So it happened. The unexpected outcome of the EU Referendum. We’re out of the EU and EURO 2016 – which is one thing all sides would agree was not part of the masterplan! Or are we definitely out of the EU? I’m not so sure. More of that later.
The country and its media is acting like it’s surprised but why, as we all knew it was going to be a close call and that there were strong arguments for both REMAIN and LEAVE?
First things first, we have to congratulate the LEAVE campaign (all LEAVE campaigns, both official and so called unofficial one’s) for their clear victory at the ballot box last Friday. When all is said and done, forget the polls, the ballot box outcome is the only public opinion that matters. Whilst I voted for and would have much preferred for the UK to remain IN, one cannot deny that LEAVE won the argument fair and square. The contest turned into the heavyweight contest everyone predicted when Boris Johnson nailed his colours to the LEAVE camp back on February 21st, 2016. It’s no wonder Cameron responded bitterly in the House of Commons at the first opportunity he had. He assumed he was going into battle with his ‘Ronaldo’ only to find he’d switched sides at the last minute.
Why did BREXIT win?
It’s incredible and shows just how convincing an argument LEAVE made that they defeated what should have been an unbeatable ‘interim’ coalition, if I dare to use that word, comprising all the leading political parties who showed a rare display of unity. Well officially at least. The Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP and Green party all backed REMAIN, so how on earth did they lose?
There was no one over riding reason, more a culmination of issues – immigration, loss of sovereignty, control of our legislation, borders and the economy – the £350m a week going to the EU all struck a chord with a majority of the British public. Regardless of the accuracy or not of that figure, for years the message given out by the political classes, of all hues, was that we were giving over too much money to the EU who were not spending “our” money wisely or in our best interests. Here’s one example of their largesse. Why was our, now resigned, EU Commissioner Lord Hill, on a salary of £200k per annum? That’s £60k more than the PM gets for running the country. Staggering.
For years the fears of many Briton’s have festered unsatisfactorily unresolved. This was the public’s opportunity to change things and they took it. Nigel Farage, as he said so colourfully, in the EU parliament yesterday when paraphrasing a famous quote from the late, great Bob Monkhouse – “When I came here 17 years ago and said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now are you?”
People are entitled to their fears – and you can argue for or against them anyway you like, the fact is a large number of people do not like or welcome what they perceive to be a seemingly uncontrolled flow of immigrants into Britain (which just isn’t the case). I don’t want to go into the ins and out of that in detail here, but this perception clearly matters and bothers people. I don’t condone the racist attacks that have sprung up since the Brexit vote, but now that it’s out in the open, we can look at it as an opportunity for a further national debate about the subject. This is reminiscent of last year’s general election. Significant numbers were unwilling to admit to pollsters they planned to vote Conservative. Perhaps that has been the case with polling this time with people choosing not to admit they were going to vote to leave.
It’s funny how people forget the benefit of immigrants. Here’s a couple of examples. If all the immigrants were to go home, as some would want, who’d be left working in the NHS – their local hospitals, GP surgery, dental practices etc… who’d be driving the buses in our major cities?
On a lighter, but equally serious note, people love to praise and boast about the Premier League as the best league in the world, but what if all the immigrant players and managers were to “go home” just how premier would our ‘English’ league then be? These “immigrants” playing in the Premier League aren’t eligible to play for England and look how embarrassingly England fared without them. The performance against Iceland was abysmal and the failure to get wins throughout the group stages of EURO 2016 was equally dire.
I think it’s always easier and more electorally attractive for the challenger to promise a change from the status quo and LEAVE painted a rosier picture of life outside the EU than REMAIN painted of staying put.
I also think some of the REMAIN MPs didn’t portray themselves and their arguments in the most convincing and persuasive manner. In some of the televised debates I came away thinking BREXIT did better despite being clear in my mind of the need to stay in the EU. For instance on the ITV debate (9th June 2016) with 5 women and 1 man (Boris Johnson) the 3 remain women MPs were practically picking on Boris throughout teasing him about his leadership ambitions etc.. Boris rose above it and handled himself well and diplomatically, but I’m sure if it was 3 male MPs ganging up on one female MP there would have been an outcry of sexism raised.
They came across as dour, overly serious, angry and humourless, especially Amber Rudd, which are not nice qualities to display if you want the national TV viewing audience to vote for you in a major referendum.
Some leavers are saying they didn’t realise the implications of their vote. Well more fool them. There was plenty of information out there for people to look into and do their own research into, rather than lazily just go by the sound bites of the political debates, TV, radio and newspaper campaign coverage.
The way forward
I think the decision to leave is terrible for Britain, but we could turn it to our advantage. Firstly, if I was David Cameron I would go back to the EU and outline the key factors that caused Britain to vote out and ask whether the EU can do anything to address these concerns e.g. over control, the amount we give to the EU, how it operates, is financed etc… If they are willing to review this then there is hope, as all sides here recognise the flaws in the EU. This is our one last chance to see if they’re willing to adapt.
The likes of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Ian Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage are not idiots. They have not persuaded a majority of 17m voters to take us out of the EU without good reason. To dismiss them and the 17m voters as fools or racists is inaccurate and misleading. Many have been doing just that.
Judging by the mood of talks at yesterday’s EU Summit it looks like this may not be feasible, but we can but try as it’s also clear that our exit is not something the EU or wider world outside of Europe really wants. President Obama came over to London and made an impassioned plea (22nd April 2016) for Britain to REMAIN. The Leave campaign dismissed and insulted his intervention, but who’s laughing now?
Secondly, the Government and parliament simply does not have to follow the outcome of the referendum. It is not legally binding. If it’s put to a casting vote in parliament, based on party lines this referendum to leave will simply not get through. However if parliament is to ignore the referendum outcome, they should at least try and wring further concessions out of the EU otherwise the status quo with the EU continues which nobody really wants.
David Cameron and leadership
This leads me on to the position of the Prime Minister, David Cameron. If the above is legally feasible and the will of the people is to stay in, then there is absolutely no reason for him to follow through with his resignation. It was a truly honourable and magnanimous thing to do and must have hurt as I’m sure he wanted to carry on as PM until 2017. I believe he has been a very good PM and still has the energy, commitment and passion to keep going until that time. Clearly everything’s in a state of flux right now and were the country/parliament to decide not to leave then the rationale for him resigning becomes null and void.
The haste to resign and progress a leadership contest at unseemly speed may come back to haunt him.
If David Cameron’s resignation (similar to ex-England Manager Roy Hodgson’s speedy resignation on Monday night) is a mark of integrity and accepting the reality of a situation, then what are we to make of the Labour Leader’s dogged determination to hang on in the face of an unprecedented rebellion by his cabinet and MPs? On the one hand I’m not a big fan of resignations and acknowledge he may well have the support of the wider grass roots supporters, if you can’t form a shadow cabinet and haven’t the support of the majority of your own MPs then you’re a busted flush and it’s time to BREXIT the Labour leadership.
I don’t see him lasting beyond the end of the week – that is assuming reality finally dawns upon him. If he toughs it out and stands in the leadership election it will be fascinating to see how it pans out. Corbyn is a well known Euro-sceptic amd rebel. Let us imagine we do BREXIT and it turns out to be the best for Britain, then his euro-sceptism and lukewarm remain campaign will have proven to be the correct stance. He doubtless believes that passionately, so when you consider that, it is understandable he would feel that he has no need to resign.
Nonetheless this is clearly looking terrible for Labour. All of this would have been avoided if Chuka Umunna had not mysteriously quit the leadership campaign last year. I think he would have won, would have campaigned hard for REMAIN (as he did) but the difference is he would have brought the Labour party and Labour supporters with him and REMAIN would have comfortably won the vote last week. He’s been noticeably quiet since BREXIT.
Now might be a good time for him to throw his hat in. The problem is that the factors that caused his withdrawal last May 2015 – unwillingness to put himself and family through the close media scrutiny that goes with the job – haven’t changed, so this may still prevent him putting himself forward a second time.
We live in interesting times. If Umunna does and wins and a general election is called (unlikely I think), who knows, he could just be PM before the end of the year!
Some complain re the lack of a strategy for BREXIT. I’m not that concerned. It was never vital to have a clearly outlined one. 17m voters were not sufficiently concerned either. The main thing is they made a strong case for the advantages of leaving. What next could wait and could only be determined once they saw the detail of all the trade arrangements etc… that would have to be untangled. I mean, if someone asks for a divorce the other side don’t really care that the one asking to leave has a post separation plan. They will figure something out. So too in this situation.
As I say, there are fascinating, unprecedented times ahead for our country. The country and leading political parties are divided. However I do accept the LEAVE line that we are a strong nation. If it comes to pass, we can and will have to find a new way to thrive and survive outside the EU whether we like it or not.