I was up an hour earlier than usual this morning, and was stunned almost speechless to see the Brexit result. My thoughts are now tumbling on so fast that I don’t know where to start.
As I made clear in my last post, I was committed to the Remain-in-the-EU side because, although I deeply appreciated the limits of the EU, I thought Britain would be in a better position to influence change – for itself, for the EU, and for the world – in rather than out of the EU.
But probably the most appalling thing I heard today was from Donald Trump who claims that it was his influence that swung the British to the Brexit vote, and that he now wants to instigate the same thing in the USA as president.
Why is that so appalling? First, because I assure you Trump did not swing that vote. Hundreds of thousands of British people signed a petition asking that he be barred from ever coming to this country. And because the issues over Britain’s position in the EU are in no way the issues facing the US.
The essential problem for Britain in relation to the EU is a democratic deficit that the US would never tolerate. The US would not tolerate another country telling it that it MUST accept any migrants from 26 other countries who wish to live there. It would not tolerate a ruling that convicted criminals – rapists, murderers, gangsters – may not be deported back to their own countries after they have served their sentences if it would “violate their human rights.” In one case, the human right being violated was that the ex-convict would be separated from his pet cats. (I kid you not.) The US would not tolerate thousands of dictates a year from an un-elected bureaucracy in another country which they are bound to implement. Everything from how much cargo must be carried on trains to the size of pans one may use in their kitchens. The US would not tolerate a Supreme Court making the final decisions about whether its laws are legitimate.
Nor was this vote primarily motivated by bigotry or racism or religious intolerance. It was a vote about sovereignty. As one person said to me yesterday at the check-out counter of our local farm shop: “It’s about making our own rules for ourselves.”
In any case, the decision has now been made, and the implications are huge, if not yet clear. Both the Tory and Labour parties here are already feeling the repercussions. So have the pound sterling and the stock markets. How it will eventually affect the economy here is unclear. Will it eventually break up the United Kingdom? Scotland says another independence referendum is now on the cards, Northern Ireland shares an open unmanned border with Ireland which is member of the EU, a problem which must be addressed. Hundreds of issues in relation to trade with the EU and with non-EU countries around the world will need to be negotiated. And the EU itself, deeply shaken by this unexpected vote, must decide how to relate to an independent Britain and its effect on countries already within the EU that also want big changes in relation to the authority in Brussels. The EU itself may not survive.
Enough blathering for now. I am now off to have a Friday gin & tonic, followed by some very English fish & chips.