🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Roger’s View

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!


Roger JacobBrexit- No. Let’s Discuss Something Simple Like Quantum Field Theory. (This is why you have a 2,500+ word post)

Proviso

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.

Preface

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.

The Events

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

Turnout: 72.2%

Leave 17,410,742

Remain 16,141,241

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.

The Voters:

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.

Leave:

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.

Remain:

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.

Politicians:

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’

Summing Up

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.

There Is No Isolation On The World Stage — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

Earlier this week I shared a guest post by John Fioravanti about the current administration’s policy of isolationism, to segregate the U.S. from its allies and downgrade our standing on the global stage.  I asked if anybody else from outside the U.S. would be interested in writing a guest post to add perspective and add to the conversation.  Our good friend Roger, aka Woebegone but Hopeful, eagerly took up the gauntlet and has written about his perspective of our current policy from the UK point of view.  Many thanks to Roger for taking the time, for he is busily working on his latest book!


Roger Jacob

Roger

There was a fable which circulated in the old USSR in the 1980s.

Stalin, Khrushchev and the then leader Brezhnev are sitting in a train as it makes its way across the USSR. Suddenly the train lurches to a halt; after half-an-hour Stalin stands up and announces he will sort this out. He walks over to the front of the train where the driver and engineer are standing.

‘What is wrong comrades,’ he demands.

‘Comrade Stalin,’ the engineer says, ‘The machinery has broken, the part we need has not been available for months now and we’re trying to figure out what to do.’

‘Nonsense!’ storms Stalin. ‘Such a thing cannot happen in the Soviet Union,’ he points at the engineer. ‘You are spreading lies and are an enemy of the state,’ Stalin draws a gun and shoots the man dead, goes back to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Khrushchev stands up and says he will sort it out, he walks to the front of the train, looks at the body and the terrified driver and asks what has happened. The driver nervously relates what Stalin did. Khrushchev looks at the body.

‘Ah,’ he says to the corpse. ‘You were a victim of ill-judged decisions. You, comrade, are pardoned of these crimes and reinstated,’ and returns to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Brezhnev stands up and says, ‘I know. Let’s draw the shutters down on the windows and pretend the train is moving.’

It is in the nature of governments to place facts in the best light for them. We can also expect governments to make decisions which we personally do not like, and we are sure will be the wrong ones. This is nothing new. You can look back to the ‘Standard of Ur’ of 2600 BC (ish) which depicts the achievements of Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.

Many are the regimes which have had their day, when they seemed unassailable, then they fell. Either because something they had not expected happened or through hubris were convinced of their own infallibility, or bitter internal divisions tore at their foundations and as we know a House Divided against itself cannot stand.

We ignore this oft repeated lesson of History at our peril.

Because there is no avoiding the forces which have shaped human activity throughout the ages. Before recorded time, reason dictates these forces were in action it’s simply that there were no recording systems.

Thus, we come to the present era of the early decades of the 21st Century and we examine just one nation: The United States of America. Contrary to some arguments the USA did not invent all the evils in the world, no more is the USA responsible for every destructive or violent action taking place. Currently, through the forces which history records, having survived the first great test of the Civil War of 1861-1865 and remaining united a nation rich in resources both natural and human, the USA was bound to have its time of grandeur and influence upon the World Stage. Exactly when this started is something for historians to have fun discussing, but for the sake of brevity let us say at the end of WWI when President Wilson endeavoured bring forth a vision of a world peace in which even small nations had their say. Since then, 1919 to date, there has been THE USA, nearly 100 years. In the scheme of things, not very long really. For example, the British, French and Spanish averaged 300 hundred years each before combinations of Wars, Economics and competing nations shoved them off their places on the stage.

In the latter half of the USA’s time the nation has experienced that heady mix of being the dominant power to whom all others looked for aid, in envy or in competition. If you took one part out of context, say from 1950 to 2010 almost unassailable, although as others before, suffering isolated humiliations and set-backs.

Now comes the testing era.

The time when the USA, as other nations before, is yet again riven with bitter divisions. The turbulence of groups feeling long marginalised looking for equality, set against them a minority who has long and jealousy guarded its ephemeral superiority frantically inventing its own brand of victimisation to justify its stance. The House is Divided. And as is the case when a nation is not united come the rivals. Which is always the case in history as one power weakens another seeking to secure its own boundaries will move in. So come the enigmas of China and Russia, the former a mystery which despite constant pressures over the centuries is never subsumed, the latter a brooding 500 year old nation ever suspicious of all who sees buffer states as a defence. They do not suffer the same depth of division and they see advantages, albeit ones with risks, but nothing in internal diplomacy comes easy.

There never are simple solutions. There never were.

Of course, in this situation the rational response would be for the nation to look to a strong leader, who with a degree of delicate ruthlessness would bring all the squabbling parties together with the message of co-operation. This has sometimes worked in the USA, but in such a young nation still heady with its staunch belief in the independence of the individual and suspicion of central government, this does not come easy and requires a leader of judgement, discernment and one who has steeped themselves in the history of their nation who understands the drives, the fears and the wishes. Not just of a few but of ALL.

Now any nation’s leadership with an ounce of perception is cautious and calculating of the World Stage. They realise a matrix whose complications and interactions allow even one small turbulent state to bring into its circumstances larger powers and cause their downfall. Ask the dead of 1914-1918. Any nations looking for long term prosperity and survival appreciate the worth of allies, agreements and also understandings with nations it does not really care for. It also needs to invest in the goodwill of smaller folk. For as the old showbiz saying goes ‘Be nice on the way up. You’ll never know who you’ll meet on the way down.’

To those who feel a pride in the part the USA played in the reconstruction of the world after WWII there would be a sense of justifiable unease should their nation withdraw from the World Stage. Such vacuums are not filled by large, powerful, esoteric, benevolent groups whose existence can only be imagined in novels. History teaches us only powerful and less than charitable forces are likely to move in. Ask folk of the Middle East about the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Then there is Trade. Never forget Trade. Many was the Empire forged on Trade and not force of arms (apart from imposing will on weaker folk). Trade is, whether any socialist likes it or not, vital to the World Stage.

So, The Internal, The External and The Responsible. All have come calling upon the folk and the leadership of the USA, whether you like it or not. For there is no escaping The World Stage, ask any Aztec or Polynesian.

And to repeat, there are no simple solutions. Ask any professional diplomat of long service.

However, what does the USA have? Through the quirks of its voting system forced through by the fears, the disillusionments and confusions of a mobilised minority led by their vain messianic or scurrilous venal captains. Why, it has a simplistic child of privileged background, whose experience is in the shallow end of the entertainment sector and the nebulous world of high-end property development. A fellow who can only bluster and bully, whose attention span is woefully insubstantial for the World Stage. A person who makes no attempt to unite the nation or negotiate, who can only rant and rage for the entertainment of his voter base. Someone who thinks the World will do as the staff of any of his transitory companies would have done. This person whose legacy will at best be an argument against the Electoral College and a source of employment for historians of the popular sort.

Unto you then, folk of the USA, has come another challenging time. To rid yourselves of this ill-balanced, untalented and deluded group who are not suited to the unchanging complexities of the world. Who have not even bothered to read the History of this World. Those whose petulance, self-aggrandisement and woeful lack of subtlety will only serve to damage the long- term status of the USA. These little folk who pull down the shutters and pretend their train is moving.