Archive for June, 2016

The EU Referendum and its Aftermath

It is important to set out that I am and have been staunchly remain for a long time. I always felt that it was important for Britain to have its trade deals with the European Union and that it was important for Britain to be involved in the decision making of Europe. I also believed that the rights of the people had been much better protected with that advent of the European Union and that historically we had seen a much better union politically since the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community back in 1951. I am aware of the fact that people has differing opinions to me and saw that the European Union is too bureaucratic, that it was perceived as not democratic enough and that it was perceived that British sovereignty had been eroded. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Friday morning, when I saw the result, was sense of disappointment to me. I had this lingering feeling in the back of my head for a couple of weeks that it would be leave and although this proved to be true, it still left me deflated. This was a jump into the unknown. For the few people who were saying that we were going back to how it was before ‘Europe bossed us around’, I’m afraid the world has changed. Globalisation has happened. The initial shock to the markets and the value of the pound was a sign of this. The risk with Britain’s future that was being taken was the initial disappointment to me.

There are a couple of things that come across with referenda. Firstly, it is clearly a way of getting public legitimacy for a decision to be made by government. The general public have turned out to vote and the majority have voted leave. Vote leave won, plain and simple. In the areas where leave dominated, there was a higher turnout. They were more committed to the cause. Secondly, it is a way of settling a dispute within government. David Cameron had to offer this as a referendum to maintain the support of his party within a coalition and to help gain the Conservatives a majority in the 2015 General Election. I can’t blame him for this. It was a smart and necessary tactic in order for him to remain in power….except for when it backfires on him. Thirdly, the Prime Minister called a referendum on an issue that he did not want to change. That is a very difficult campaign to pull off. To state that you do not want to change anything when cuts are being made to public services, unemployment is still rising and people do not feel that they have the way of life they want is a very tricky trick to pull and he failed. Students are taught that in direct democracies, people tend to act emotionally than rationally and if you are struggling, you are going to want to bring about change. Now there have been calls for another referendum and a petition has had numerous signatures (although started by a leave campaigner and being looked at in terms of issues with some of the signatures) shows support for this. The belief is that the majority was not big enough on the turnout. Now I don’t think another referendum should happen, mainly because I don’t think the result or turnout will change that much and will therefore be a waste of time. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions though. Remainers are still raw from the result and need to have that outlet to express their views. Can we not forget as well that it was a leave campaigner who started the petition because he feared leave would lose and Nigel Farage called for another referendum if the result was similar but to leave. It’s kind of hypocritical for some on the leave side to criticise the remain side for doing the same.

I looked at three sets of results that has particular importance to me. The North-East where I was born and my identity is, Cumbria where I was brought up and Birmingham where I live right now. All three voted leave. To be fair I was expecting Cumbria to vote leave and I had heard that Birmingham was likely to vote leave as well. What I was not expecting was that areas in the North East would have a wider margin for leave than the other two. This honestly surprised me and I am not sure why. I have not lived in the North East for a very long time but still have a lot of family up there. It is, however, very difficult for me to say why people voted the way they did. I think people were just fed up about the same continuation of issues that they were facing and were looking for change. I do know that the North East Local Enterprise Partnership states that the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme was giving around £445 million in funding to help development in these areas. I’m not sure how much of this came across in the campaigning for remain – how much the EU was giving to individual areas.

It’s the chaos that has happened in the days after the referendum that has intrigued me the most. David Cameron’s resignation. To be fair, it wasn’t really a surprise. He put it all on the line and lost. He couldn’t be in a position of leading the negotiations and the country after this loss. The effect of this is that basically the Conservative members will choose the next Prime Minister. Initially it was thought it would be Boris vs Gove vs Theresa May but it seems as if Gove has thrown his weight behind Boris. Many people are expecting Boris to win it easily but I don’t think it will be that easy for him. The Conservative leadership election has the MPs whittle down the candidate shortlist to a one on one contest before the party membership votes. I still think Boris will win (the thought of a Boris and Trump world leadership team fills me with dread) but think there is a group within the party that will make it difficult. There may be a division that may be developing (Anna Soubry seems outspoken already). Also, Theresa May has done very well to stay under the radar despite being remain – she seems to have come out without being tarnished. The other thing is has David Cameron said that he will resign as an MP? That could be an interesting factor on the backbenches….

Which kind of brings me to the negotiations and promises. The Conservative leader is likely to be chosen in October. I can understand the need for proper thought. I also think that the new leader will feel that they need a new mandate from the public to act on their behalf, which will mean a new election in Nov/Dec. So negotiations and the trigger of Article 50 are not likely to happen until at least January 2017. 2 years of negotiations will mean we are not leaving until 2019. Now the EU has already stated that it feels negotiations need to start sooner rather than later. I can understand this. The uncertainty will have an impact upon them as much as it will have an impact upon us. It would also mean that they are not focusing on the business that they have to focus on. However, surely the UK needs to have the right person negotiating, and as PM kept insisting on Monday, the next Prime Minister will do that. Now it depends on what happens in the negotiations. This is the unknown. Firstly, a lot was promised in the campaign from people that were not in a position at the time to follow through on the act. Now is the time to judge them on this. Farage has already said that the £350 million promised (on the side of that bus) by the official leave group would go to the NHS. Granted Farage was never part of that group but I know a lot of people where that was a key issue. You would have thought that Boris would have learnt from his old enemy Nick Clegg not to stand next to a promise he can’t keep. There is also the Dan Hannan statement that leaving the EU will not lead to dramatic cuts to immigration. Again this is a key issue people voted on. Now Farage and Hannan can’t be held to account by the British public as they have just campaigned to get rid of their jobs but it may have an impact on leading Conservatives. The issue in the negotiations is that we don’t know how they will go. We don’t know exactly what the British government will negotiate – Boris Johnson has stated that he wants to remain part of the single market and there seems to be a suggestion of freedom of movement – and we do not know what line the EU will take. Will they punish to send a message? Will they get as much as they can that will help them? Will they aim to try and build a strong relationship with the UK? The examples that have happened before have seen concessions from the countries making a deal with the EU so we may lose sovereignty, we may lose immigration control and we may lose some trade rights. It’s going to be a long negotiation period….

The instant reaction was the hit to the economy, which to be honest was to be expected. The pound fell to its lowest value in 31 years. Shares in banks, house builders and airlines have been hit. The FTSE has fallen. Financial services have already looked at exporting jobs abroad. Inflation looks set to rise on imports. The loss of the AAA credit rating. Basically there has been a panic because we are in a risk situation. To be fair, it seems that the government and the Bank of England have put in some back up plans that may stop the system crashing so much but it just seems whether that is enough. There seemed to be a slow in the decline on Friday when Mark Carney came out and made a speech offering reassurance and also a plan of what should happen. George Osborne has come out today and spoken of calm and that there will be no emergency budget. The economy is the crucial thing in this. This is one of the key things having an impact upon families in Britain and it is important that it is managed carefully. The government needs to make sure that it is involved in this. We also need to make sure that we strike up trade deals that are beneficial to us. The issue is whether we are now at the back of line in regards to negotiations, especially in the circumstance of the USA and the EU. Now there were several key issues with the TTIP negotiations (loss of privacy, privatisation of NHS, power to the bankers) so that may not seem a great loss. However, trade agreements do need to be negotiated, otherwise confidence will drop. The one thing that needs to be mentioned is that if people want a trade deal with the EU without freedom of movement – Only Canada has this but they do not have free trade of services. That needs freedom of movement. Britain needs that.

Labour are in disarray. The implosion that is happening right now has just been waiting to happen. As I write this, Corbyn is starting to lose the ‘soft left’ of the party. Admittedly, Corbyn did seem lacklustre in the campaign and the impression really was that he did not seem convinced by his own viewpoint but I’m not sure how much this coup d’état is actually going to succeed. Last year’s Labour leadership election proved that it is not the MPs that support Corbyn anyway, it’s the ordinary party faithful. That’s what gave him the huge mandate in 2015. I’m not sure how much that has changed in the course of a year and if there is another leadership election, with Corbyn insisting that he will stand, I have a funny feeling that he will get re-elected. Judging from what has happened in London tonight, I think Corbyn is safe in his position. A thought just to scare the traditional Labour voters – in the past 42 years, only one Labour leader has been elected as Prime Minister. That is of course Tony Blair. I’m not saying that moving completely back to the ‘Third Way’ is completely the answer but at the same time, I don’t think that Corbyn is either. Personally, I can’t see that Labour winning an election with him as leader. It might take another election defeat to see this. The problem is that if the main opposition isn’t up to scratch, how much can Parliament keep the government in check?

The other thing that seems to be happening is that Labour seems to be losing their traditional working class support. Some of the elections in these traditional areas have been seeing a rise in UKIP support, and this was arguably one of the contributing factors for the 2015 General Election. The EU referendum seems to demonstrate a continuing movement away from Labour. It does not help that the Labour Party are giving off an impression of being divided amongst themselves. It is hard for the voters to believe a party is representing them when they are divided. They do not seem to be unified in helping the working class/lower middle class in a time of austerity and hardship where it is clear that people are struggling. The balancing act of support is not there. There seems to have been a disconnect between the party and their supporters and it looks like UKIP are going to pick up the spoils. Unless the party does something to rectify this, I could potentially see UKIP picking up some MPs in these areas (although I’m not exactly sure how this will transfer to votes in a General Election – After all, safe seats are very important).

Can the Liberal Democrats tap into the gap being left by the Labour Party? They are still in a rebuilding position after the disaster that was the 2015 General Election and they were the most prominent pro-European Union party in recent years. They also only have 8 MPs. However, I see this as an opportunity for them to take a position and possibly readjust their position. It is hard for them to be divided between 8 MPs but it could help to develop new campaigns and policies whilst sticking to the traditional Liberal ideas. The onus here will be on Tim Farron. This will be a long process and he needs to stick it out, demonstrating the leadership qualities necessary.

Personally, I believe that Scotland has every right to call for an independence referendum; the terms have changed from 2014. I remember that one of the campaigns against independence were that Scotland would not be in the EU if they were separate. That is different now. Scotland has overwhelmingly voted that they wanted to remain within the European Union. If a referendum were to take place and there has been a change of opinion, then that could be part of the negotiation process. The debate however is whether the remain votes is a simple transference to an independent idea. It is whether that is enough to change some peoples’ opinions. The impression is that Nicola Sturgeon will use the threat of a referendum to be involved in negotiations and get the best deal for the Scottish. Wales, as a whole, does not seem to have any issue with the leave vote having a majority leave. Northern Ireland is a lot trickier and there are a lot of historical elements to that debate that must be taken into account.

Now there are two key issues. Firstly young people. My students were angry on Friday. They were livid. They felt that their future had been taken away. The key thing was that they were not allowed to vote. Now before we get anywhere with this, I am aware that there is a campaign to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote as many issues affect them. I have also seen many people criticise young people for having a self-centred attitude and only thinking six months ahead and that they should be thankful to people for having life experience to make decisions for them. I’m sorry but I’ve seen people my age, people my parents age who only think short term and have self-centred attitudes. I have also met many wonderful young people, not necessarily History and Politics students, who are passionate about what is going on and how it should be changed. I am of the opinion that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote but know that it is not likely to happen. One of the key statements that comes out of my lessons is that “Politicians don’t listen to us”. My response is always the same – “Of course they don’t. Young people don’t vote”. There has been a lot going around about the Young vs Old debate, as well as certain poll statistics on how they voted, and although that is a part of it, it is not everything. Yet again, the 18-24 age bracket is the one that has turned out least to vote. Yet again, politicians have not done a good enough job appealing to the young. This time this has impacted the Remain campaign. It happens in every election and therefore politicians/Governments, who want to be re-elected don’t listen to them as they feel they don’t need to. There needs to be a change. Young people need to start voting. They need to start getting involved. They need to be a part of the process and it needs to be a two way process.

Which brings me to the shocking scenes of the intolerant. I have seen so many things through Facebook, Twitter and You Tube that have shocked me to my core. I saw a “stop immigration, start repatriation” protest in Newcastle. I saw cards posted through the letterboxes of people telling them to leave. I’ve heard about people being ridiculed in the street. I heard about people born in Britain being told to “go home”. What happened?!?!? All these acts are disgusting and quite frankly are not British values. This is not what I think of when I think of Britain. The danger is the rhetoric that has been used in campaigning, which has been very angry and very much based on fear. This is something that Angela Merkel has alluded to. The politicians have not helped and the campaigns definitely have not helped. The actions of a minority the past couple of days have seen this. This is not acceptable and it must be stopped. Politicians of all parties need to take a stand and say that this is not right. The authorities need to take a stand and stop this racism and xenophobia. If we truly are a United Kingdom, we need to put a stop to this right now. Otherwise we come out of the European Union as a country that is divisive and ugly.

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