Thoughts on Britain Exiting the European Union: Winners and Losers

P1020656-1I watched the returns on the British vote over whether to remain or stay in the European Union on the BBC last night until the Leave Vote took the lead by over a million votes. I shut of the television and went to bed. Had I been a betting man I would have put my money on the Brits having enough sense to stay in the union.

That I would have bet that way made me realize I had overlooked what makes the average Brit tick. I know the mentality of British people so I should not have underestimated their nativism. After all they marched off to fight the Boers in South Africa because a few thousand British miners were being deprived of the vote. To remedy this lack of franchise three times as many British soldiers died than miners got to vote.

It did not matter to those who were still alive. It showed no one could disrespect a Brit. In the context of the time the whole matter was quite odd. The  Brits were willing to fight and die because some Brits could not vote in a foreign country. At the same time they were depriving people in their own countries like Ireland and India the right to vote.

Yesterdays vote is reported as being 52% for leave to 48% for stay. If you consider that 62% of Scottish voters; 60% of London voters most of whom are new to England; and 56% of Northern Ireland voters wanted to remain in the EU then the real figures for Britain (England and Wales) is 55% leave to 45% stay.

I wildly underestimated the British xenophobia.

Prior to falling off to sleep I chastised myself for doing this because if there is anything that should be more apparent to me it is the British self-love for things British. Isn’t that why they keep the idea of the royalty alive so that they can always have a Brit in charge rather than some newcomer?

I thought of how the British people live in the past dreaming of their long gone days of glory. They are brought up on the idea: “the sun never sets on the British Empire”  and the songs like Rule Britannia that tells how Britain rules the waves and its people will never be slaves and the poems like “The Soldier” – “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign filed That is for ever England. There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed.”

I realized that the British blokes out in the countryside resented the idea that they were subject to rules by foreigners. That was the underlying current of the vote – “Britain for the British.”  As the leader of the opposition said the people who voted to exit were the “decent” folk. Or as the man accused of the murder of Jo Cox said in court: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

What won in Britain was the voice of fear of the others. It is what Donald Trump in America is basing his campaign on. The big difference between America and Britain is here we are mostly others.

Who lost? I believe Angela Merkel hinted at it when she said: “never forget that the idea of European unity was an idea of peace.”  Peace did take a beating. Europe which has had one war piled on another for centuries has experience peaceful coexistence among the European Union members for over seventy years. As we see the quasi-European nation of Russia which is outside the EU has felt no qualms about warring on its neighbors. If the British exit leads to more disintegration of the EU so will peace suffer.

Who lost? The British people. They have just complicated their ability to have an influence as part of the world’s largest trading block. Their status as a trading center and banking center for Europe will be greatly diminished. Their ability to travel freely throughout the EU nations will be lessened. They can expect as they exit the EU the Scottish people will exit the United Kingdom.

Who lost? The Irish people. With Britain as its largest trading partner it will now be bound by the EU trade agreements with England; its border with Northern Ireland will no longer be open. Will that cause the old Troubles to rear their ugly head? Despite what you may have been told the reason peace came to Ireland was its economic miracles that gave everyone hope. With the hope of being able to make a decent living the urge to murder or hate others disappears.

Yeats would remind us how when: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Who won? The Russians who seek anarchy and have been trying to disrupt the unity of Europe. They seek to weaken it and make other nations walk away as Britain has done. It is much easier to pick off the weak and the stragglers than to take on the whole herd.

Who won? Natavists and people preaching their doctrine. People who want to close their doors and live as if there are no others in the world.  The far right anti-immigration parties of Europe will also be cheered by the result. Hate has a smile on its face.

No one should be happy about Britain wandering off into the great unknown. It is a step backwards lamented by most leaders of the world. One would be leader, more of a crank, said: “The UK had taken back control. It is a great thing.” It was Donald Trump who said that.  

What about us in America? We lose because we see the world starting to splinter again and move backwards. A divided Europe is not in our interest as we learned in the past. Britain leaving the EU is like a death in that family. The great English poet reminded us: “Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for thee.”

The death of unity brings about disunity. Disunity leads to distrust.  Distrust leads to destruction. The  bells are tolling.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Britain Exiting the European Union: Winners and Losers

  1. Hey MATT ! I have read ALL of your articles since inception !

    The one on BREXIT is BY FAR the BEST—-EXCELLENT and INFORMATIVE writing !

    Thanks —My good FRIEND !

  2. Matt, Ireland will benefit from Brexit. It will be the only English-speaking nation in the EU. An Irish passport will be very valuable.

    It took six years for Greenland to separate from the EU. The UK exit may take longer.

    Any trade deals between the UK and Ireland will continue. as long as they do not breach EU regs. The ‘peace process’ Good Friday Agreements stipulate an election in 2020 on unification of North and the Republic. If the sectarianism can be buried, there could be one nation sooner than you think.

    Most people here see the next countries to to leave as Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.

  3. Sorry, but I don’t see the “xenophobia” here,

    It seems to me that the a large measure of the impetus of Brexit is EU over-regulation.

    2 examples – the “bendy banana” laws, and British hovercraft which could not get certified in the EU market:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_Regulation_(EC)_No._2257/94

    http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/media/euromyths/bendybananas.html

    http://britishhovercraft.com/blog/post/2015/11/03/Hovercraft-The-Recreational-Craft-Directive-(RCD)-CE-Marks.aspx

    Another example – under the EU association agreement with Ukraine, the import of cars older than 5 years is prohibited.

    Inserted below is a comment which a poster “stole” from someone else and posted on the Power Vertical blog at RFE/RL, which can be used, I think, just as much for arguing for Brexit as against. I don’t see Europe suddenly falling apart because of Brexit, since there are still many, many treaties and trade agreements in place.

    The EU has simply caused too much economic inconvenience – plus consider Greece trying to feed off the other EU economies “for free” – see this comment:

    “….Because for a thousand years or more, every single generation on this continent bar one has, with grim regularity and frightening enthusiasm gone to war with itself over a baffling range of pointless causes that left the flower of each generation sacrificed in yet another bloodbath.
    I did say bar one, though. In 1951, in the ruins of a destroyed continent the seeds of today’s European Union were planted, a prosaic-seeming international authority to regulate the production of coal and steel, the two key ingredients to Europe’s competing war machines.
    Making war between Europe’s nations an economic inconvenience too great to bother with was the goal. Over time, the opportunities for removing other economic inconveniences became apparent, and the peace process deepened. New members joined and whether liberated from fascist or communist dictatorship, they turned to Europe as a partner. We welcomed them into the peace process and vibrant democracies emerged.
    Britain wasn’t merely passively involved here either. We played an important role in opening up our European Union, to welcoming the former communist states into the union and removing barriers against their people.
    To turn around now would be a betrayal of our alliances, of our values and of our own interest. It would mean turning our backs on the political project that has entrenched the longest sustained peace on our continent since the time of the Emperor Augustus.
    That one generation that will never march against itself in a European war was born into a continent recovering from the insane evil of Hitler and lived through a time when peace and democracy were the norm rather then the exception. I cannot see any argument, economic, political or emotional, that would compel me to throw that away or risk it being only that one generation so blessed.”

  4. A petition calling for another Brexit referendum has gathered over a million signatures.

    Signatories are calling for a second EU vote as no campaign attracted more than 60% of the vote, and turnout was less than 75%.

    The petition on the UK Parliament website, set up by William Oliver Healey, reads: “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75%, there should be another referendum.”

    Any petition with over 100,000 supporters is automatically considered for debate in the UK’s parliament.

    1. Henry:

      It appears there is no going back. It also appears no one has any idea what is going to happen. Let us hope the Troubles do not come rushing back on the heels of the big changes.

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