Barriers and lies, fawned by Brexit

The analysis also shows that a majority of young people voted to stay in EU.

Don’t knock a man when he is down” is an excellent maxim, and that must be the only reason that the knives are not out for Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron. That, plus the fact that he forestalled trouble by announcing his resignation. But in the cold light of day after the country voted to get out of the European Union, you cannot overlook the fact that Britain, EU and the world have been thrown into turmoil because of one man’s monumental blunder. To recap, Mr Cameron and his Conservative Party won a landmark election only last year that gave his party a decisive majority without a coalition for the first time in 23 years.

It is true that one of his election promises was that he would hold a referendum about EU, but was that the only reason he was elected? Was he going to fulfil all his election promises just a year after coming into office? So what was the need to hold the referendum when he could have run the government for another four years? What, indeed, was the need for a referendum at all? Are we not allowed to be cynical and say that electoral promises are made only to be broken? There was quite a strong anti-EU feeling in the country (proven in the referendum), and the Right-wing of Mr Cameron’s own party, including a number of MPs, were for Brexit, but these were not pressing compulsions: There was no real revolt in the party — how could there be when the party had won an election by itself after so many years?

As for the concern of the general populace, was EU really bothering people, or was it the supposed consequences — mainly immigration, housing, unemployment and deterioration in health services? These alleged consequences were used to the hilt by Brexit supporters, but the shortcomings were really failures of government policies rather than a fall-out of EU membership. For example, the reduction in the quality of health services was a result of the government’s crackdown on the number of doctors and nurses coming from India and elsewhere. Which means that severe immigration policies (which is what Brexit supporters want), did more harm than good! As for unemployment, did EU immigrants really take jobs away from locals? Or did they take jobs which the local population did not want?

The narrow margin of the Brexit vote (52 per cent “Leave” versus 48 per cent “Remain”) has meant that Britain has been divided into two diametrically opposed groups of almost equal numbers. What will be the effect of this division? Will we have millions of sullen people, who will feel resentful and angry with their neighbours? The vote, of course, hasn’t divided the country equally. Even a cursory analysis shows that most of the big cities voted for “Remain”. This was particularly so of London, which is not just the capital of the country but its financial centre, the seat of government and the cultural and intellectual capital of Britain. The analysis also shows that a majority of young people voted to stay in EU. It was the perpetually depressed north east of England and its industrial centres which voted for “Leave”, as did a majority of older people. (That has led to the cruel barb that the old voted to “Leave” because they will all be dead before the effects of Brexit are felt in the country).

Even if this feeling of resentment and anger does not cause a permanent rift in the population, it will certainly have serious consequences in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which voted overwhelmingly to “Remain” (Scotland 62 to 38, N. Ireland 56 to 44). Will the United Kingdom now remain united? There will, undoubtedly, be unimaginable repercussions in Scotland. Actually, “unimaginable” is the wrong word, because Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister has already proclaimed that a second Scottish independence referendum is likely.

The first one narrowly came out on the side of staying in the UK, but a second one will certainly result is Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom. These seismic shifts will also rock Europe. Already the far-Right elements in some countries, like Marine Le Pen’s party in France as well as parties in Austria and the Netherlands, have begun to see the Brexit victory as their own. (Geert Wilders, the Right-wing, rabidly anti-immigrant, Dutch politician gleefully tweeted, “Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn! Time for a Dutch referendum!”) No one, whatever their expertise or their confident assertions, really knows the consequences of the British action.

The pound sterling fell to its lowest level since 1985, and all international bourses saw spectacular falls. These, of course, may be aberrations and may correct themselves, but a whole host of issues will now raise their thorny heads. For example, there are nearly three million Europeans living in the UK. Will they now need visas and work permits? If they don’t get these — as surely many may not — will they find employment in their own country? What about UK citizens working in Europe? Does a similar bleak future stare them in the face? When the UK finally exits after the two-year process of EU “secession”, it will no longer benefit from the tariff-free movement of goods and capital across Europe. What effect will that have? The word “disastrous” comes to mind. What happens to the many Indian companies (Tata is a prime example but there are 800 others) which use England as a base for the European market? Will they re-locate, or will they have to set up multiple bases?

Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Mr Cameron and his government have destroyed a unique idea with no parallels — a union of culturally different, economically independent countries, many of which had fought two World Wars and nearly destroyed each other. For them to have come together and set up a structure which allowed people, goods and services to move freely across borders was an audacious idea. But it had worked so well, that international borders had become meaningless. Now many of these lines will be redrawn and become, once again, stern barriers.

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