Like very many people, the Brexit vote on Friday left me depressed. I thought it might be a narrow vote to remain like a number of other people I knew, including some who were actually in favour of it. The result, unfortunately, has been a very narrow vote to leave. I have to say that I think the relatively small majority involved means that there should have been a minimum number of votes established for the motion to succeed. This is a major constitutional change, and so I think something like the two-thirds majority many nations demand for changes to their constitutions should have been the minimum number of votes the Brexiters should have needed to win. This has not happened, and I can the rancour and division arising from the vote and the fact that it was so narrowly passed continuing for several years yet. And especially once the negative effects of the vote kicks in.
Cameron Has Destroyed Britain
Let’s start with the fact that Cameron has destroyed the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. As a result of England and Wales voting ‘Leave’, Nicola Sturgeon is now pressing for yet another referendum on Scottish independence. This time the SNP may well succeed. Even if they don’t, it will still lead to considerable constitutional friction as the desires of the Scots to remain in the EU clashes with the English and Welsh vote to leave. The result is going to be more division and acrimony.
And in Northern Ireland, that could be deadly. Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the peace initiative, there’s still very much sectarian tension in Ulster, and there is the threat anyway of a renewed terrorism campaign by dissident Irish nationalists. My own feeling is that the open border with Eire has had some effect in calming the political situation by giving the Irish Nationalists the opportunity for free contacts with the south, even if Ulster itself still remains a province of the UK. Very many people, including Mike over at Vox Political, have pointed out that the ‘Leave’ vote could cause further violence as the common membership of the EU was at the heart of the Good Friday agreement. That’s gone, and the treaty with Eire and the different parties at Stormont will have to be negotiated all over again. And if a referendum is called for the province becoming part of a united Ireland, the result could be further violence, especially from the radical sections of the loyalist community, who passionately wish to be part of the UK.
The referendum, so far, has done little except seriously to imperil the centuries-old union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
More Attacks on Workers, More Austerity, More Racism
There are many good left-wing reasons for leaving the EU. However, the ‘Leave’ campaign was orchestrated by the Tory extreme right – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart. Their main concern was to get Britain out of Europe so they could undermine further what few remaining rights workers have in this country, and so return Britain to the sweatshop conditions of the 19th century. People have died and seen their mental health made much worse already through benefit sanctions. Johnson, Gove and Patel will want to destroy the minimal welfare state that’s been left, including the NHS. The result will be further poverty.
And at the heart of this campaign has been terrible xenophobia, particularly directed against Muslims. Indeed, Farage criticised the early ‘Leave’ campaign because it was based on economic performance and the negative effects staying in Europe had on British business and the welfare state. Now the Brexit crew have admitted that their statement about the £350 million a year or so they claimed was going to Brussels, would go instead to the NHS, was a lie. Some people are going to feel betrayed. They should. But more likely this frustration and anger will be directed at the immigrants, who will continue to be blamed for taking British jobs and welfare benefits, even though this too has been exposed several times over as a lie. The result of this will be that Britain moves closer to the American far right, with Farage or Boris assuming the role of a British Donald Trump. Mike pointed out in an article on Thursday that Brexit will not substantially affect the number of immigrants coming to Britain. Over half of them are university students, another few more are coming to fill jobs where no British workers are available, and the refugees coming to Europe are covered by the international legislation on refugees, established in the 1950s, not by European law. I doubt if there will be a rise in membership of the Fascist right, as this has collapsed since it reached its peak a few years ago. What will happen is that probably more people will join UKIP, and there will be increased racist violence against Blacks and Asians. And you can guarantee that it will be stoked by papers like the Daily Heil, the Scum and the Express.
More Poverty, as Foreign Firms Pull Out
Mike over at Vox Political also put up a piece yesterday stating that Britain is likely to lose a number of foreign firms, such as the various American, Chinese and Japanese companies, that have set up business here so that they can have access to the European market. Honda in Swindon have been one, and there have been others across Britain, in places like Sunderland, which voted to leave. Now that Britain is about to leave the single market, and tariffs may be imposed on goods from Britain exported to Europe, there’s no advantage for these firms to remain here. So many will consider leaving.
See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/24/euref-the-fairy-tale-is-over-and-the-ending-wont-be-happy/
A Few Small Reasons for Hope
I don’t think that, as appalling as the Brexit is, it’s necessarily entirely bad. It gives a little more space to save the NHS and renationalise some of the industries privatised by Maggie. One of the reasons why the defenders of the NHS against privatisation, such as the authors of the book NHS SOS have been so insistent on taking action as quickly as possible, is that neoliberalism is written into the EU’s constitution and particularly its laws on competition. These state that once an industry or state concern has been privatised, it may not be renationalised, and other countries’ firms should be allowed to compete with it. This was due to come into force this year, when foreign firms were to be allowed to compete to run the railways. This piece of legislation locks in privatisation, and would mean that under the current EU legislation, we could not renationalise the NHS when Cameron, Osborne and Hunt finally privatised it.
Now Mike rightly points out that the squalid Brexit crew will want to lock in privatisation, especially with the Transatlantic Trade Partnership the Tories are so keen to sign. This needs to be very strongly resisted. Nevertheless, I don’t think the Brexit vote has been entirely bad, if England and Wales can use the opportunity it’s provided to stop the completion of the process of privatisation. But this is going to demand a considerable amount of work, and will be blocked not just by the Tories, but also by the Blairites in the Labour party.