Political Turmoil

Following Brexit, the United Kingdom is now in crisis …

It has taken but a few days for political turmoil to erupt within the UK following the referendum decision to leave the European Union. Formal arrangements to quit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty have not yet begun but the political and financial implications of the vote are already being felt. The Prime Minister has effectively abdicated from any responsibility to move things forward by stating that the procedure should be undertaken by his successor, who won’t be in place until early September 2016. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who had vehemently stated that an emergency budget would be needed in the event of a vote to leave, has also backtracked and is leaving any decision to a potential new Chancellor.

On the other side of the political fence, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is facing a mass revolt within his ranks. Unprecedented numbers have resigned their shadow cabinet posts in protest at the way Corbyn conducted his campaign to remain in the EU. It is claimed that insufficient party supporters were rallied and that he took a soft approach to EU membership, emphasising the need for change rather than the existing accrued benefits. Now the deputy leader of the party is calling for his resignation.

Once a new leader of the Conservative Party is elected, the country will, once again, be led by an unelected Prime Minister. This could easily lead to an impromptu general election later in the year, undoubtedly resulting in yet more political instability and uncertainty. To say the least, the referendum has opened a huge can of worms!

With regards to the referendum result, only 71.8% of the eligible voting population cast their vote. This means that Brexit with 52% of the vote actually only have the support of 37.34% of the people which is hardly a resounding mandate to leave. The largest demographic of the population supporting the leave campaign were over fifty years of age and many will have twenty years or less to endure the aftermath. At the opposite end of the demographic spectrum, the younger generation had a high majority vote to remain in the EU, seeing it as their future but that direction has now been paved by their elders.

The financial markets have tumbled with billions of pounds wiped off the value of blue chip companies. The pound sterling has lost value against leading currencies such as the US dollar and the Euro and trading in the shares of two leading banks was suspended on 27 June following heavy losses on the London Stock Exchange. Some companies are already announcing reductions in staff and the possible relocation of operations to other European countries. So much for the Brexit claim that the UK can stand alone. It is blatantly obvious why so many people are blatantly angry at the referendum result. After all, why should an aging population effectively decide the future of their country?

Whilst the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, much of what has happened since last Thursday’s devastating result was predicted by the former deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, when addressing his Liberal Democrats Party Conference in October 2014 …

“What are we fighting against? Imagine again what it will be like in 2020, but this time with the Conservatives in government on their own. Britain, diminished and divided after a botched attempt to renegotiate our relationship with Europe and a vote to withdraw from the European Union. Companies pulling out of the UK, left, right and centre, the markets losing confidence, hiking up our borrowing costs and halting the recovery in its tracks. Workers fearing for their jobs, not just because the companies they work for are plunged into uncertainty but because their bosses can fire them at will, no questions asked. The young and the working poor hit time and time again as George Osborne takes his axe to the welfare budget with no regard for the impact on people’s lives. Schools run in the interests of profit for shareholders rather than the life chances of their pupils. A Home Oofice state snooping on your emails and social media. Opportunity reserved for a few at the top and everyone else told to make do with what they’ve got. A Tory party leadership in hock to their right wing, desperately running after and pandering to UKIP’s ugly nationalism. A Prime Minister trapped between being a poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and a rich man’s Nigel Farage. “Compassionate Conservatism” just a sound bite from a bygone age.”

It is eerie that so much of this has come true and long before the year 2020. About the only thing Nick Clegg didn’t foresee was the unexpected resignation of David Cameron and the likelihood that Osborne won’t be Chancellor for much longer! He was right about overseas investors taking fright, money flowing out of the country, the credit rating being slashed, and that the Brexit team have no plans as to how to resolve any of the issues on which they campaigned.

Some people are calling for calm and reconciliation amidst the warring factions but with political turmoil at the helm, this is unlikely to happen any time soon. What we do need is respect for other people’s views but reconciliation will only happen when everyone is seen as equal and can enter into free dialogue about their fears, hopes and aspirations. At the moment, British society appears more divided than I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. Racism is sadly resurrecting itself and there is the ever-increasing danger of right wing extremism dominating our political map. I’m one of very many people who hope that the referendum result will be annulled and that the voices of many who voted Leave, and now regret that decision, will be heard. Whatever happens in the near future, there is little doubt that United Kingdom society is dangerously fragmented and on the precipice of a very high mountain so one can only pray for a peaceful solution.

The Deed Is Done

A majority of British people have voted for the UK to leave the European Union …

In what had become a very close fought battle of claims and counter claims, the potential result on the day of voting was anyone’s guess. Several polls had put the Leave or Brexit campaign ahead but on the eve of the referendum, another poll had stated that the Remain camp was a few percentage points ahead. For me, waking up on Friday morning to the news that Brexit had won, was both sad and disconcerting.

When I say that the British have vetoed the EU, I’m not being entirely correct. Almost all of England and Wales, excluding London, declared a majority exit vote, but the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland supported remaining in the EU. The country may be known as the United Kingdom but, in reality, it is more divided than ever. Not so long ago, Scotland held a referendum on independence but this was narrowly defeated by its population on the basis of unity. However, now that the same voters have endorsed membership of the EU, it has been announced that a second referendum on possible independence could be held in an attempt for Scotland to rejoin the EU as a separate country. As people will know, Northern Ireland comprises six annexed counties bordering the Republic of Ireland which is, itself, a member of the European Union. With a history of political unrest over the last hundred years, there is a distinct possibility that the two parts of Ireland could once again become one, particularly if being part of the EU is more important to Northern Ireland than to a fragmented United Kingdom.

Previous blogs on the subject have mentioned how the campaign was based largely upon lies and deceit, neither of which are surprising given that it was a political infight. However, whilst claims made by the Remain side were largely endorsed by facts and figures, the Brexit side made sweeping statements, some of which were emblazoned on a campaign bus. One such statement referred to the assumed amount that EU membership cost with a promise that those funds would be redirected to National Health care. It comes as no surprise that such claims are now being vehemently denied by the Brexit victors, clearly illustrating that they have achieved victory by prominent deceit.

Judging by the comments on news and social media, I think the ramifications of the referendum result will be in the headlines for some time to come. The UK has already faced two casualties … the stock market has made unprecedented losses, wiping out billions of pounds in a day and far exceeding EU membership costs, and prime minister David Cameron has resigned, although he will stay in his position until this October. In the event of a Brexit victory, it was almost certain that Cameron would stand down as he put his political career on the line by holding the referendum. He used the promise of the referendum to curry votes in the 2015 General Election and now everything has backfired!

Here are a few of the Brexit claims that won over many voters and the reality of the situation.

  • Nigel Farage effectively promised £350m for the NHS but after the result, appeared on national television countering the claim.
  • Immigration from across the EU was apparently getting out of hand, notably from former Eastern bloc countries. Actually, the crisis stems from war-torn Syria in the Middle East.
  • Foreigners have apparently stolen British jobs. However, without the presence of foreign companies like BMW and Toyota, there would be no jobs. This could soon be the reality as these companies only set up operations in the UK because it was part of the EU. Also, the NHS would be grossly understaffed were it not for immigrants.
  • The Single Market will continue. This is highly unlikely in the long term unless the UK makes a considerable financial contribution. It has been stated that the UK is 60% self sufficient in respect of food requirements. That’s all very well but the remaining 40% will have to be imported, almost certainly at greater cost than currently.
  • People will still enjoy freedom of movement. That is one of the major benefits of EU integration so it’s likely to be withdrawn once the EU exit is finalised. This could have a serious impact upon young people wanting to study in mainland Europe as well as restrict their future employment prospects.

To the diehard supporters of greater Union within Europe, the impending withdrawal by the UK is akin to a divorce or death of a loved one. The country in which I was born is fast becoming unrecognisable with an influx of right wing extremism, increased racism despite more recent levels of acceptance, more xenophobia and division, and power-hungry, super-rich politicians only out for themselves. In truth, I’m no longer proud to say that I’m British and would be quite happy to divorce myself from the country. As an immigrant in another country, I appreciate the acceptance and warmth offered to me, and the attempts local people make to make one feel at home within the community.

By all accounts, the ‘vision’ of the Brexit team is to restore Britain to its old colonial powers, going it alone and swallowing up anything that gets in its way. The likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Fromage are sadly delusional as the world has moved on. Through the unity of Europe, people have not only enjoyed seventy years of peace but also helped free former oppressed Eastern bloc countries so that their people can now enjoy a life of freedom. The UK will be stepping back at least fifty years in terms of trade once the exit takes effect and the population will undoubtedly face higher costs of living and taxation. The final referendum result was 51.9% in favour of leaving and 48.1% to remain. Demographic statistics show that the vast majority of people under the age of fifty opted to remain but it was the older voters in majority who supported Brexit. This in itself is tragic as they won’t really experience the long term effects that being outside the EU will bring. It’s the younger generation who will pay the price for what I consider has been a selfish vote.

Long live Europe!

Decision Time

The date of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom dawns. If you’re reading this after 23 June 2016, then it’s all over …

The last few weeks have been awash with claims and counter claims on both sides of the argument. It must be said that scaremongering tactics have been employed by both camps, although most claims made by the Brexit group cannot be substantiated. At least the Remain group have statistics at their fingertips, even if these are sometimes manipulated in order to get their point across.

On Thursday 16 June, the country was shocked almost to the core by the assassination of a Member of Parliament representing a constituency in the north of England. Jo Cox had only been elected in May 2015, but from the outset, she campaigned tirelessly for tolerance and acceptance. In particular, she had strong views regarding immigration and made the astute point that, within her constituency at least, immigrants shared far more in common with the British than they were different. It also appears that people from many different races and backgrounds lived very much in harmony within her constituency as testimonials following her tragic death have illustrated. As a matter of respect at this very sad time, all campaigning in relation to the referendum was cancelled for three days.

Whilst facts have yet to be proven, there is evidence that the person now arrested for the atrocity voiced extreme right wing, nationalist views. In many respects, this is similar to the way the campaign has emerged as it has divided the country with statements of racism and hatred. In the event of a Brexit victory, the UK will undoubtedly see the far right secure more authority and power with a possible upsurgence of racism and fascism. These are underlying traits of the main players in the Leave camp. Only a few short years ago, Boris Johnson was singing the praises of a single market and the benefits that EU membership has brought to the UK. Now he is the lead campaigner for Brexit, so why?

The cynical side of me would say the short answer is power! Despite his weak denials, it is well documented that he is a Conservative Party leader in waiting, and it may be that his patience is running out. He is very much a control freak, ably demonstrated by his tenure as mayor of London. He is bereft of compassion towards immigrants, irrespective of circumstance, despite the fact that he, himself, is a direct descendant of an immigrant. Most of the Brexit argument centres on immigration and EU funding, and the overall attitude is one of selfishness and blame … the country’s problems are the result of immigrants, refugees and anyone but themselves. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of immigrants set up their own businesses and are a far less burden on the state than many native Brits who try and claim as much as possible without wanting to work. I actually know people who possess far more expensive electronic gadgets than me as their benefits manage to provide ‘surplus’ income, which should never be the case.

Another concern by Brexit is the drain on our National Health Service. This is basically a ‘free-to-all’ facility meaning that anyone who moves to the country can reap the benefits. That open access really does need to change and people entering the country need to contribute to the system for a minimum period of time prior to receiving free health care. However, people supporting Brexit need to look very closely at the NHS. Without immigrants, staff would be drastically reduced, meaning a rapid decline in the quality of care received. The root cause of the problems in the NHS is bureaucracy and top-heavy, highly paid administrators. I’ve lost count of how many times the NHS has reinvented itself in recent years. All this costs money … funds that could be directed to healthcare. Also, unless it’s a critical requirement, NHS resources should not be used for cosmetic surgery and people who make themselves ill through drug abuse, smoking and alcoholism should have to pay a premium for their respite care.

The country has been a member of the EU for well over forty years which, for the majority of people, is half a lifetime. If one tries to look back to the time before we joined the EU, we were anything but a ‘great’ nation. Our motor industry was in rapid decline, costly imports were often exceeding exports, industrial pollution was high, and it was the time of the Cold War and the iron curtain. Fast forward a few decades and we enjoy some of the cleanest beaches in Europe, drive low pollution, fuel-efficient motor vehicles, have restricted working hours, enjoy longer paid holidays, and are free to travel throughout most of Europe without visas and currency restrictions. Above all else, we enjoy peace and cooperation between other European nations instead of the warmongering of yesteryear. These things have only been achieved because of greater unity and dialogue.

Readers will already know my views and why Brexit is not the solution to the problems within the EU. Whilst EU immigration might reduce, it is a fair assumption that there will be an influx of immigrants from other countries as intimated by Brexit. Currently, there are many Eastern European migrants in the country doing work that no British person is prepared to do, so only the British are to blame. Ultimately, migration does need to be curbed but this can only be achieved from within the EU. The Prime Minister has already secured agreement that EU migrants will not qualify for any state benefits upon immediate arrival. This means that they will either have to be self sufficient or have sponsors to fund them in the qualifying period. Official figures show that EU migrants have contributed £20bn more to the UK economy since 2001 than they have received in benefits.

Without entering into a long endorsement, it is difficult to précis the numerous benefits of EU membership. From virtually across the globe, the overall consensus of opinion is that the UK is far better in the EU. Prominent businessmen, financial experts and foreign state leaders all highlight the potential downfall of the country in the event of a Leave vote. The economy would be in tatters and recession would hit hard, probably far worse than the recent period of austerity. Change can only come from within, and as the Prime Minister has stated, “we are stronger, safer, and better off in”. If you’re an undecided voter, I urge you to think twice before voting for Brexit and the unknown; look at all the benefits you’ve enjoyed over the years as part of the EU … economic stability, human rights, clean air, the greater safety of being part of a union, and above all, peace!

Please vote to Remain in the European Union

Facts To Counter Brexit Claims

A few nonsensical claims made by the Brexit camp …

If you are considering voting for the UK to leave the European Union based upon finger-in-the-air comments made by those campaigning for Brexit, there are a few salient points that you might like to consider.

New free trade deals will be negotiated. That won’t happen in the short term although trade would continue with EU member states under existing agreements. The greater risk is that the UK will, ultimately, disintegrate into separate nations as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland seek membership of the European Union. Remember that these nations have already met entry requirements under the existing UK membership so England could eventually see itself isolated, even by its immediate neighbours. An exit vote will simply play into the hands of those seeking even greater devolved powers.

The economy will be buoyant.  Just what ‘economy’ are they talking about? The UK is already near rock bottom following the global banking crisis of 2008 and has done little in the ensuing years to emerge as a front runner with most assets already sold off. The country’s wealth is held by a very small percentage and that won’t change whether or not the UK leaves the security of the EU. Most wealth is controlled by the financial sector in the City of London but the influence that has within global markets may well diminish outside the EU.

The UK will become a world power once more. Surprisingly, the UK is still regarded as a world power with great influence both within the EU and internationally. It has a seat on the UN Security Council and is seen as a major player given its position within Europe. It’s highly unlikely that a small, isolated nation would continue to be regarded in the same way as it would not have the combined clout of EU membership behind it.

Borders and immigration will be controlled. The UK borders are already controlled as it is one of very few EU member states that still demands passports when entering or leaving the country. Immigration is still monitored and most entrants already emanate from outside the EU. Perhaps Brexit should think about the days of UK global colonisation and the subsequent impact that has had upon immigration levels over the decades. The situation today is little more than a needle in a haystack!

The threat of terrorism will reduce. This is almost farcical as terrorists have no regard for borders. The UK has already diminished its naval fleet so trying to patrol the entire coastline is an impossible task. In fact, as an isolated nation, the UK may become a greater target for terrorists as they would no longer benefit from pan European intelligence and interstate cooperation.

Bureaucracy will be a thing of the past. By voting ‘no’ in the referendum, one is doing nothing to help reduce the bureaucracy of the EU. Most people accept that the conglomerate needs major change but this can only be achieved from within and not outside the union. All countries need to work together, and sometimes be far more vociferous, in their condemnation of some of the EU dictats but nothing will be achieved by running away or deserting a sinking ship.

British people will be better off. There is absolutely no evidence to support this statement. In fact, evidence suggests that the opposite is likely to happen. Food prices will inevitably rise, thereby affecting every person in the country. The pound, which has remained fairly strong against the Euro and other currencies in recent years, will undoubtedly weaken and that will push up interest rates and the cost of mortgages. I wonder how many people reading this remember mortgages at 15%? Job losses are likely to increase, and some mainland European-based companies have already intimated that they may withdraw operations from the UK.

Being somewhat cynical, I predict that Cameron will be replaced as leader of the Conservative Party in the event of a Brexit victory. Whilst I have minimal respect for the man, I suspect that his successor might be either George Osborne or Boris Johnson. Whilst Osborne is in favour of remaining in the EU, his track record on managing the finances of the country is abysmal. Johnson is little more than a pompous buffoon who seemingly sways from side to side in accordance with the wind direction. As an outright supporter and leader of Brexit, he has spouted little more than verbal diarrhoea, as some of the above points clearly illustrate. Just imagine the isolated UK in his hands and getting into bed with a United States under the control of Trump!

One final point … think of all the UK MEPs that would lose their jobs and their hefty salaries. One notable hypocrite comes to mind in the form of cockwomble Nigel Farage!

Vote to Remain in the European Union

EU Referendum

If you’re a resident of the United Kingdom, British, or a diehard follower of politics, you will undoubtedly be aware of the referendum on membership to be held on 23 June 2016.

In the General Election campaign of 2015, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced that the country would hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union if his party were returned to power. David Cameron was re-elected and, accordingly, has announced the date of the referendum following negotiations on what he has described as new, more favourable terms. Somewhat surprisingly, Cameron is still in favour of UK membership but now leads a very split Conservative Party with many leading figures backing the ‘no’ or ‘Brexit’ campaign.

The last few months have seen claims and counter claims emanating from both sides of the argument, and it’s fair to say that neither side is properly equipped with facts. Obviously, the ‘yes’ or ‘Remain’ group can offer more positives based upon the years that the UK has been a member of the EU whilst the Brexit campaign is simply spouting fairy tales as so many factors have yet to be experienced. In recent weeks, both sides have become virtual laughing stocks as they strive to influence their respective followers with their rhetoric and, frequently, nonsensical statements.

A stable point of the Brexit group is that leaving the EU would put the UK in a strong position to secure a free trade and cooperation deal, but with whom, exactly, it’s not known. The likelihood of the remaining EU members wanting to negotiate individually on trade deals with the UK seems highly improbable so that would mean the UK having to look much further afield, and trade deals take both considerable time and effort to finalise. Another scaremongering fact being touted by Brexit is that the UK would be safer outside the EU. They seem to forget that EU countries currently work closely together to help counteract terrorism, and once again, this level of cooperation would cease were the UK to abandon its close neighbours.

Table 2

So what exactly has the European Union done for the UK? According to Brexit, the answer is very little apart from cost the country millions of pounds. However, the truth is somewhat different, and the list of benefits is considerable. Here are a few highlights …

  • The EU has provided Britain with 57% of its trade
  • Funding has been applied directly to areas hit by industrial decline
  • Enforced legislation has resulted in cleaner air, beaches and rivers
  • Unleaded fuel, lower exhaust emissions, enhanced safety for motor vehicles
  • Enhanced social welfare and labour protection
  • Equal pay, holiday entitlement and restricted working hours
  • Smoke-free workplaces and other environments
  • Cheaper mobile charges with roaming costs soon to be abolished
  • Improved consumer protection and food standards
  • Access to European healthcare
  • Single market competition and customs-free trade within that market

Above all else, every citizen of the EU has the freedom to travel, work and live in any member state. Citizens of the EU benefit from cross-border policing to help combat human trafficking, drugs and arms smuggling as well as support for democracy and human rights. People are living in relatively safe environments as member countries exist within a climate of peace after centuries of war and uprising. In more recent years, following the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the EU has assisted in the political, social and economic changes of what were former dictatorships.

Of course, the EU is not without its faults. A prime criticism is its excessive bureaucracy and tendency to focus upon issues which trivialise its main purpose. It is right that countries such as the United Kingdom challenge some of this bureaucracy but change can only be implemented by being a part of the greater organisation. Those who support Brexit and think that the country will have a greater say in world events outside the union are sadly delusional, and are likely to find the UK without many allies in a world that depends upon greater collaboration for both financial and personal security. It has been suggested that, in the event of a Brexit victory, travellers from Britain into EU countries may need visas in the future so everyone who loves to holiday in Europe but doesn’t want to be a part of it should take note! As regular readers of my blog will know, I now reside in Spain, something that is technically only possible because of UK membership of the EU. I am shocked when I read that many British people living in Europe are actually supporting the ‘no’ campaign, despite the fact that they have benefited from EU legislation. To me, they are simply shooting themselves in the foot!