhile Government By:
Look How Tough We Are. We Are Climbing Everest in T-shirts, Shorts and Trainers.
Those who came centre stage were the inept extremists, dogmatists and opportunists. The ones who just wanted to get ‘there’ and ‘they’ would make it all perfect and fine. In the UK the nightmare choice arose Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, two characters mired in the dogmas so deep they could not swim to the top and realise the landscapes they were in.
And having finally wrecked the last vestiges of a mature infrastructure of their governing party in strode the populist wing of the conservatives headed by opportunist Johnson and a fellow whose arrogance compares with any medieval bishop Rees-Mogg. These, so lacking in any sense of History (there’s that word folk) they thought they could drive their notions through a parliament with a history of 800 hundred years of being difficult. Edward III no pusher-over, Richard II a clever but nasty fellow, Charles I, the entire Hanoverian House, ask their ghosts about The Parliament. You simply do not say ‘This is my game. I will play in my way’. In the Late Middle Ages great and powerful folk were toppled for the old ‘We are rescuing the monarch from bad councillors’ with the approval of Parliament. These little creatures of this frenetic era have no sense of history. Of course, they try and play the People vs Parliament Card, which is double-speak of the highest order since they do not represent all of the people, just at the last count 17,000,000 +
Meanwhile The People Howl, The People March, The People urge the politicians to use words like ‘Traitor’ ‘Freedom’ and ‘Struggle’ as if we were in 1940… The People Blame … Someone else.
So to the Future
Dystopia Lite (We hope)
Who knows where this will end? I don’t mean this year’s frenetic can-can. I mean in the long years ahead.
The No-Deal, Flag-Waving, Let’s Do Churchill Impressions result.
What happens to the economy, to the infrastructure built on an EU basis. The government have plans, which a year ago those now in power would have labelled ‘Project Fear’ and dismissed as alarmist. Will those who voted Remain forgive and forget? No likely, at the first death from perceived lack of medicines there will be rage, there will … you know the rest.
Turn Around and Back From The Brink. We Remain.
Does not bear thinking about. Those 17,000,00 and the journals they ‘read’ will not go away. Lost Cause and Stab In The Back movements will proliferate (Think Southern White Supremacists or Denial in Germany Post WWI, and any other nationalist drummed up romance you care to mention). And naturally immigrants and Muslims will be blamed. Terminal Stupidity will be rife. While the wearing of Tin Foil Hats will become commonplace.
Half A Deal is Better Than None
In this case The Good Lord God saves us from ourselves and delivers unto us a Blessed Fudge. All in Parliament and their advisors claim the credit. The population stop waving flags, wearing silly hats and go home grumbling and mumbling. Everything is put on hold until the next election or referendum; when it all starts up again, though what the party stances of Conservative and Labour would be is anyone’s guess.
The nub of the issue is that whatever happens, the issue of the UK leaving the EU was raised, became public property and the British have been split along sectarian lines as if as a nation we had re-discovered religion. Scotland could drift away. Ulster will continue to mystify those outside of her borders, Wales might re-discover that London does not care and all that money was coming from The EU. The end of the UK? Possibly. Why not? Nothing new here folks, this is the latent and powerful force of History in action, driven as usual by Human Folly.
These isles might have another stroke of good fortune once the post WWII generation and their indoctrinated children have been shuffled off this mortal coil. Those born in the 21st century might have something left to build with and life can restart. The Isles might get lucky. One thing will be certain, this was not ever by any argument our finest hour.
So I conclude. Jaundiced me?
Damn straight. After a life-time of reading histories, military and political, covering from 1066 to 2010, in particular the 20th century to see an entire population of a Nation squander the loss in life and other sacrifices on some out-dated concept in this vastly complex world. And do it all in an hysterical screaming match which would make a children’s set-to look like an exercise in Rhetorical Debate.