June, 2016

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Brexit and all things changing

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

June 23rd 2016 will forever be considered a watershed moment for democracy on a global scale. A revolution has begun and instead of an insurrection, a fundamental global outlook shifted with every ballot dropped into the box.

It’s the day when Britons surprised the world- and even more so themselves- and voted to pull out of the most successful Pan-European peace project in the better part of a millennium. Sadly, it is just the start of the end.

Especially since I am sitting on the sidelines, experiencing a horrible case of Schadenfreude, I do not want to be one of the voices who comes out with another version of the Doomsday Book, but the training in Political Science will not let me be silent knowing that there is at least a little advice to dole out not only to the leadership in Brussels, but also to take a swipe at those who now regret voting to Leave.

Then, perhaps most importantly, I’ll suggest a couple of directions for the younger British folk who voted to Remain in the EU- believing in the greater cause. They world they’re about to grow into will be a very different place anyone their age did, even a decade ago.

* * * * *

I’ll start with the Eurocrats and the Continental leadership:

Take heed. The Brexit vote is a canary in the mineshaft. The EU project is failing. Not enough is being done to ensure enough of the population are winners. The stagnation across the continent felt by people out in the hinterlands can no longer be ignored.

Every adult out there can vote and when they decide that the unknown has fewer downsides than the status quo, they will vote for change too. Do not dismiss them as uneducated yokels. They are expressing their frustration with their own situation- their stagnation, their experience, their situation while they see tax havens for the rich, ever-bigger luxury yachts on the Riviera. The world ain’t their Oyster and they’re ready to try something new.

The “problems” with “les bandes racailles” in the Paris suburbs; the ultra-right wingers and the neo-Nazis everybody simply wishes would go away; the “Occupy Wallstreet” movement; the farmers, the labour movement. These are not inconvenient thorns in the backside. They are voters. And their numbers are getting bigger. They may not have clubs and pitchforks any more but just as was the case in centuries past, they are armed with emotion, frustration, and a vote. I have been saying this for years: The Revolution Cometh.

I was in Italy and Berlin during the last round of Euro Elections. I was shocked to find that the sentiment on the street in Berlin was pretty close to what I saw in rural Italy. It was the same sentiment expressed in newspapers in the U.K.- not to mention in France. Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese- all to a person (except for the elites who are gorging at the trough)- are unhappy.

What I read during my travels is that the EU has too much centralized power. People have no control over their own destinies anymore. The U.K.- those “plucky British Folk“, have raised a finger or two and jabbed them in your eye. Angry, spiteful and maybe even a little blinded by the emotion of what they feel perhaps, but they’ve done it. They’ve voted to leave something certain for something much less so.

Do not be complacent, Eurocrats, Merkel, Hollande and all the others at the top of the EU soufflé. This ain’t over by a long-shot.

* * * * *

To each and every voter in the U.K. who now regrets voting to Leave:

What were you thinking? That’s right, you weren’t, were you? You think this referendum business is some kind of joke? There are serious consequences for the power you hold when you vote. You’ve been told since time immemorial that your vote matters. And now suddenly wake up and realize that your vote was the wrong one.

You read and heard what you wanted to read and hear and now, thanks to your impetulant vote, your life-savings are in ruin, the value of your home is plummeting, you’re either already out of a job or soon to be, and for what? An imaginary £350 million to the NHS instead of Brussels?

And don’t blame Boris or Nigel. You can’t really, honestly say you believed them when they said that the other 26 countries would be happy to have you renegotiate your already privileged position in the union, then have a campaign where you kicked them in the groin when they were already down with other serious issues, then poke them in the eye with a 52% Leave vote.

And you have the audacity to believe those on the continent will have you back, but this time as an ex-lover? You really believed Boris and his friends were being honest with you? Puh-leeze. I’ve got land in Florida for sale. If you say you truly believed Boris Johnson without even a hint of doubt, you’re either dishonest with yourself or lying to the world.

What was your reaction when Barack Obama, the President of the United States, directly said that if the U.K. leaves the EU, it goes to the back of the line when it came to various bi-lateral agreements? What did you (probably) do?

Did you take his comment as a serious shot across the bow- a dose of reality and a portent of issues that would come with a “Leave” vote? Nah. You told him to “sod off”. That wasn’t very bright, was it? He told you like it is and you raised your pitch fork and told him to mind his own business. When it most definitely was his business to tell you what his side of the table looked like.

Well done. I really hope it was worth it. Let’s see now- a hobbled, resourceless island economy of 60 million, versus “the Continental buffer” with Russia- a population of 300 million and with almost as much money as the US itself. Which one do you think the USA is going to play with?

And then let’s turn to the constitutional issues that this has brought up. Scotland voted to Remain. Northern Ireland voted to Remain. Gibraltar too- the most loyal of British colonies, but let’s not go there for now.

Scotland only just recently had a referendum posing the question, whether to Remain in the U.K. The consensus is that the Scottish vote was really a reaction to the unfettered liberalism in England and the fact that national economic policy is dictated from Westminster.

For the Scottish, the EU is a power for good against the diktats of Westminster. Now that England has overwhelmingly decided for everybody else that it’s time to Leave the EU, Scotland has already reserved the right to hold another referendum. And this time, it is going to pass. Bye bye Scotland. No more United Kingdom- for the first time since 1707.

So what then, England?

  • North Sea oil? Gone.
  • European markets? Gone.
  • A strong Pound Sterling? Gone.
  • The centrality and the vitality of “The City”? Gone.
  • Quick holidays to Majorca? Gone.

Unity on the Island? Gone.
Two separate countries, stuck cheek by jowl with only the Welsh to bear witness. And don’t think the Scots will be in any accommodating mood either.

And then there’s Northern Ireland. What happens when a majority of citizens of Northern Ireland take out an Irish EU passport? Will that allow the Irish Republic to annex Northern Ireland? What might happen in a referendum there?

I’ve been a voice in the wilderness for years about the impending revolution. And it is now upon us. The pitchforks have been raised and the first to fall, just as Charles II was the first to experience regicide in Europe, is again, good olde Englande. It’s just a matter of time before Europe descends back into instability and uncertainty.

I really don’t want to use the “W” word- the consequences would just be too dire but I must at least throw out the remaining letters so you know the ultimate thing to fear: “ar“.

Both on the Island, and on the continent. There are just not enough resources to go around without sharing. And England’s just pulled out of the only game in town dealing a severe blow to the credibility of that said game. Given a thousand years of turmoil to use as precedent, what other conclusion can I come up with?

* * * * *

I do not deride those who voted to Leave; who meant it, and who still mean it. For them, this really is about the economics and their well-being. Revolutions are only possible when those in the middle feel squeezed from both above and below. And who isn’t to say that’s the experience of the die-hard Leavers?

Those from below are so busy trying to just put food on the table they don’t have time for “change”. Those from above never want change that sees their elite vantages diminished.

And those who genuinely voted to Leave have, for themselves, very good reason. They prefer the unknown to the known; they believe that what is to come can only be better. I’m not so sure- I am no revolutionary, rather a devout “evolutionary”- but I respect their beliefs. I hope that they are correct that things could get no worse.

No matter the outcome, they believe they have- or about to- thrown off the shackles of their oppressors while at the same time, purged themselves of the weight of those dragging them down.

I happen not to agree with them; the consequences will be no less severe for them but for them this is about principle and their vote didn’t come from a knee-jerk reaction or some desire to simply lodge a protest. Their time has come and I genuinely hope they are able to make their lot better for them, their children, and their grandchildren. It’s going to be a tough go of it for sure: those in the EU are not going to let go of their assets easily and uncertainty is going to rule the economy for at least a decade.

I salute the principled ones no matter the case, for these are the people that our leaders must stop and listen to. To paraphrase #DanCarlin, the time to throw out another “band aid” solution is long past. Those being squeezed in the middle are demanding major surgery. And they’ll get it one way or another. The pressure is brewing in many countries- not just Britain and the United States. Others in the EU. Others still in Asia. Even China. Locals are rising up against the Global elites and they’re not going away. And yet- all these locals all being treated the same: like they’re a nuisance, when really, they’re the future.

* * * * *

Finally, if you’re one of the younger ones who voted to Remain, I shall give you this counsel:

If you want to start new somewhere else, go learn a trade. Any trade. Then get out. Get a working visa while you’re young enough, find a job overseas, and fight to keep it.

In 20 years, the British economy will still be in recession- the likes of which nobody living has ever seen. England is about to go from “World Economic Leader” back to a “Nation of Shopkeepers“. That’s going to be one massive reduction in GDP. And to get there, many, many people are going to be worse off. Japan was in recession for more than a generation. The U.K. has much further to fall.

If you choose not to go, learn a trade and then invest in something small and local. Globalism is going to be replaced by Localism- starting on your wee island. Start a small organic farm. Maybe a blacksmith shop. Barter with your neighbours. Create a micro-economy. Find local sources for what you need and local markets where you can sell your goods- all off the grid. If you can find a loom for cheap, buy it. If you can get your hands on large construction tools, hoard them.

But no matter what you do, no matter what we all do, it’s time to lower expectations. We must live within our means of course and our means are about to get a whole lot smaller.

* * * * *

Writing this, I feel so apocalyptic-like. But you can’t un-ring a bell. The first knife has been thrust between the ribs of today’s Global regime and is lodged in the heart of its golden child. England is now bleeding badly and it seems so incredulous that this grave injury is by its own hand. For better or for worse, England is about to get what it asked for.

I sure would have liked to see it happen far, far away. But then again, I’m really tired of one iteration of Thatcher or another since her Iron Lady days and so I’m happy to see significant resistance to the status quo. (Sadly, I wonder if England won’t actually move even further to the right rather than closer to the centre of the political spectrum where there could be more compassion and less churlishness in English politics. But that’s for another rant another time, I suppose.)

All this said, November is not far away and revolution is brewing in the United States.

And thinking about the orange-skinned populist who is standing in front of the pitch forks in the United States, one cannot help but wonder: How long will it be before we’re all losing touch with our antipodes when global trade is crushed by tariff barriers and trade wars?

How long before Main Street eclipses Wall Street? And will that be a good thing?

June 23rd 2016 was just the start. For the rest of this journey, only time will tell.