Monday, 1 January 2018

Why I would still vote for Brexit

A comment I composed for my 'Brexit is Brexit' post became so long that I'm going to present it as a separate post, kicking the New Year off with it. 

Background: Bear carefully in mind that when young I knew a pre-EU UK, and it was then no more than the 'Common Market'. Also that I had a middle-class, grammar-school upbringing, have always been an active voter, am comfortably but not luxuriously retired, and that I take an interest in current affairs - business, political, cultural and technological. I also get around the country a lot. I represent nobody's special interest except my own. I belong only to the National Trust, the Caravan and Motorhome Club, and Slimming World. I voted Out in the Brexit Referendum in 2016, and would do so again. 

I think it's clear that the Brexit Referendum, however dressed up, was held to fulfill a promise given to Conservative Party Euro-sceptics. But those weren't the only people who were dissatisfied with the way the EU seemed to be gradually invading every aspect of British Life. And the hard financial rules imposed on countries like Spain, Italy and Ireland, which led to improvements in their own budgeting but also to serious austerity and unrest, hadn't gone unnoticed. EU membership led to grants and funding, and extra rights for minorities, on the one hand; but detailed regulation, cultural homogenisation, and an insistence on central control from EU HQ, on the other. And, when it came to it, a weak response to any international crisis. The EU did not prevent the Balkan conflict of the 1990s, and had no plan ready for the chaotic migrations of refugees and fortune-seekers from the south and east in more recent times. It looked as if the EU was flimsy, and not really fit for purpose.

I felt that way. I detested the xenophobic attitudes of UKIP grumblers in the clubs and bars of Thanet, but certainly saw the EU as a super-state in waiting, ostensibly benevolent, but definitely usurping all important powers from Westminster, and gradually reducing this country to what looked like a mere region of Europe, if not indeed a 'vassal state'.

The point of no-return had not yet been reached, so when the chance came to have a say on it, I was very pleased to vote for Out. Not as a protest, but as a genuine preference, fully recognising that there would be a lot of hassle in becoming an independent entity offshore. I also visualised the effort needed to form fresh links with the world at large, and to vie with the USA and other countries. There was indeed the old spectre of becoming 'the 51st state of of America', if you are old enough to remember the fear of a take-over from across the Atlantic. Though in the 21st century there were new economic superpowers on the scene, China for instance, whose assistance would come at a price. But all this could be managed.

The Referendum campaign was a joke. Nobody seemed to think that the Outs could win. Flippant misinformation flew around, perhaps because it wouldn't matter to the way people would vote. It was clearly believed on all sides that the British people would cling to the safety and assurance of EU membership, and that whatever the claims of the Brexiteers, the result would be a decisive Yes, Let's Stay In. And with the People having spoken, the Euro-sceptics would be forever silenced.

It wasn't so. More people than not voted Out. The will of the majority was expressed. They couldn't all have been idiots who had swallowed the slogans and spurious headline figures of Boris Johnson et al, or believed everything in the tabloid newspapers.

I think most people took a long hard look at what EU membership was doing to Britain and their own future, and jumped ship. I did exactly that - preferring higher taxation, if I could grow old in a country that felt like my own.

As for the generous EU grants and subsidies - a major argument for staying in, and apparently a big reason why younger voters embraced the EU - I wondered how long those would continue. The EU was admitting more and more countries with underdeveloped economies, who obviously thought that they should have all the cash going. I considered it likely that our cut of the EU largesse would diminish over the next decade, making EU membership viable only on political grounds.

Of course the entire consequences of an Out vote weren't explained, nor even seriously pondered. I do remember downloading the Scottish Nationalist Party's fat brochure on what it would do if the Scots voted Yes to Scottish independence. Like it or hate it, they had a pretty detailed and comprehensive plan. Something similar should have been available online for the Brexit Referendum. But anybody of intelligence and a grip on current affairs was equipped to decide for themselves, brochure or no brochure. I did so.

Some would have it that the good ship Britannia is currently being commanded by a ghost crew who have lost their bearings. And that we are drifting towards the rocks. Who knows what the reality is. Who knows what the reality ever is, such is the way of government everywhere - secret negotiation, and dealing between insiders, being the norm. The public will be told in due course. That is how things are actually done. We will have as little control over the outcome as we do over the Chancellor's annual Budget.

Could Labour do better? I don't think so. I have no confidence in them, and they will not get my vote.

Would I vote for Out again, if there ever were another Referendum on this topic? Yes, I would, without hesitation. I want the dirty deals that keep this country going done here, and not abroad. And I want to end my days in a land I understand, and can still recognise.

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