Pro-European Union demonstrators marched in London and York on July 2, 2016. Despite their efforts, and barring another general election or referendum in the next two years, the result of the June 23 referendum will stand, leaving the British government no choice but to formally declare and negotiate toward UK's withdrawal from the EU. (photo courtesy of the BBC and Associated Press)

'Tis the Summer of Britain's Discontent

Remember how you were drawn to a fast-food restaurant by the advertisement of a big, succulent hamburger, only to be disappointed by what was actually in the wrapper once you bought one?

The decision for Britain to leave the European Union was made by 52% of those who voted in the June 23 referendum, in a 72% turnout of the electorate. They did so for a perceived dividend in not having to contribute to the European general funds (which can then be used to shore up the much-beleagured National Health Service), and the prerogative of determining whom they will allow to come to stay in their country.

Even now, they are beginning to realize the cheque isn’t in the mail. Much of the perceived post-Brexit dividend was already spent back in Britain, fixing rural highways and subsidizing farmers. These and other crucial expenditures must eventually come solely from the British taxpayers themselves.

And, for those who believe they can now selectively block foreigners from entering the country - or deport those already there - the way they do with criminals, they are due for a civic lesson. As it has been shown time and time again, the idea that immigrants come to “steal” jobs and entitlements is a fallacy. Immigrants, in general, arrive to bring about a net plus to the local economy. As economy grows, more jobs are created, generating more wealth to be shared as entitlements.

The next time an English restaurant patron tells his Polish waitress that she is not welcome, he should be reminded that the waitress is probably working harder than he is for a lower wage, so that the restaurant stays in business, pays its wages, fees and taxes, and does its part in maintaining a certain standard of life in the community, and the country as a whole. If a town or village wants to stop Polish workers from coming to work at its shops and cafes, it may as well close them, and then we’ll see just how much good that will do.

Should there be any post-EU dividend at all, or even the prerogative to put a stop to immigration, they were regarded by voters as things that already belonged to them - and surely they didn't have to pay a price for something that should already be theirs, or should they?. Such price, and a dear one at that, are the perks of EU membership that all Britons have taken for granted, namely the benefits of easily accessing the European market and everything it entails - visa-free travel, cheap holiday packages, universities, universal healthcare, and so forth.

So what, one might ask. Another inconvenience amongst many (as a matter of security), and a little more tariff to pay at the airport, are not going to stop British holidaymakers from crowding the Mediterranean beaches of France, Spain and Greece, whose fragile economies need them more than ever. Britons are still going to buy Nissans, many of which are manufactured at the plant at Sunderland, a township that was first to be counted amongst those who voted decidedly to leave the EU. The stock markets are already recovering from Brexit’s first-day jitters, and so is the pound sterling. London will now carry on more like New York and Hong Kong; the scale and reach of its financial institutions will not significantly diminish.

 

Shown here is the Friday, July 1 2016 cover of Britain's Metro, which featured the story of Michael Gove's sudden withdrawal of his support for Boris Johnson as David Cameron's successor, in favor of himself. Johnson, nominal leader of the Brexit movement, promptly surprised the world by renouncing his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party, clearing the way for Theresa May to emerge as the favorite to become UK's next Prime Minister.

The political shakeup that resulted from Brexit was not altogether unwelcomed, albeit the means to that end was fraught and, for Mrs. Jo Cox and her family, tragic. Cox, a pro-EU MP in Yorkshire, was assassinated by an anti-immigrant fanatic. The current government and their main opposition in Westminster, fresh off last year’s general election, found themselves unable and unwilling to govern a post-Brexit Britain. They, who brought the referendum upon the nation, are simply passing the buck onto another round of Machiavellian (or "Westerosi," if you are a fan of Game of Thrones) leadership, to the great annoyance of the impatient grand poohbahs in Brussels, who wanted to get on with the divorce proceedings.

As Britain tends her self-inflicted wounds, some hope that EU itself would undergo much-needed reform, to dissuade its members from following Britain's example. Layers of pontificating, top-down directives and ponderous bureaucracy are to be peeled away, allowing the EU to be more responsive to the different needs of its diverse and restive constituency. However, given the onerous though obligatory democratic process of achieving consensus among the 27 remaining member states, the prospect of reform seems even more remote than the next UK government's formal invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, quitting the EU in a two-year process of negotiation and legal realignment.

And what about Scotland, whose voters overwhelmingly chose to stay in the EU (62% overall vote, a majority in all of its council areas), and are already well acquainted with the means of breaking away from the UK? The next time they go to the polls, likely within the next two years whilst the Scottish National Party remains in power, they will get to decide which they want more: (1) the mere affirmation of a continuing co-existence with the rest of Britain, which would endure irrespective of national identities; or (2) the real, tangible benefits of a renewed EU membership, granted to a newly independent nation.

 

-- CW, 30 June 2016, updated 2 July 2016

 

 

   

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