25/07/2016

“Take back control”, they shouted. “Of what ?” replied everyone else. That said, 51.9% of the British public reckoned they knew what they were taking back control of – that’s why the majority of them voted to leave the EU. It’s confusing that the only reason the Leave Campaign gave was that “losing control costs a fortune”. ‘Take Back Control’ is one of those meaningless phrases that politicians invent, like ‘British Values’, and Theresa May’s  “Brexit means Brexit”. So what could it mean ? Perhaps take back control of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted 62.0% to remain, which allows the SNP to viably ask for another referendum on Scottish independence. Nicola Sturgeon said herself that a second independence referendum is “highly likely”. Similarly, like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted 55.8% in favour of remaining. This aids Sinn Fein’s want to unite with the Republic of Ireland. The fact that there is an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, promoting trade and prosperity, means that violence in Northern Ireland has been minimal. Yet even though the Republic maintains that the border will remain open, the UK’s want to ‘take back control’ makes it hard to believe this will be possible. Voting Leave certainly hasn’t made the UK any more unified. In fact the French now have no incentive for allowing the British to police migrants in Calais, and could justifiably transfer the migrants to Dover in the coming weeks. Maybe we’re supposed to take back control of ‘Great’ Britain. What makes us uniquely British ? Democracy, which 116 other countries have a form of ? A monarch, found in 43 other countries ? Tea, which per person both the Turkish and the Irish drink more of than the British ? Then language ? Yet 105 other countries speak English. 93 of those countries use English as a de facto, statutory national, or working language. The phrase ‘Take Back Control’ is one crafted from the political mist for propaganda uses only, and one that on an even brief inspection is shown to have minimal substance. I don’t believe that the British public understood what it is they were supposed to take back control of. The decision will affect the life of every British person. It will most probably affect the lives of many other Europeans as well. People will still survive, but we won’t be as well off or as financially stable as we could’ve been.

 

The vote to leave the EU has caused huge uncertainty. Uncertainty is one of the largest threats a civilisation can face. There are three keystones of civil life: the economy, politics, and society. Any form of uncertainty is a problem for a country’s welfare. Any kind of uncertainty results in less investment, and an unstable country. It is in this way that uncertainty is a danger to any kind of civilisation.

Economic uncertainty

Voting to leave the EU has created a massive amount of economic uncertainty for Britain. “We have the 5th largest economy in the world”, the leavers scoffed. Not anymore. With the fall of the pound to a 31-year low after we voted leave, the British economy dropped to be the 6th largest in the world. That’s an economic failure. France is now 5th.

Britain’s credit outlook has also changed from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’, and on top of this, the government has stated that it will take years to actually leave the EU, with the estimate being 2019. These reasons might seem to be insignificant changes that won’t really affect the country. Yet what kind of investor would put their money into a country with such economic uncertainty ? People like safe bets. They like to be able to predict what will happen, especially if their own money is involved. No one will invest in an economically uncertain Britain when they could easily invest in an economically stable country inside the EU, such as Germany. The Chancellor Phillip Hammond said after the G20 meeting in China, “The reality is there will be a measure of uncertainty continuing right up to the conclusion of our negotiations with the EU”.

Not only is Britain’s economic climate uncertain, but the economy is slowing down as well. In the second quarter 66 companies registered in the UK released profit warnings, which for that period is the highest number since the credit crunch of 2008.The IMF’s World Economic Outlook has cut the UK’s growth forecast for 2017 from 2.2% to 1.3%, and 2016’s forecast from 1.9% to 1.7%. It further stated that of all advanced economies the UK would suffer the most. Moreover, whereas before the vote the IMF predicted a promising growth in the global economy, the global growth forecast for 2017 has now been cut by 0.1%.

Another effect of this economic slowdown will be a decrease in immigration, which in turn will further put a dampener on the British economy. EU immigrants are net contributors to the UK economy. The average British person is more poorly educated and more likely to claim benefits than the average EU migrant too, showing that immigrants are extremely important to Britain and its economy.

Leave campaigners cited the growth of the FTSE 100 in the financial turmoil after the vote as a reason to show that Brexit was beneficial to the UK’s economy. After all, the FTSE 100 is up 3.7% since the referendum. However, the increase of the FTSE 100 showed the exact opposite. As most companies involved in it are based outside of Europe and the UK, they are better off when the UK’s economy is worse. In turn, the FTSE 250, which is more representative of the UK’s economy is still down 5% since the 23rd of June. The vote to leave the EU has undoubtedly damaged the UK’s economy, and the uncertainty in the markets will cause a plummet in foreign investments as well as make a less financially secure British economy.

Political uncertainty

Our political system is in shreds. Although Theresa May has taken over as the new leader of the Conservatives, their party is still split. Labour is similarly fragmented, with many members wanting a new leader. Moreover, Britain has failed to retain working parliamentary democracy. We elect politicians to make key decisions for us, to represent us, and take responsibility for us. It’s the same as any club. We give away the power over ourselves, and they take the responsibility for us. It’s a simple trade. Uncanny how similar it is to the EU. We pay a fee to be in the club, and reap the rewards. Not many people realise that Britain’s parliamentary democracy is in pieces. There have been calls for a second referendum. Over 4 million British people have signed a petition calling for one. The real reason why there can’t be another one, even if we want one, is that there was no agreement to hold another referendum even if the outcome was extremely close in the terms of the original referendum. However, many people think that there should be no second referendum because, as one reader wrote in an online Guardian discussion, the decision “was democratically arrived at”. This is a delicate point. What is democracy ? If you look at its Greek origin, it is ‘the people’s rule’. This is democracy in its purest, and yet base form. This is total democracy. If total democracy ruled a country, then for each law to be passed there would need to be a referendum. Of course this is ludicrous. Logistically it is near impossible to hold a referendum on every single law, and most people don’t want to vote on every single law.  That’s why we don’t live in a total democracy. We live in a variation of that pure version of democracy. Our democracy is a parliamentary democracy. We choose representatives at every election who we believe know best. We believe that they are perhaps more intelligent than us, and that they should delve into every law to help to make life-changing decisions in our best interests. In this light it is fair to say that a referendum is a failure in what we call democracy. The referendum is concluded, yet still it represents the huge political uncertainty in Britain. In the days after the vote, Steven Erlanger of the International New York Times asked “Will [Britain] retreat to become a Little England, nationalist and a touch xenophobic, responding to the voters that drove it to quit the European Union ?” The new Prime Minister will hopefully quash those fears of the outside world, but even with Theresa May in power the country is split down the middle. The real question, one that no one knows the answer to, is whether in the next election those who voted remain will back the Tories as May was a Remainer, or will they turn elsewhere in a vote against the Party that called a referendum in the first place ?

Social uncertainty

British society has been split down the middle. The vote was 51.9% to 48.1% in favour of leaving (a majority of only 1,269,501 people). The EU referendum has clarified the generational gap in Britain, but it hasn’t created it. As one 21 year old graduate wrote on twitter, “Baby boomers screwing the younger generations over YET again.” 73% of 18-24 year old voted to remain; 68% of 65+ year old voted to leave. On average, those who are 65+ have 15 years left to live with their decision. In comparison, 18-24 year olds have 65 years to live with it. Some people have argued since that the voting age should have been lower, and even that there should’ve been an upper limit age cap on voters. Many countries are inundated with the debts and problems created by past generations. What the referendum has done is show just how large the division is. In addition the referendum has shown the North-South divide in Britain. The top five areas with the highest percentage of people voting leave were all in the Midlands or the North, and away from the London and the South, the two areas that have seen the most economic growth in the past decade, as well as received a higher number of immigrants, who as the mayor of London Sadiq Khan said “make a huge contribution to our city”. Yet most importantly, the referendum has illuminated Britain’s class divide. People who are generally less academically strong, and rely on primary and secondary industry jobs voted to leave and this was largely a vote against globalisation. As Nicholas Barrett wrote in the FT, “millions… felt disempowered by the seemingly uncontrollable winds of globalisation and mass mobility.” Of course, they wouldn’t see their vote as such. Their reasons for voting leave are personal. Their cities are still run-down, and their wages pushed down by the lure of cheap labour in the form of EU migrants, and yet the government in London and the media that surrounds them have persisted that the economy is growing and that globalisation benefits the country. A vote to leave was anti-establishment, but it was more a blind bid for something new. People have looked at the problems in their life, accepted the hard-line view of parties such as UKIP, and blamed the EU and immigration. They feel that this system isn’t working, so they might as well try a new one. It’s the same as a game of football – you’re 75 minutes in, 1-0 down, so you throw on a 17 year old to add something new to the mix. However, many people don’t realise that whilst life inside the EU does have problems, life outside it has many more. Britain must re-write most of its laws. It must deal with 3 years of political uncertainty, and thus lower foreign investment, before we actually leave the EU.

 

The UK has voted for Brexit, and to ‘take back control’, but nobody has a clue what those two statements mean. Although Theresa May told the public, “Brexit means Brexit”, it is still unclear what sort of Brexit deal will actually transpire. The Prime Minister needs a deal in which she can claim to control migration whilst obtaining as much access as possible to the European markets. Of course, to gain access European politicians would force the UK to surrender its control of migration. It is now a month since the referendum and there is no feeling in Britain of a land of returned ‘control’. The EU referendum has clarified latent divides in Britain. There is a gender gap, a class divide, a North-South divide, and there is a generational rift. Brexit has not only shown up these divides, but has flung Britain into uncertainty. This uncertainty has already damaged the UK’s economy, and will undeniably continue to do so. People will live, but not as comfortably as they have been in the past years. It is clear that the vote to leave the EU has left Britain economically, politically, and socially weak.

Chris Matthews from London.

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