If you’ve been following my recent posts, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m delighted that Britain has, narrowly, voted for Brexit. The vote kept me up all night, watching at first with trepidation, then with elation as the Leave total climbed ahead of Remain. The first step towards the reformation of Britain has been taken and I can only hope that the British have the stomach and the will to follow through to full political and social reform of the UK.
What has surprised me, although, given the nastiness of their campaigning, it really shouldn’t have, is the vitriol pouring from the supporters of Remain. Before the results came in, fearing that the last opinion poll was likely to be accurate, I spent a long time attempting to compose a post to use on Facebook in event of a Remain victory, one that would convey my obvious disappointment without spewing out hatred at those who had chosen to vote differently. Interestingly, other Leave supporters I spoke to at that time, again believing they would narrowly lose, took a similarly decent approach and, following victory, a similar tone of pleasantness has been the norm, happiness at the success without seeking to demonise or insult the Leave camp (excepting jokes about Cameron, but the Leavers have been bashing him just as much, if not more), and, frequently, a frank appraisal of the challenges facing the UK.
But, with a few honourable exceptions, the reaction from the Remain camp has been hysterically nasty. Apparently, those of us who voted Leave are xenophobic, racist, fascist morons who cannot think for ourselves or utilise logic. Now, I won’t deny that there are bound to be supporters of Brexit out there who are xenophobic and racist morons who didn’t understand the issues, because it’s human nature that every cause attracts idiots and people with their own agenda. But, everyone I know who voted to Leave did so after giving lengthy thought to the issue (it’s a topic I’ve been following for over twenty years). It wasn’t a decision they made lightly or without understanding the issues involved. Indeed, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, a primary issue motivating my vote, and many of those I know, after the sovereignty issue, was the fact that it’s the EU that’s xenophobic, racist and inward looking.
Unfortunately, as is well known, if a lie is repeated often enough and with sufficient confidence, people will come to believe it, and so it is that the Remainers parrot such accusations against those who voted to Leave, convincing themselves and others that it’s true. Sadly, a lot of Americans seem to have taken up this myth and are busy abusing the British, too, without understanding anything about the situation.
The problem is that, if Britain is to move ahead, everybody needs to work together and this ongoing hatred, which is only likely to stir a similar feeling amongst the Leavers who are being abused, will only fuel division further. Indeed, by further polarising opinion, the Remain camp are likely to create the anti-immigrant sentiment they profess to fear. Of course, this is probably exactly what its instigators want: if the people of Britain are divided, the further necessary reforms will be subsumed by internecine struggles, allowing the unaccountable elite to continue to leach off the people. Division is the source of all despotic power, after all.
Although there has been some economic turbulence, as was to be expected, it already seem to be dying down. Given that withdrawal from the EU is likely to take more than two years to see through and the details have yet to be decided, the drop in the pound and the value of shares will only be temporary unless exacerbated by panic. (Not that the Remain camp’s actions in emphasising risk have helped, adding to the uncertainty felt by traders and the incipient panic in some quarters.) Political chaos is more of a threat, ironically potentially jeopardising the right of those who supported Remain to have their say in how the country should be reshaped, should they take the path of whining, sulking and disrupting rather than compromise, reconciliation and debate.
We do face questions about the future of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU, but those will be discussed as part of the withdrawal process, unless events in Europe render such discussions moot. More referenda are likely to follow across Europe as those countries with strong Eurosceptic blocs push to follow the British example, but that was only to be expected given the intransigence of the political elite in reforming the EU.
Here is the UK, we do face the challenge of Northern Ireland and Scotland, which both had majority’s for remain. The former is not such an issue as the major issue is freedom of movement across the Irish border, which has existed since the 1920s. The Irish engender virtually no concern compared to other immigrants, so it’s highly unlikely anybody would seek to change the current, favourable conditions they enjoy. Although Sinn Fein has called for a vote on the unification of Ireland, it’s unlikely to happen unless the border is closed. Indeed, there is a question of whether southern Ireland would actually want to be reunited with the north. In principle, as a romantic notion, most of the Irish would support unification, but in practicality, that would mean taking on a substantial numbers of Sinn Fein supporters and Ulster Unionists. Although Sinn Fein MPs have recently been elected in the south and the party is being rehabilitated, there is still bad blood from the Irish civil war that means some of the Irish wouldn’t be happy at the influx (and the establishment, even more so, Sinn Fein having established itself as a party of protest). But, it is the Ulster Unionists who would be even less happy to be part of a united Ireland and would be even less well received. Now, it is possible, if the situation were carefully handled, that the Unionists could be integrated within a united Ireland (especially as the south is no longer overtly Catholic, although it’s probably far too liberal for many Unionists’ tastes). However, it’s more likely such unification would be strenuously resisted, perhaps even with a return to violence, something that many in the south would likely prefer.
The secession of Scotland, however, is much more plausible a scenario given that a significantly-high remain vote does raise an honest question about whether it should be forced to leave the EU. However, a low turnout does call into count how strongly Scottish conviction is on the topic and it could be argued that, given the EU vote was on the agenda when the Scottish referendum was held, there was a tacit agreement by the electorate (if not the SNP) to be bound by its result in return for staying in the UK. But, we could well see a second referendum on Scottish independence, despite the possibility of their being allowed to join the EU being very unclear (does the British Leave vote make their acceptance more likely or less so?). Of course, given that withdrawal isn’t likely to happen too soon, it’s probable that such a referendum will be a year or more away, giving time for the Scots to assess what leaving the EU is likely to actually mean and observe how the EU itself proceeds from here: It’s quite possible they would be joining a significantly-smaller union or that it may even have ceased to exist – a hasty independence referendum could leave Scotland alone in the cold. All of which assumes, of course, that the English and Welsh don’t decide to be rid of the Scots and push them before they can jump.
Then, there is the promised resignation of Cameron, which, hopefully, will go ahead. His position is untenable. Most who voted Leave have no love for him and many in the Remain camp blame him for the result, while the Tories are more divided than ever. He’s also in no position to oversee Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, having conspicuously flopped in his attempt to get Britain a better deal and been vocally in favour of remaining. While staying on a short while might help provide some short-term stability, it may be better if he goes sooner so that someone else can take a firm hold upon policy to see Britain through.
Corbyn, too, looks shaky, given his ambivalent stance on the EU and some Labour MPs feeling he has performed poorly. It’s entirely possible we could end up with new leaders for Britain’s two major parties before we face a general election, even if one is called early to create a new mandate for parliament to deal with the issue of withdrawal.
We won’t know for certain how things will unfold for some time, but these will prove to be interesting times. The problem is that lacklustre leadership from Cameron and the silly panic of those who voted remain and insist on talking Britain down could well undermine the economy. But, with stronger leadership and everyone pulling together and remaining confident and positive, the future is a bright one that offers us the opportunity to remould Britain into a better nation. I sincerely hope that we can do it and that the British don’t give in to manufactured despair. The future truly can be bright.