The EU aftermath

Flag_of_Europe.svgOn Friday morning I woke and was unhinged by a metaphorical broadside that I hadn’t expected. Our country had voted to leave the EU and the sickness in my stomach and the fear of what the future might bring was overwhelming. I hadn’t really had that feeling since my father died and that was almost 30 years ago.

The blanket coverage included a map of the regional splits of the voting patterns and, as I scanned the UK, it was a wake-up-and-smell- the-coffee moment. In my poncey middle-class metropolitan home in West London, with ambitions of bi-folding patio doors and kitchen islands, I realised that I had forgotten about those in the poverty-stricken council estates, the marginalised, the disenfranchised and those with little hope and, more importantly, little cash to splash around. They had nothing to lose, they made their point and, suddenly, idiots like me with retirement plans and a tax-efficient Audi were going to pay. I had built a protective fence around my comfortable lifestyle while people in these areas were watching immigrants, prepared to work for peanuts, drive wages into the floor and, really, none of my stupid centre-left politics and compassionate words had helped.

I might blather on about social justice and generosity to my fellow man, but what have I done about it? Well, bugger all (apart from a bit of volunteering for meals for the homeless – yay, go me!) and the thing is I am a self-professed Christian, and the worst kind; loaded with hypocrisy and eloquent words, so completely at odds with the Jesus I choose to follow. This is the man who stopped the establishment stoning adulterers, who turned the tables on the money changers, who mixed with prostitutes, tax collectors, the marginalised and desperate, and was ultimately nailed to a cross for it. But that’s not all he was. For most of his life he was a carpenter, pricing up quotes for people who wanted a new fence or their roof fixing. He is the archetypal white van man, the stereotype so vilified by the middle-classes for not having enough basic intelligence to vote.

So we’ve been chastised, but what is left for us now? The saddest thing about it all this is that those who needed this the most won’t actually get what they want. Within two hours of victory Nigel Farage admitted that the spurious £350m that goes to the EU won’t go to the NHS. Then Conservative MEP Dan Hannan accepted that the future outside the EU will still mean a deal that will result in free movement of labour to the UK – everything the working classes didn’t want. The elderly who voted ‘out’ will see their pension pots evaporate as the stock market goes into freefall and you can bet your life that Cornwall, one of the most emphatic Brexiteers, will not see the £60m in EU funding matched by any future UK government. With an economy that went from the fifth biggest to the sixth biggest overnight, the likes of Cornwall will be standing at the back of the queue.

I said last week that people should be careful what they wish for. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove looked like they were attending a funeral after the result. They don’t want to press the Article 50 button and Theresa May is insisting there should be no rush despite the fact that the French and Germans say there should. You kind of get their point.

Whichever way you voted, you’d be impossibly naïve if you are not expecting anything other than a serious detrimental impact on the UK’s economy. Short-term pain for long-term gain? I think not. The last recession hit us in 2008 and we’ve only just recovered. During that time I got made redundant twice and it was horrible, but I almost got made redundant three times had it not been for European regulations that offered me enough protection to keep me in work.

And what of the UK? Expect Scotland to leave – and quite right too – and expect them to take the oil with them, but more worrying is the impact this will have on Northern Ireland, and this is where all the economic arguments for and against Brexit pale into insignificance.

We spent years trying to get a peace settlement in Northern Ireland and now we’ve thrown a ruddy great can of petrol over the embers. Since Northern Ireland will no longer be a member of the EU, we’ll have to introduce border controls to stop the immigrants coming in. Anyone with half a knowledge of Irish history will understand that this will be more than enough to antagonise those spoiling for a fight. The Orangemen of Drumcree would rather die than unite with the likes of Sinn Fein. Bloodshed, I am afraid, is inevitable.

So it’s all unravelled in front of us and, as much I think this has been a dreadful, dreadful mistake, I am not calling for another referendum. Democracy has had its way and the voices of those who had been previously ignored have now been heard. I do not blame those who voted for this – they had their reasons and they have to be respected – but I do blame those who led this campaign and peddled nothing but barefaced lie after lie to the British public. We deserved so much better than what we got, and I suppose all we can do now is just get on with it and hope and pray that it all turns out alright.

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The EU debate

NigelI haven’t written anything on this blog for a while because there hasn’t been much to write about, but I feel that the name of this website/blogsite lends itself well to the current EU debate.

The killing of Jo Cox, the vitriol, the constant bickering about what is and isn’t ‘fact’ is so saddening it should tell us that, as a nation, we’re not as ‘Great’ as we’d like to think we are. We have to face the reality that we’re just very ordinary and, if you are in any doubt about that, take a long look at the poster from the so-called ‘Out’ campaign. In this link you’ll see a picture of ‘poster-boy’ Nigel Farage standing in front of an ad hoarding depicting a long line of immigrants that are, purportedly, desperate to come into our country. They all have brown faces.

If what we are proposing to do, i.e exit the EU, becomes reality, we’ll stop Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians, Hungarians etc coming into our country (unless of course, under Nigel Farage’s points system, they are astro-physicists or doctors who are prepared to go tomato-picking in Peterborough). I live next door to a Polish couple. They are a lovely, hardworking, if slightly insular family with… white faces.

I spoke to a friend who said to me ‘at least Nigel Farage speaks his mind’. I’m not so sure this is a reason to exit the EU because, quite frankly, I don’t particularly like what’s in Nigel Farage’s mind. If you managed to read the previous two sentences and the penny didn’t drop, what we are talking about here is not a control on immigration, it is about fascism.

Don’t get me wrong, people who want out are not fascists and I do respect the opinions of those who have genuine concern about our status and have ultimately made the decision to leave, but this poster leaves me in no doubt about what the underlying message is here from those leading this campaign. This hoarding is designed to appeal to people’s fears and prejudices, nothing more. It’s a monumentally blunt tool and, what is surprising to me, is that people have bought into this lemon without fully understanding what kind of agenda awaits them.

First of all, you have to bear in mind that Farage is a charlatan of the highest order. He appeals to a base instinct: an internal fight-or-flight mechanism where instinct leaves you with no other course of action other than to lash out. Farage is the worst sort of politician: his common-man appeal – drinking bitter in English country pubs – is a façade designed to put you at ease and, if you hadn’t already worked it out, I’d rather paint my hand with fresh blood and put it into the mouth of an extremely hungry lion than side with Nigel.

Then you have to look at the rest of this ragtag bunch. Michael Gove, former education secretary who would have destroyed Britain’s education system had he been allowed to continue, and Boris Johnson, the lovable buffoon, who spent most of his time in the 1990s top-spinning stories about the EU because it pleased the political will of the great and the good at The Daily Telegraph. This threesome is not the ‘team’ I want running my country. I’d have a ‘faceless’ bureaucrat without a political agenda in Brussels every time.

Then let’s consider that main influencer designed to sway the British public for an out vote: The Sun newspaper.  Oh good. This is the organ that blamed Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster.

In terms of the economic impact, I’ll say this. Nobody has any facts about what will happen because nobody knows the future, but my suspicion is that it’ll be a total disaster. Already the stock market is looking nervous and the Pound is in freefall. There is a simple reason for this. Financial experts – and I have said this before – are not experts. They do what everyone else would do. They are cautious when things are bad and bold when things are good and, with Brexit looking like a certainty, don’t expect bold, exciting investment that’ll stimulate/expand our economy in the next few months/years/decades.

Norway should not be held up as any kind of success story either. It’s not in the EU, but still pays a hefty contribution to the EU for free trade, accepts free movement of people and, most importantly, has no seat at the EU table. It’s doing alright for itself, says Farage. True enough, it is doing alright because it has a load of oil, but it still doesn’t have the fifth largest economy in the world. There is a reason we are the fifth largest economy in the world – it’s because we are part of Europe, not in spite of it.

There are other reasons that have all been well-documented, but if you have been living under a rock for three months, you should be aware that if we left we’d have to renegotiate around 50 new trade deals. This is not the work of a day, it takes years.

If you still think it’ll be a walk in the park to negotiate trade deals then think about what we’d be left with in terms of bureaucracy. There’s no avoiding it. Fully functioning societies need rules and we’d have to make them. If you are a UK government department or lawyer, granted, it’ll be payday because we’d have to sink billions into new UK-only legislation allowing them to fill their boots, but if you are the so-called hardworking common man or woman, it’s time to start putting your hands into your pockets to pay for it.

Thing is, the current EU rules can actually help you. I’ll give you one example. A few years ago I was threatened with redundancy because I worked for a production company and the contract had been moved to another supplier. Under EU regulations, the new supplier had to re-employ me. Had it not been for the EU, I would have been out of work. You might believe The Sun’s propaganda about straight bananas, but the EU helps us stay in work, improves our rights as workers and gives us a voice when employers try to take the piss out of us.

In other news, I want to retire… not in this country. I want to retire to somewhere hot in Europe, where I can play golf, wear loose-fitting clothing and get skin cancer. Out of Europe, I’ll not qualify under an ‘Australian-style’ points system because I’ll be too old. Spain won’t want me and after this messy divorce, I doubt Greece will want me either. It’s not looking good for my daughter either – she’ll have no right to live, study or work in Europe if we leave. My personal plans for the future are not looking good, it seems.

To me, the evidence against leave the EU is too strong to ignore: the fact that Farage is a chancer, I’m not confident about the economy, my personal situation will be screwed and there are some useful EU regulations that help us, but all that pales into significance when it has become crystal clear that our country has descended into a mirror image of Donald Trump’s America. It is a society quick to lash out, strongly suspicious and anxious to build walls. Farage is our Trump, but poorer and with less ridiculous hair. The only reason Nigel hasn’t suggested building a wall around our country is that there is a bunch of sea around us and sea is much more effective at keeping the Syrian refugees out.

In some respects there is one thing that gives me hope if we do vote out. It’ll mean we will have no-one else to blame but ourselves. Be careful what you wish for people.