Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tories Lie - Public Suffers

A week ago, voters in the United Kingdom voted by referendum to leave the European Union (EU).

Results so far: the pound went into free fall against the dollar, though it has recovered slightly; both the governing conservative party and the labour party are in turmoil; prominent supporters of the decision to leave the EU have admitted they lied about the benefits; gasoline prices are up; real estate prices are down; the whole political system is in what Brits refer to as a "shambles."

Advocates of leaving the EU didn't say "Make the UK Great Again" but they might as well have. Still, at this point it seems likely the outcome will be to diminish the size, economic power and influence of the United Kingdom. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland may very well leave the UK so they can remain in the EU.

Some of the "leave" advocates hoped to negotiate special arrangements allowing the UK full access for their goods and services to the internal EU market, with the right to exclude movement of EU citizens into the UK. This seems unlikely. EU officials have made it clear they will not allow "cherry picking."

Two groups of UK citizens are particularly dismayed at the vote: young British citizens, who had been able to explore job opportunities an all 28 EU member countries but now can only search for employment within the UK; older UK citizens who had been living abroad for many years, and whose living arrangements are now in great turmoil.

Immigration was an issue, but not for the reason Americans might think. It had nothing to do with refugees from the Middle East - it was resistance to immigration from new EU member countries like Poland. The reason many older Brits objected is they had been told by the government that EU immigration had forced the government to reduce funding to the universally revered National Health Service. That explanation was a lie.

Anti-immigrant sentiment might also stem from a modern version of the old assertion that "Wogs (a derogatory term for racial and ethnic groups seen as inferior) begin at the Channel." But there seems to be no polling data to support this. There is data supporting concern about the NHS.

This may not be the end of forces pulling the EU apart, I have thought for some years now that the common European currency (the Euro) has been a bad idea poorly executed. I don't see how the zone can survive, but it seems hard to give up, even on ideas that don't work.

Stay tuned.

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