Waves of uncertainty are rolling across Britain’s political landscape. The word ‘United’ in the U.K is looking more and more like a cruel joke. It is possible that an Independent Scotland and an United Ireland have been created from the Brexit fallout. And it’s only the beginning of the process.
So what’s next? First, it is important to clarify that Brexit is an historically unique event – no country like the U.K has ever left an organisation like the E.U. Therefore, predictions are difficult as we have no precedents to look to. One thing that is becoming apparent is that the negotiations will be an immensely complex and arduous affair. Negotiators from the U.K will go to Brussels not really knowing what kind of U.K they are representing. Is it a U.K with or without Scotland? With or without Northern Ireland? Is it a U.K with a populace who are for or against the single market? These are pretty much impossible questions to answer at the moment.
There are also problems for the E.U. There is a distinct possibility that there will be #frexit trending on the tongues of the European twitter feeds come April. A Marine Le Pen victory will be seen as a mandate for a in/out referendum. If France leaves, the whole E.U show comes crashing down. Negotiators in Brussels must know that this is an outcome that is not impossible. Or have they still not heeded the warning signs? Are they still so complacent and naive? Then there is the small answer of another Greek financial crisis. It has been said that Greece could declare that it is unable to repay its existing debts – this would spark panic across French and German banks. The tremors that could tear apart the E.U are getting louder and louder. Negotiations will look like two sinking ships trying to blow holes in each other with water pistols.
So what will be the immediate consequences of triggering Article 50? There will be a weakening of the pound, the spooking of the markets will probably hit growth, and the nitty gritty of a trade deal will start to be negotiated. Regardless of how well the U.K does in the negotiations, the deal will be less favourable than current arrangement within the E.U- anybody saying otherwise is living on Planet Empire 2.0.
I am more interested in the immediate political and social aftermath as the realities of Brexit start to sink in. If you had the misfortune to sit through the most recent bout of Question Time, you will have realised two things a) the level of political debate is so low as to only constitute a throwing around of buzzwords and soundbites, b) the two sides of the debate are talking at such cross-purposes that any possibility of meaningful communication seems hopeless.
The ‘Legsit’ headline shows the poison that is administrated by the so-called newspapers who accept all their power without a dose of responsibility. The Daily Mail and their ilk manage to undermine half of the population by trivialising and objectifying female leaders. When they’re not doing that they are demonising immigrants whilst ignoring the economic causes of the mass discontent, all in the name of profit. A climate of resentment against those most vulnerable has been created by millionare sociopaths. We cannot rely on these institutions to mediate the seismic change.
Soon people will realise that trade deals with countries such as India means more immigration not less. They will realise that a U.S trade deal means Trump will dictate terms that will destroy our food regulations. They will realise that taking back control did not mean a thing, that the NHS will still crumble, that the money will still be scarce. In short, they will realise they’ve been had. What then? Will the climate of fear and division cause more unrest? Or will people wake up to the real problems of unrestrained corporate power and the governments that are complicit? One thing is for sure; the tabloid media will not be part of any awakening.
People who are interested in progressive leftist politics should stop campaigning to prevent our exit from the E.U – that creaky ship has sailed. These sort of things foster more division and show that leftists are for maintaining a status quo that should not be tolerated anymore. We should be thinking about how we can stop an erosion of environmental, labour and human rights that this government will sign away at the first hint of a trade deal. We should be organising to show solidarity with migrants and refugees, and we should be vigilant against racism and other forms of discrimination.
We should also be thinking about what European co-operation will look like in a post-EU world, as it seems obvious that the E.U is dying. Talk of further integration is utterly antithetical to the wishes of the populations of countries such as France, Germany and Italy. The only way to make the E.U work would be to federalise and set up a Central Bank that has fiscal powers to transfer wealth from Germany to Greece. The problem is no one wants a United States of Europe. If it was proposed there would be outrage. If it were imposed there would be right-wingers being elected everywhere to fight it. The other option is a slow descent into more financial and social woes. This cannot end well. We need to make sure that the descent is met with a vision of a peaceful and more democratic version of European co-operation.
Brexit is not the problem, it is a symptom of a deep malaise in Western society caused by years and years of aggressive de-industrialisation, wage stagnation and rising inequality. We need to start talking to each other: across class lines and across cultural borders. We need to radically change our society at a political and cultural level. Yes there is uncertainty and chaos ahead, but we need to make sure that it is the progressives that grab the wheel. Otherwise, the road is filled with more Brexits, more Trumps and possibly far worse. The future starts here: let’s embrace the chaos.
Written by Stephen Durkan
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