I don’t normally do real-world politics here – this here’s my gaming blog. While I’m a news and politics junkie in real life, I prefer to keep that separate from my gaming persona. However, since Tobold already went there and the comment I wrote was long enough to be a post in it’s own right, I figured I’d repost it here with a little expansion. I’m also proud that I held off making a crack back at Tobold about Belgium being a failed state with two ethnic factions at loggerheads and unable to form a government.
OK, I’m not proud.
Anyway, putting the ridiculous scare stories on both sides of the Brexit debate aside, there were three main things that moved the ‘Out’ vote:
1) immigration. Which, let’s face it, is not popular with a lot of people anywhere, so the British aren’t alone in having it be a worry, but there’s a perception that Britain is one of the more popular destinations for migrants and that the EU is an enabler. There’s a lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on this topic and people tend to conflate free movement of labour in the EU (Polish plumbers) with refugees (Syrians trying to escape being bombed), economic migrants from outside the EU (guys from just about anywhere looking for a better life) and ‘benefit tourists'((possibly mythical bogeymen that want to come and sponge off our supposedly over-generous benefits system, which is supposed to be a privilege reserved for native-born chavs).
2) Control. There’s long been a perception that EU regulation is over-bearing and driven by career bureaucrats working towards a United States of Europe run along continental social democratic lines (i.e. somewhat to the left and more statist than the British political centre of balance). There’s also a sense that this isn’t what we signed up for – I’m old enough to remember the EEC as was being referred to as the ‘common market’ and was sold to the British public as a free trade area, not a grand political experiment. I think it’s telling that the ‘Out’ vote was especially high amongst those old enough to remember this.
3) Redistribution. Yes, Britain pays more in than it receives out (directly). While there was a rebate arrangement to reduce some of that imbalance, recent attempts to eliminate or reduce that rebate haven’t exactly warmed the hearts of the British public. Plus, there’s an argument that the reason the UK is one of the richer countries (currently) in Europe is because we have a more free-market economy than the sluggish, statist continental model so maybe they should try reforming their economies instead of expecting us to subsidise them?
Anyone who thinks that the ‘out’ vote was nothing but the spite of xenophobic idiots hasn’t looked carefully enough at the perceptions of the EU in the UK. Ill-advised interventions, such as Barack Obama’s attempt to put Britain on the naughty step by telling us we would ‘go to the back of the queue’ for a trade deal did more harm than good because people weren’t nearly bothered about the financial consequences as they were about the control issue. You might want to go and look at Richard Bartle’s blog, he had a couple
that suggest why an intelligent individual, looking a bit further ahead, would consider leaving the EU.
For what it’s worth, I personally voted to remain – but it was a close personal decision, and I was thinking it over at the point of casting my ballot. Immigration wasn’t an issue – I’m a son and a great-grandson of immigrants, and a free marketer to boot, so that issue simply doesn’t faze me. On the economic front, I felt both sides had overstated the costs and benefits, but my gut feel was that the impact in the long term wasn’t likely to be severe. Control… that’s the one. I could see the time coming when we would have to leave if we didn’t want to be permanently bound into a European superstate, but I don’t think that time when we HAD to jump was here yet.
One last thought – with age, I’ve come to the realisation that few things are as bad (or as good) as first reaction makes them. And there are almost 200 sovereign nations on this planet, which means about 170 of them are not part of the European Union. That includes nations like Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, the USA and China, all of which seem to be prospering somehow without being part of the European Union. I suspect we’ll muddle through.