It is difficult to watch from a distance the European Union, one of the most significant and successful peace and unity projects in human history, being torn apart by ignorance and xenophobia, especially in light of the history of 20th century Europe.
Following the disappointing ‘BREXIT’ referendum result in the United Kingdom, far-right operators in France, Italy, The Netherlands, and elsewhere, are already eying their own referendums to exit the EU.
This is not surprising. There is no bigger existential threat to bigotry, fear, ignorance, racism, and xenophobic nationalism, and those who peddle and inflame these fearful human instincts for their own political benefit and power, than acceptance, peace, tolerance, understanding, and unity.
If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that have sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations, which we have seen even in this twentieth century and in our own lifetime, wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.
Mr Winston Churchill speaking in Zurich, 19 September 1946
If, as an EU citizen, I was called upon to take part in such a referendum, I would vote for unity, and for staying in the EU.
Although the BREXIT referendum is not legally binding, it is politically determinative, with a significant 72.2% turnout and 51.9% of voters favouring an exit, it’s important to note that Northern Ireland and Scotland have both overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, and so has the city of London.
Consequently, the referendum’s outcome endangers the integrity and unity of the UK itself, with a fresh Scottish independence referendum, and the reunification of Ireland, already being demanded by some.
It is also of significance that the young people of the UK overwhelmingly voted for staying in the EU. You.Gov reported 75% of 18 to 25-year-olds voted to remain.
Meanwhile, the older generation largely voted to exit.
You could say that the past of the UK may have just sabotaged its future and, potentially, the future of European unity in the process.
The hypocrisy of a people who not long ago felt entitled to colonise half the world now complaining about ‘migration’ is jarring.
Not to mention that in more recent times, the government of the UK actively contributed to most of the geopolitical quagmires which are now resulting in one of the biggest movement of asylum seekers in history.
It will be fascinating to see what happens once the whopping lies peddled by the ‘Leave’ campaign start to unravel and catch up with them, such as being able to save £350 million per week by leaving the EU, and investing that money in their National Health Service instead.
One of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, Nigel Farage, was back-pedalling on that particular assertion just hours after the referendum results were announced.
Unsurprisingly, the economic and sovereignty claims of the ‘Leave’ campaign were largely emotionally loaded hogwash, and a thinly veiled appeal to Britain’s rising xenophobia.
Nigel Farage is undoubtedly one of the most odious characters of the BREXIT tragedy, as illustrated by his ill-considered comment upon the victory of the ‘Leave’ campaign, noting the UK achieved this outcome ‘without a single bullet being fired,’ callously ignoring the political assassination of Jo Cox just a week earlier by a British nationalist.
Tragically, the constituents of Kirklees in Yorkshire and The Humber, formerly represented by Jo Cox, voted to ‘Leave‘, making her death feel even more depressing, and senseless, if that were possible.
However, I must believe her death has meaning, and will stand as a monument forever highlighting the deadly danger bigotry, fear, ignorance, racism, and xenophobic nationalism continue to represent to otherwise successful and strong progressive, liberal and secular democracies. In an increasingly connected and social world, where cultures, economies, people, and politics intertwine across the globe, the rebirth of xenophobic nationalism, like terrorism, represents a threat to our collective peace and prosperity.
And then there is Boris Johnson …
I know personal insults will not add to the quality of the debate, but it’s beyond belief that this hollow show-pony of a man, who has the hallmarks of being the love-child of Donald Trump and a disheveled mop, was permitted by the people of the UK to fabricate a European political, and global economic crisis, just to further his own grandiose political ambitions, for which he is both unsuited and unqualified.
It would appear though that at least Londoners have finally caught on to the reality:
Admittedly, one can’t help but wonder whether the BREXIT could have been avoided if the people of the UK who could least afford it, weren’t forced to endure austerity measures to pay for the incompetence of bankers and financiers who wiped billions from the global economy, and the legislators and regulators who missed, and later largely excused, the financial shenanigans that resulted in the crashing of the global economy.
Economic hardship and social disadvantage tend to create a hothouse for bigotry, fear, ignorance, racism, and xenophobic nationalism, as amply demonstrated by human history time and time again.
Of course the EU is not a flawless institution. It’s bureaucratic, and clumsy.
But its significance in peacefully unifying a continent with a horrific history, and its achievements in providing security and economic prosperity, for over half a century are undeniable.
Leaving it because of its flaws, rather than staying and helping to fix it, is like setting your house on fire because the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes.
BREXIT is a lose-lose-lose for all involved, the UK, the EU, and the world – culturally, economically, politically, socially, and from a global security perspective.
No doubt we will recover, as humans always do. We are an ingenious species. But there will be a price to pay, and the politicians who, at best misguidedly and at worst maliciously, brought this travesty about, and the people who ignorantly, yes ignorantly, enabled and supported them, will have to bear the responsibility for their actions, and the consequences.
History shows us that we are always stronger, and more successful, together. However, when we are torn apart by nationalism and xenophobia, the human animal is capable of unspeakable crimes.
Pretending otherwise is the biggest and most dangerous of collective delusions, which demonstrates a tragic inability to remember, and learn from, our own past.
Edward Snowden summed up the concerning reality of the UK outcome poignantly and succinctly in a single tweet:
26 June 2016: A petition started on the official petitions site of the UK Government and Parliament, calling for a fresh EU referendum had reached close to three million signatures in just two days.
We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.
If a petition receives more than 100,000 signatures on the site, Parliament is required to consider the petition for a debate.
Admittedly, the chances of the petition triggering a fresh referendum is low to non-existent, but the large support it received in the last couple of days is illustrative of a nation divided, and deeply concerned.