Friday, 24 June 2016

The End Of The Unions

European Union Referendum, 23rd June 2016 – Final Result
Leave the EU
Remain within the EU

About twenty to five this morning, the news networks in this country projected a win for the vote leave side in this referendum.  It is a vote, finally confirmed at 6am but was highly likely from the slight pro EU declaration of Newcastle at midnight followed quickly by the thumping Exit win in Sunderland that will have massive implications for the UK, for Scotland and for the EU with the Prime Minister already signalling his intention to resign. 

For the EU, this pulls the rug from under them.  They simply did not see this coming.  Both their standing and also their self importance will have taken a huge knock.  For the UK, the short to medium term shocks will be nothing compared to the less gently unravelling of the United Kingdom.  Sinn Fein have already called for a referendum on a united Ireland, while the SNP are looking out the rulebooks and slide charts to see if Indyref 2 will be more winnable than the first Indyref.  On a 62% pro EU vote in Scotland, convincing people that a second Independence referendum so soon after the first may not be the given deal that many pro independence supporters believe it to be.  Still, if the SNP think they can win from this current position, good luck.

The Pound Shop Mosley claims victory at 4am this morning
All of that is yet to come, all following the inevitable financial meltdown.  What has already begun is the post mortem.  Labour types in London have already started by laying the blame firmly at the door of the SNP.  True, I’ve not seen a piece of election literature – the official government booklet excepted – and I did not see the same level of street engagement as there was either during the General Election or the Holyrood Election.  However you cannot blame the SNP for this.  It was a more positive, if heavily spun & gradually more pious, case for the EU than the case that was being prosecuted by our southern cousins.  They were the only party to make the case for immigration/freedom of movement.  That in itself is a big big reason for the vote to exit.

I had always said that the key to elections is the economic debate.  In this case, the Anglocentric-Remainers completely and utterly lost the argument.  Cameron & Osborne pursued Project Fear redux in terms of the economic argument putting out figures which may or may not be accurate and publishing forecasts and not caveating them.  As I’d pointed out earlier, Project Fear conceded 26% over the course of the 2 and a half years of the Independence referendum, why would anyone think that it would work again for this referendum.  For people who voted for Brexit, immigration was always a symptom of a bigger malase, that the Thatcher and Blair years had left them behind and that immigration became the handiest stick to beat the Westminster establishment with.  Sure we can all be disgusted at the campaign that UKIP & Farage ran (and the official Leave campaign switched to about the time purdah began) but to blame those voters misses the point.  The failure lies with the main parties at Westminster, the same ones who shrugged off 1.6 million people voting to leave the United Kingdom 20 odd months ago and failed to build bridges with pro Independence voters.

The big irony here of course is that the Prime Minister was a much more visible presence during this campaign than he was during the Independence Referendum.  His appearances on debates though were generally considered to be poor and he mostly came second best to his ‘Leave’ opponents.  Is it any wonder then that Cameron has decided to resign.  Next up for public scrutiny will be the chancellor George Osborne.  The currency of Osborne was already crashing in current Sterling fashion, it will be more through the floor as the perceived wisdom that Osborne was the heir apparent to Cameron now looks dead in the water.  In truth, Cameron had led a charmed life.  Unable to secure a commons majority against the party that caused the UK leg of the recession/credit crunch in 2010, secured the immediate future of the UK in 2014 in spite of his… minimum campaigning style and secured a small working majority last year in no small thanks to the heavy legged style of Labour.  Cameron’s luck has simply run out and he knew it.

While I had my own reasons for voting for Brexit, reasons to do with democratic accountability and transparency, the UK as a whole voted for exit for reasons that could and should have been easily rebutted and comprehensively dismantled.  Immigration/Freedom of movement should have been taken out as an argument straight away.  The economy should have been a much more concise argument and the pro-EU argument should have been clearer on what we should have been voting for.  And, yes, the EU should have seen the warning signs from the 2014 European Elections and looked at ways of making the EU more democratic and transparent. But then again, the EU’s way has always been to fudge & fix their way out of trouble.  When Maastricht was in trouble, both Denmark and France were told to replay their referendums, similarly with Ireland when they voted against the Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties.  And that’s before we get to the extremely secretive TTIP negotiations.  The official Leave campaign, in short, did not conduct a smart, astute campaign and relied on negative campaigning.

If Cameron’s luck has run out, what do we make of the state of Labour.  Their previous heartlands in England & Wales voted en masse for Brexit.  I’m not sure you can blame Corbyn for this, as a lot of this looks like dissatisfaction with and a hangover from Labour party policy from…  oh… when they were in power. Where you can maybe blame Corbyn is his lack of communication skills, but you can certainly blame the Labour right for their inability to connect to the former blue collar constituency.

The worst campaign in political history has given us a result that is resolutely not the best of both worlds.  The plummeting value of Sterling appears to be the start of a political earthquake that has already claimed the Prime Minister.  The shockwaves from this decision will travel far and wide. Once the dust settles, I do not expect Cameron to be the only political casualty of this vote and I expect the political landscape to be dramatically altered for all parties.

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