Friday 24 June 2016

"Someone had blundered"

100 years ago this morning, the British guns began their preparatory bombardment in what was to become known as the battle of the Somme. Despite firing 1.5 million shells over 5 days, when the British began their attack the Germans were waiting for them. Roughly 20,000 British infantrymen were killed in a single day, and tens of thousands more wounded. The slaughter became infamous - men sent to charge against machine guns with bayonets, gaily leaving their trenches, in places kicking a football before them in expectation of an easy victory against an enemy their officers told them was already destroyed by the bombardment. As Tennyson wrote of another battle "someone had blundered".

 The immediate result of yesterday's narrow vote for the UK to leave the EU will not be nearly so disastrous, at least immediately (who knows in the long term?), but they will be bad indeed. The intial chaos in the markets, the threats of secession from both the SNP and Sinn Fein, even the threat to Gibraltar from the Spanish, all show this to be so.

 The blame lies with poor leadership and deep self-deception. Despite multiple detailed, factual warnings, many of the people voting leave genuinely seem to have believed the assurance that they would lose little financially from leaving the EU. The supreme threat that this vote has created to the continued existence of the United Kingdom is something they either did not believe in or did not care about. They either believed the promises coming from the Leave camp of more NHS spending and lower immigration, or simply wanted to thumb their noses at "the establishment" (whoever they are). 

Their disillusionment will be swift. The promise of an imaginary £350 million pounds a week extra being liberated for the NHS has already been disavowed, and the idea that immigration will actually be eliminated or reduced significantly down-played, by the same people who loudly pronounced both as facts only a few days ago. The people who will be hurt by the economic trouble that Brexit will inevitably cause will be the ordinary men in the street, not the "establishment".

 Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, summed up the feelings of many on the Remain side about the vote:
This of, of course, is not the end of the story of Britain in Europe. There is still much to fight for, not least because the Leave campaign, in their supreme mendacity, did not bother to publish any kind of real plan for what would happen after a vote to leave. As a bare minimum people who value our deep economic and cultural ties with Europe have freedom of movement and membership of the EEA still left to fight for. There is now talk of a general election this year, which will hopefully precede any invocation of Article 50 (which automatically triggers the process of leaving the EU). Any party running on an EU-friendly platform is sure to attract votes from people aghast at the vote of yesterday's vote - and there will be more of these as the realisation of the true consequences of Brexit sinks in, even amongst Leave voters.

 For me this is bad both personally and a professionally. My job is in a Europeanised profession for a company that does much business in Europe. My wife and I are of two different European countries, our son holds the passports of both. I took solace in her hugs and his smiles this morning. I am British and proud, but I cannot help also being a European of sorts, and the simple act of removing the UK from the EU (possibly shorn of Scotland and Northern Ireland as a result of this madness) will not change this.


justrecently said...

I can't see where success may come from, but I do wish the British people success. Every EU citizen should - because every British success would be our success, too. Constant TINA (there is no alternative) kinds of constellations are mostly fiction - and they hurt democracy.

Hold the EU to task if they try to turn the "divorce" into a nasty process "pour encourager les autres", as the "Economist" put it last week. Britain is much better connected in the world than all of continental Europe.

No euphemisms - I know that these are bad days, and probably more so for Britain, than for the rest of the EU. But the pre-referendum status wasn't sustainable, either, and the EU as it is (and appears to remain for now, when looking at the official statements) won't last.

The future isn't as predictable as both Brexiters or Remainers have tried to make it appear.

Gilman Grundy said...

Thanks for your comment JR. I have to admit that whilst yesterday I was angry today I feel really, really sad about the whole thing.

I am not a European federalist. I have never been emotionally invested in the EU. However Brexit puts in grave risk some things that I do hold dear.

The Union is now in grave peril. Scots who were happy to be unionists now look aghast at what their English and Welsh compatriots have done. An Ireland that looked settled at last now risks having its wounds re-opened. I could wake one morning soon to hear that the country I was born in no longer exists.

Millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU, now have no idea what will happen to them.

We heard Junker this morning making tawdry comments about the relationship with Britain. It was all I could do not to throw something at the television. I hope our European friends will go easy on us, but I really doubt it given the treatment given to other countries.

All the same I'm going to try to hope for the best. EEA membership is one thing that we have to fight for, even if Brexiters say they were against it. My hope is a Norway-type solution (as a bare minimum) would mollify the Scots, calm the Irish, and convert enough of the Brexiters to win a referendum.

Mike Fagan said...

"Millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU, now have no idea what will happen to them."


Brits lived in Europe, and French, Germans, Austrians and others were able to live in Britain long before the E.U. was built. So there there, never mind - it's not the end of the world. It's just a thoroughly deserved kick in the balls to the sinecured "progressive" despots in both the UK and the EU.

Gilman Grundy said...

I am stuck by the supreme irony of a "libertarian" who favours the imposition of government bureaucracy on millions of people who presently get by quite fine without it.

KingTubby said...

Im absolutely reveling in the outcome Foarp, but you would expect that of me, so I will spare the sarcasm.

However, think about this. All British govts, esp New Labour and Cameron's crowd have always cosied up to your garbage tabloid press (esp Murdock outlets) in the hope of gaining electoral advantage. Yet this is the very same media which has been powering scepticism, anti EU and foreigner sentiment for decades.

Not forgetting the tits and bums, celeb gossip, etc.


justrecently said...

cosied up to your garbage tabloid press

... created by an American Australian, I presume. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

Ji Xiang said...

I am disappointed about the referendum's outcome, but all in all I'm not too bothered.

Britain never really was very integrated into the Union to start with. The real issue would be if this affected the ease with which Europeans can live in Britain and vice-versa, but given the large amounts of Brits living on the continent and continentals living in Britain, I imagine that they will not want to change the status quo. Well, of course they might negotiate separate arrangements with each country, which might make it harder for Eastern Europeans to move to Britain, but that's no skin off my nose. Europeans might no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits in Britain the moment they arrive, but I'm pretty sure few Europeans ever took advantage of that in practice.

As a British citizen I voted to remain, but as a European I think it might actually be easier to create a united Europe without the British in the way.

Gilman Grundy said...

@Ji Xiang -

1) I wouldn't assume that people will actually be free to move between Europe and the UK. Things are that bad.

2) The UK may not even exist in a few years because of this disastrous decision. No good can come of breaking the country up.

3) The economy is already cratering because of this decision. There will be people on the dole queue and businesses going out of business because of this.

4) The rise in racist attacks since the referendum is both marked and frightening.

Ji Xiang said...

You're right about the risk of the UK breaking up. I am not particularly fond of the prospect either. On the other hand the economy tanking will be temporary, and the racist attacks won't last either I hope.

Anonymous said...

@ JR. Murdoch's birth certificate has nothing to do with the point I was making. He would have taken out Moldovan citizenship if it provided maximum advantage for his media interests.

While I've often been accused of incautious comments, hyperbole etc, I've never stooped so low as you by quoting from the Book of Western Fairytales.

Jeering, sneering and throwing stones is one of the few unalloyed rights still enjoyed by the great unwashed in this new century.

@ Foarp. Are you so tied up in your career that you were surprised by Brexit. This was about identity politics shaken with a good dose of nationalism and less to do with economic self interest. Look, the EU is the perfect vehicle for the overlapping agendas of Neo Liberalisn, Globalisation and Trans-national corporatisation.

Not everybody buys into the rhetoric of Progress, Prosperity and the lets not piss off The Market/market forces whatever they are. Nor does everybody aspire towards owning the latest flat screen TV at give away prices, or wish to reconstruct their careers by becoming a merchant banker or member of the news digital economy ie homo economicus.

Since the 1980s social progress has been narrowly construed in economic terms, and now prosperous classes are scratching their heads over this populist blow back.

Just got a massive dose of blow back in Australia where a govt with a perfectly healthy majority, and which rabbited on about job creation, prosperity etc, got decimated in both houses. I did my bit by voting for the Pirate Party, Sex Party etc, although these voices of Libertarian ism didn't amount to much in terms of vote power.