Big issues in brief
A year of absolute nothingness from an inept Brexit cabinet
Today marks the anniversary of the EU Referendum and a wasted year in politics and political punditry
I have not yet ventured into the Brexit debate on FuturePolitics, for several reasons. One is that FuturePolitics was set up over ten months after the EU referendum, so there was no immediate relevance during the run-up to the snap election. Another is that it’s been covered elsewhere by so many writers that I have so far felt that I have little to offer to the debate as a newcomer. However, that will inevitably change as the details of the Brexit deal gradually emerge. The management of Brexit has also been farcical to the point of absurdity. The staggering ineptitude of the Conservative government in developing a viable negotiating strategy and keeping the public informed, as well as its insulting approach towards the EU, a party with which it is supposed to strike an amicable deal, frankly astound me. Whatever your view on the referendum — the campaigns beforehand, the result, the subsequent action — few will deny that. Finally, I think many of us are just absolutely fed up with the way it has absolutely dominated politics and practically eliminated debate on much more pressing matters closer to home, such as the widening wealth divide due to unjustifiable and devastating austerity.
I will undoubtedly be wading into the debate over the coming months, but in the meantime, I’d just like to share my thoughts from 364 days ago, when I posted the text below on Facebook from my bed, struggling to comprehend the decision of my fellow citizens, struggling to crawl out from under the duvet. Since then, I have been pleased to develop a more positive outlook based on the recent evidence that May will be forced to tone down her misguided vision of a hard Brexit, but there is still a lot of work to do to limit the damage. I still dream of the negotiations collapsing or progressing so badly that the public is offered a second referendum on the final deal, though I know that’s wishful thinking.
“People often comment that I appear to hate my own country because I am critical of its politics and live abroad. The reason I am so outspoken about it is because I DO care, and one of the main reasons I live abroad is because the quality of life in the worlds 5th largest economy is so poor compared to the cost of living.
I have always felt like I have a global identity. My ancestors were Austrian, Czechoslovakian, Russian and Polish. My maternal grandparents fled the Nazis with £5 and a trunk full of possessions and integrated into British society. I was bullied at school both by working class white Brits and antisemitic Muslims for being culturally Jewish, even though I never believed a word of the religious side of things, even at an early age, and having been raised to treat all people equally, regardless of gender, race or religion, I could never comprehend this attitude towards another group. I have travelled since I was a baby and been inspired by different cultures. I have lived in two “foreign” countries, have made one my long-term home, am marrying someone from another culture and have made friends from many countries that I have yet to visit. I have benefitted strongly from the freedom of movement that the EU offers, the funding that it provides students, allowing them to study abroad and learn about new cultures and the funding and collaboration it affords researchers. The greatest value of the EU to me is not the economic benefits it brings us, but the cultural integration it promotes.
Now that Britain has voted to leave the EU, though, I truly am ashamed, on this day, to be British.
I am ashamed for many reasons but here are a few that I feel most strongly about.
I am ashamed because the issue of leaving the EU was raised mainly through years of xenophobia and that was exploited to polarise people and cause division.
I am ashamed because the Tories narrowly won an election by bribing the public with a referendum.
I am ashamed because it was exploited by right wing members of an already neoliberal government which was elected by only 24% of the electorate (due to Britain’s corrupt electoral system), yet “lack of democracy” in the EU was used as a major argument for leaving.
I am ashamed because economically it will be bad for Britain and also the rest of the EU.
I am ashamed because it will have a strong, negative impact on progress in environmental policy and biomedical research.
I am ashamed because it will affect the freedom of movement that has benefitted both British and European society.
I am ashamed because it highlights the dominance of right-wing media, vested interests and low level of education amongst the general public.
I am ashamed because Britain voted based largely on not just misinformation, but lies, nationalism and misplaced anti-immigrant sentiment, rather than based on support for the socialist argument for leaving.
I am ashamed because the electorate has become so influenced by propaganda that it now votes consistently to hurt itself.
I am ashamed because the Tories will now be able to inflict even harsher austerity on the poorest in society.
I am ashamed because a majority of younger voters appeared to support remaining and this decision will affect them the most, yet the older generation has voted selfishly to leave.
But I am ashamed most of all due to the cultural division that the campaigns have caused in the UK and I am feeling concerned about how this will further develop, what impact it will have on relations with other EU countries and how it will further harm Britain’s poor image abroad. I am ashamed because it will likely pave the way to further destruction of the EU, when instead, we should have been working together to reform it from within.
Britain has not had its “identity” diluted by immigration — it has always had a highly fluid cultural identity, which has constantly changed with waves of immigrants throughout different eras. The Nordic, French, German, Africans, Indians, Romans and every other minority in Britain has shaped the country’s identity. Some of those are not members of the EU but the point is that unity — not division — is the progressive path to the future.
The future of Britain over the next four years now looks even bleaker than it did before. Even if the Tories are ousted in 2020, even if the left-wing takes control and improves the nation, the outlook in terms of international cooperation and multiculturalism within the UK looks depressing.
Today Britain is a divided nation and today I feel ashamed, not of Britain itself, but of the small mindedness of its electorate on this occasion.”