Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit - We Had Plenty of Time to Avoid this

When you ask people to vote you may end up with a result you don’t like. I am not British, so I didn’t have say in the referendum but the outcome will affect me as a fellow European. That’s what I still am, like it or not Boris, Farage and co.
Before EU supporters get too smug about any perceived political stupidity on the island, consider this: we had plenty of warnings from other countries. Go back to 2005: France’s Jacques Chirac smugly held a referendum about the European Constitution convinced of an easy victory he could use for political gains. The French electorate failed to cooperate, with 55% rejecting the constitution. So did the Dutch. The Dutch! Only Spain and Luxembourg supported the constitution.
Remember any results from other EU countries? Don’t worry if you don’t. The French No and the Dutch Nee, scared the wits out of the governments of the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and the UK. They decided to postpone their own referendums were either postponed or cancelled altogether. The Germans don’t like referendums apparently believing that close to 60 years of post-war democratic education is too short a time to give the people more of a say in between elections.
The EU member states had more than 10 years to figure out how to fix something that failed to appeal to EU citizens. Instead, they politely held the same referendum again asking the people to vote differently. That worked, unfortunately but in the end it showed what politicians really thought of their people. And people aren’t stupid. They usually can sense when they are being played for fools. And so the EU muddled through without real reforms, without engaging the public and with national governments blaming Brussels. The refugee crisis brought it to light. Too many governments focused on national interests, or their own political interests, rather than sticking to European ideals.
It was only last year when we were concerned about a GRexit. Now the BRexit is a reality. I don’t take any comfort in experts who say that the UK will suffer more than the EU. Economically that may be true. However, politically and, yes, morally, we remain stuck in the boat. The EU’s reputation is in tatters for now. The British government is falling apart. Farage’s friends in France, Hungary, Germany and Austria are on the march.
France and Germany used to epitomise everything great the EU stands for. Between 1870 and 1945, within a normal life span, the two countries fought three bitter wars. They could have stayed enemies for generations. Instead, they realised that something like the EU would be stronger than any national interests or party politics. 
They lost the moral high ground in 2003, when they became the first countries to break euro-related deficit rules, they themselves had created. The 2005 referendum was a second warning shot. People aren’t stupid. We had plenty of warnings.


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