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The Ericle considers himself very fortunate to have been away from the UK for the Referendum Leave decision. That is not to say that I did not follow the results, the aftermath and the massive over-reactions that they excited, with great interest. I say ‘fortunate’ only in as much as having declared myself as a Brexit supporter, I became somewhat of a target for some of my disgruntled readers wanting to vent spleen at individuals that they knew had voted this way. Given the clear geographic & socio-demographic splits that occurred, I suspect that they actually knew very few persons who voted Leave? This notwithstanding, the following is a considered response to one of my readers who posted the message: “So are you happy now?” on my personal Facebook* page on June 24th. The rest of you are most welcome to read on, too!

I am not going to rehash the reasons why I voted for Brexit, but if you are so minded as to what I felt was at issue read here and here.

On June 24th I wrote the following:

I am an optimist by nature and really do believe that when the history is written it will look kindly on the UK’s stand as being key, not only to our country’s positive reframing of its position but also, to a recasting of a Europe with a more rational achievable long-term agenda and driven by more democratic institutions that are more fit-for-purpose.

Two weeks on, I can see no reason to change my opinions; especially given that both sides in the debate acknowledged that a vote to Leave would result in an immediate economic reaction on world markets. I must admit to being surprised, though, at how quickly a power vacuum has developed at the top end of British politics – which has clearly not been helpful. Thinking about it, perhaps it would always have been thus as no referendum to date has actually gone against the party in government. So, as I look at it now, what are the conclusions can be drawn from it all:

  • The British Constitution, if not exactly rotten, is dangerously unclear. When Thatcher effectively shredded the unwritten British Constitution – which had featured centrally in my A-level course of that name in the late 1960s – she ushered in an era of Prime Ministerial dictatorship; a dictatorship that enabled her to crush the unions, that enabled Bliar to lead the country into the Iraq misadventure and that enabled Cameron to call a referendum that suited his very short-term political agenda but was the wrong referendum at the wrong time. Moreover, the constitution appears incapable of providing a clear answer as to how and what needs to happen next – that is unless we revert to that element of the unwritten constitution that said that parliament must never undertake a course of action against the will of the people!

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  • Which brings me to the next unanswerable issue: what exactly was the will of the people? Clearly this question meant different things to different people. In my case, having been asked the question, I decided to respond to the issue on the institutional and constitutional dimensions of the matter. Others, the majority certainly, elevated the issue of immigration as central to their decision. Others, a minority, voted Leave because they are Little Englanders or, even worse, racists. Call me naïve, but I do not accept that the Leave decision negates a requirement for a humane and moral UK immigration policy. And another thing, the referendum was not about who should hold the keys to Number 10; albeit that at times the media (see below) almost made it appear that, following a Leave decision, Nigel Farage would be given a cabinet position, or that UKIP would be forming the next government. And as for the prevailing notion that a Leave vote was effectively voting in Boris as PM..….

'I told you that 'will of the people' stuff would backfire!'

  • The media have a case to answer. By handing over the Leave microphone to the Big Beasts of the political extremes, they exacerbated the polarisation of UK society for their own headline-grabbing agenda. When this predilection was accompanied by the defection of Jeremy Corbyn to the Remain side, after a political lifetime of Euro-scepticism, any chance of a debate not dominated by political extremists went out of the window.

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  • We live in a polarised world. London reaped what it sowed in The referendum. Remain lost because the rest of England feels abandoned by Westminster politics that follows the diktats of the banking community and the politics of “I’m ok, so what’s the problem?” of South-East England property owners. It makes no difference as to why exactly the rest of England chose this time to stick its finger up to a Government and its London-centric paymasters – the fact is that it did, simple as that.

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  • The tone of political debate has never sunk lower. We used to look askance at how politics was transacted in the USA, but no longer. As far as I can see it, there is no difference between the faux-patriotic and fundamentalist Christian politics of “who-is-not-with-me-is-against-me” that is found across the Puddle and what came down in this referendum. It was primitive and ugly, and continues to be after the result. As Dominic Lawson succinctly put it in this week’s Sunday Times, listening to some of the 48% minority, they might as well be saying: “Why should the pond life that dragged itself from the estates to the ballot box be allowed to ruin everything for the rest of us?”

quo vadis

So where do we go from here?

As the days that followed the result showed in spades, a day is a very long time in politics. We all need to calm down and get a grip and, more importantly, we have to encourage our representatives to do the same. The UK has not become protectionist overnight – we are a country that has always espoused trade. Similarly for the rest of the EU, whose very existence came about in order to foster regional trade. This has not changed. If anything the EU has got itself into a mess because it has ignored the realities of national trade and sought an economic and political agenda for Europe that goes wildly beyond the appetites of its member states and its populations. Free movement of labour is an important companion to this working philosophy and will not be abandoned when final arrangements are put into place. And, in the end, if Europe is going to deal effectively with its regional problems and opportunities, it will need to reach regional agreements, acceptable to all, in order to achieve this.

The biggest dangers to sane and stable outcomes derive from straight line projections on the basis of worst negative fears. On the UK side, there is a huge need to stop finger-pointing and to start planning positively. The delays caused by the current political leadership contests are not a helpful, but these too need to be dealt with patiently. On the European side all talk of retribution and Anglophobia (JC Juncker, please note) need to be silenced. What’s done is done. The Referendum is history, we need to move on calmly and in the spirit of mutual interest. If most of us can do this, the Referendum result may yet turn out to be something that is for the good of all.

 

* Dear Reader, please note that I choose to fastidiously separate my political & personal personae on Facebook. This is not to hide my political opinions; rather to respect my friends’ options not to have my political opinions thrust upon them.

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