The British people have spoken and chosen to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister has quit and British financial markets and society is in chaos, but what does it all mean?
I'm sad that it has come to this. I was wondering which way to vote until a week ago. I feel European. I was born in the UK to an English father and Irish mother. I'm a citizen of both those nations, although I have only ever bothered carrying a UK passport (that will change now).
But I also know how inefficient the EU is. The inability to reform and adapt to the twenty-first century. The Common Agricultural Policy that just rewards rich land-owners with cash. The ridiculous expense of locating the European Parliament in more than one location just because the French insisted on it decades ago.
My support for remaining in the EU was qualified by all this. I believe the EU is flawed and needs to be updated to suit a world where work can fly across the Internet and service automation is increasing - jobs are no longer local. However, when the EU tried addressing the network society it was a pathetic failure (Lisbon Agenda). The EU is struggling to deal with the 21st century.
However, it's not possible to change and improve any of this from the outside. By choosing to leave, the UK has now created an existential crisis. The SNP has already declared that they want a new referendum on Scotland leaving the UK so they can remain in Europe. Sinn Fein has demanded a referendum in Northern Ireland on a united Ireland. The island of Great Britain could be all that remains of the UK as Wales and England cling together outside of the EU.
The vote to leave is really a rejection of modern politics and society. It's a cry from the people who feel ignored. Globalisation, abusive capitalism, automation, and the increased migration of people have created such intense competition that people don't want to engage in society as it is today. But this vote will not change that.
Migration will continue. If the UK wants to continue trading with the EU without serious tariff barriers then it will need to join the European Free Trade Association, which demands that EU citizens have freedom of movement to member states. The idea of "taking back control of our nation" because the UK has left the EU is a pathetic battle-cry.
Globalisation will continue. Automation will continue. Capitalism will be increasingly rampant as the UK will have less of a say internationally. When automated cars arrive across the world, will the UK be the only nation that does not accept them? Can the post-Brexit UK insist that no work is sent to other countries using the Internet? When major companies move their European headquarters to Ireland, what can the UK do to keep them?
Just because people don't like the way that the world works does not mean that a rejection of reality is the answer. The UK should have stayed inside the EU, but fought harder to create a modern EU that can fight global trade battles together. A market of half a billion people can take on the might of China, but England alone now has no chance to define the future.
George Orwell wrote "England Your England" as German bombers were attempting to kill him. Now the Germans will be leading a European Union that may start to disintegrate and the English will watch their own United Kingdom become disunited. It's a sad day and doesn't look much like "taking back control" to me.
Perhaps the only silver lining is that a crisis this large inside the EU may be the only way to create a modern EU? If a modernisation road map that offered genuine change is created then could this actually be the burning deck that forces the EU to change and allows the UK to hold a new referendum before the nation has left?
This vote was a rejection of politicians who have failed to see how the world works in the twenty-first century, but nobody in the UK will win from this, least of all the working-class who are really just rejecting global capitalism. They wanted to take control, but they will get a recession, less investment into the UK, fewer jobs, less research, and greater cultural insularity. What a result.
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