Tag Archives: EU referendum

Two weeks is a long time in post-Brexit politics

In case you’re new to this blog: I was firmly in the Remain camp (a non-voting supporter, despite being a British citizen but that’s another story). I use the past tense because I think it important to recognise that Brexit has been decided by the people and will happen, in one form or other.

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I’m not going to make any predictions about the possible economic outcomes of this decision, the model that will be adopted finally, or Britain’s future standing in the world. (Let’s face it, my previous record is not good, I predicted that Remain would win the day.) But I do know that there’s a lot of work to get through, work of a very practical and pressing nature.

Let’s assume that the political landscape settles down to some sort of normality this autumn. The people at the helm of their respective parties, when they know who they are, will need to devise a process to produce a new government, which itself will need a strong mandate to implement the exit plan it will have been voted on, which in turn will need to address such points as access to the single market, a position on immigration, the precise nature of the friendly relationship it wishes to maintain with the rest of Europe and also how it proposes to deal with the respective positions adopted by the various nations in the United Kingdom.

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This is a lot to take on. However, by far the trickiest task facing the next government is how to take the people with them. No, democracy isn’t perfect. And no, we can’t have another referendum, changing the rules after the event because we don’t like the result is not sensible (retrospective measures very rarely are.) But yes, people are really really cross and fed up. I won’t dwell on the rather unhelpful caricatures of Remainers and Brexiteers that have proliferated over the past couple of weeks. I’ll try and stop lamenting over the visible anger and hurt expressed on both sides, with unfair accusations of racism and exasperation about misinformation chief among them.

For my part, the main change I would like to see relates to that last point, misinformation. If there was a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs specific to information, I would put education at the bottom of it. In fact, it would take up two thirds of the pyramid. A knowledge base from which to start, the ability to process information and the nurturing of young people’s curiosity and questioning, these all depend on education, wherever it comes from.  I would label the remaining third of the pyramid “communication”.

As regards education, despite the many frustrations we experience with a range of education systems, I do believe that a lot of attention is being paid to how we teach our young. We generally care about it and a LOT of people are engaged: families, teachers, schools and education ministries.

On the other hand, I believe that we are only scratching the surface of understanding how communication really works for humans. I am becoming increasingly fascinated with this and have started musing on the subject. I propose to try and learn some more, which probably means some research. Pointers and suggestions welcome; right now I’m thinking about the power of “story telling” for instance, the insistence on the appeal to emotions to promote a message and all that sort of thing.

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Brexit is already no longer absolutely dominating British and European headlines. Since June 23rd, atrocities in Bangladesh and Iraq, shootings in the US and various sporting events have claimed column inches and bandwidth. Soon, Messrs Farage, Johnson, Gove, Cameron, Corbyn et al will gradually fade away from wordy articles, incendiary tweets, interviews, satirical sketches and cartoons, only to be referred to occasionally alongside other such former politicians as Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell and Michael Foot. O brave new world, etc.

 

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Miranda – The Tempest by John William Waterhouse

Brexit? Non merci !

Dear British voters,

I promise that this is my last post on the subject which has managed to unify the nation. The ugliness of the referendum debate has spread despair evenly over the length and breadth of the country. (Incidentally, the Euros is just another opportunity to baffle non-Brits with what the United Kingdom actually represents. These past few days, I’ve had conversations similar to this: “- We could play Ireland in group C next. – No, no, that’s Northern Ireland, part of the UK. The Republic of Ireland – you know, Dublin, not Belfast, is in group E.”)

As a by-stander – having lived outside Britain for more than twenty years now – I still believe that the UK will choose to remain in the EU. I also still fervently believe it should do so because:

 

from a social point of view, the idea of groups of humans organising themselves into structures that offer peace and prosperity is an attractive one, to my mind.

And by “structure”, I don’t just mean our own village. The genie’s out of the bottle. We’ve seen other villages out there, big and small. We’ve heard other languages, admired other landscapes and works of art, experienced other customs. And if we haven’t, we’ve heard tell of them things across the ages, from traveller’s tales, tradespeople’s experiences and migrants’ stories. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. A lot of bad stuff too. A bit like in our own village, except that there’s a lot more to the world than our own village.

 

From an economic point of view, I still don’t know how anyone convinced bona fide economists to compile reports on likely outcomes of this or that scenario. I’m sorry, but I can only think the fees were good. I appreciate that economists know a thing or two about multiple, complex variables and I’m aware that sophisticated algorithms can do some amazing modelling but I’m not confident that it was even possible to frame the questions sensibly in the first place. They must all have run along the lines of: “If the UK leaves the EU and X does/does not interact with the UK in the future in the same way as it has previously, then what is likely to happen?” How does that take into account what Y, Z, A, B might do, for example?

 

From a geographical point of view, we hit a snag. The UK consists of this sceptered isle (not needing quote marks if it’s Shakespeare is a rule, isn’t it?) and a bit of the Emerald Isle – or a bit North of the Emerald Isle I should say. Anyway, the operative word here is “isle”. Islands are islands, defined by their insularity, and I can’t think of a work-around here, it would be so much easier if Europe were an island itself, rather than a bit of land bolted onto Asia.

Perhaps we should blast the Urals away or something.

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From a historical point of view, I think I’ll just selfishly stick to the bit I know best: the relationship between my two countries, France and the UK, well, mostly England actually.

A few millennia seem to produce the same sort of development on either side of the Channel. There is perhaps a preference for chalk figures for the artists from one set of tribes versus cave paintings for artists from the other. Probably the first chronicled event is the Romans going on their Pax Romana Grand Tour, putting Gaul then Britannia on the map and building handy straight roads for future tourists. When that’s over, the Vikings leave their native Scandinavia to go on their own massive expansion spree, which also incorporates France and Britain (and probably the US, but that’s another story). One William of Normandy is a notable figure in that context. He promptly inventories the assets of his new property and oversees a huge property development programme. There follows a long period of deciding whether we’re really talking about a big Normandy with an English annex or a British kingdom with adjuncts in the South West of France. A highlight of that period is the grisly murder of a pious teenager in my home town of Rouen, jointly organised by the French ecclesiastical authorities and the English. After a bit, the various kings and queen seem to be clearer about who rules whom in which country. Quite soon after that, the French decide they don’t want kings any more anyway, England welcomes a large number of Terror refugees and the French replace their kings with an emperor, who wages war against everybody. A lot more recently (hang on in there, I’m nearly done with history and we’re getting to the really good bit) Britain and France are on the same side in one of humanity’s bloodiest conflicts ever. They have stayed on the same side ever since, and even joined up with other former foes.

Today, conflict between French and British people is mostly expressed by disagreeable comments and the odd sneer on each other’s bathing habits, culinary traditions and sporting expolots. By and large, the same sort of relations currently prevail throughout the EU.

 

From The Archers’ point of view, the big question is: “Can Helen vote?” Legal expertise on this point would be greatly appreciated. The facts are that Helen has been remanded in custody but not tried, in a case of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. (The Helen Titchener née Archer case will probably be the subject of future bar exam papers, such is the power of this 60-year old radio soap opera from the BBC).

So far, the only reference I’ve heard to the referendum in The Archers is one of the more likeable characters being quoted as saying it was a “moral duty to vote”. There has been no mention of which way anyone is going to vote, of course, but you can bet your bottom dollar/pound/euro that Susan Carter will be putting a cross in the “leave” box. Perhaps the script writers will provide a topical insert on Thursday and have Pip chat with Kirsty outside the polling station about the likely outcome of the vote…

 

I won’t be at any polling station, fictional or otherwise, but I will be staying up for the results of the referendum.

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Should we stay or should we go now

This has probably already been done, but here is my take on “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, with apologies to The Clash. And may I point out that I’m keeping this post pretty balanced and neutral, BBC style, unlike my previous one!

 

220px-ClashStayorGosingleBritain you gotta let us know
Should we say or should we go?
Some say we’re better off together
Some say let’s just get out for ever
So you gotta let us know
Should we stay or should we go?

It’s always moan, moan, moan
EU debates end with a groan
Do we want in, do we want out?
So if you want to sort it out
Well, come on and let us know
Should we stay or should we go?

Should we stay or should we go now?
Should we stay or should we go now?
If we stay there will be headaches
And if we go there will be heartache
So come on and let us know

A big decision for us to take
A deal we have to make or break
Exactly what are we supposed to do
Don’t you know which system even suits you?
Come on and let us know
Should we cool it or should we blow?