A sui­ci­dal ref­er­en­dum and failed lead­er­ships

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Eyad Abu Shakra (also writ­ten as Ayad Abou-Chakra) be­gan his me­dia ca­reer in 1973 with Anna­har news­pa­per in Le­banon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat news­pa­per in the UK in 1979, oc­cu­py­ing sev­eral po­si­tions in­clud­ing: Se­nior Edi­tor, Man­ag­ing Edi­tor, and Head of

OEYAD ABU SHAKRA NE of Win­ston Churchill’s in­spired quotes is: “The best ar­gu­ment against democ­racy is a five-minute con­ver­sa­tion with the av­er­age voter”. How true this is in the light of the UK’s Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship ref­er­en­dum.

The “leave” cam­paign won the day thanks to a mélange of in­ten­tional mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions, racist and xeno­pho­bic scare­mon­ger­ing, at­trac­tive false prom­ises, and flawed sta­tis­tics. All th­ese were more than ca­pa­ble of at­tract­ing a wide spec­trum of Bri­tish vot­ers, rang­ing from the ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive racist and xeno­pho­bic Right to the tra­di­tion­al­ist ex­trem­ist semi-ed­u­cated La­bor Left con­cen­trated in old in­dus­trial and min­ing heart­lands.

The “leave” cam­paign was able to present to each sec­tion of the elec­torate ei­ther what would woo it or frighten it with no in­signif­i­cant help from pop­ulist Right-wing tabloids; and ac­tu­ally, it suc­ceeded in achiev­ing re­mark­able suc­cesses in Eng­land’s tra­di­tional in­dus­tries’ ur­ban cen­ters and ru­ral ar­eas with a high per­cent­age of pen­sion­ers, in ad­di­tion to the old La­bor strongholds of South Wales’ min­ing val­leys.

On the other side, the pro-Europe “re­main” cam­paign did well in Lon­don (around 60 per­cent), the great global cos­mopoli­tan city, as well as the en­light­ened univer­sity cities such as Cam­bridge (around 74 per­cent), Ox­ford (more than 70 per­cent), Bris­tol, Manch­ester, York, Liver­pool, Bath, Brighton, Winch­ester and Nor­wich. It also won in Scot­land (around 62 per­cent) – more so in its cap­i­tal Ed­in­burgh scor­ing more than 74 per­cent – and in North­ern Ire­land (more than 55 per­cent).

It is ironic now that the coun­try whose racists and xeno­phobes are the most vo­cif­er­ous against Eastern Euro­pean work­ers was the most in­sis­tent on ad­mit­ting their coun­tries into the EU

Among the most strik­ing ex­am­ples of in­ten­tional mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions and flawed sta­tis­tics re­lated to the UK’s con­tri­bu­tions to the EU and what it gained in re­turn.

The facts are – based on 2014 of­fi­cial fig­ures – the UK’s bill was £18 bil­lion pounds, but in re­al­ity it only paid £13 bil­lion while get­ting £5 bil­lion in re­bates, mean­ing it didn’t re­ally pay more than £8.5 bil­lion (af­ter ad­just­ments).

Fur­ther­more, this sum makes up no more than 1.2 per­cent of the coun­try’s bud­get, dwarfed by 22 per­cent for so­cial ser­vices, 19.7 per­cent for health, and 12.4 per­cent for ed­u­ca­tion.

Add to the above, that the UK oc­cu­pies the last but one rank among Western Euro­pean coun­tries per capita con­tri­bu­tions ta­ble; as only Por­tu­gal pays less. This ta­ble is headed by Lux­em­burg, fol­lowed re­spec­tively by Swe­den, Den­mark, The Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Fin­land, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Ire­land, France, Italy and Spain!

Also on mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions, the “leave” cam­paign lead­ers – in­clud­ing Boris John­son, a grand­son of a Mus­lim Turk – warned of the threat of im­mi­gra­tion, asy­lum seek­ers, cheap la­bor from Eastern Europe, and Mus­lim Turkey’s im­pend­ing EU mem­ber­ship. How­ever, the UK is not a Schen­gen state and thus is not com­mit­ted to “free­dom of move­ment” of im­mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers.

How­ever, as re­gards cheap la­bor from Eastern Europe, th­ese work­ers come, work and pay taxes; more­over it was the UK which spear­headed and in­ces­santly fought to ad­mit the for­mer War­saw Pact coun­tries af­ter the end of the Cold War and the col­lapse of the Ber­lin Wall.

Then, un­der Mar­garet Thatcher, Lon­don was keen to un­der­mine any chance of cre­at­ing a “United States of Europe” through di­lut­ing the in­flu­ence of the six found­ing mem­bers, i.e. Ger­many, France, Italy, the Nether­lands, Bel­gium and Lux­em­burg, and en­sur­ing the union ties are loose and weak.

It is ironic now that the coun­try whose racists and xeno­phobes are the most vo­cif­er­ous against Eastern Euro­pean work­ers was the most in­sis­tent on ad­mit­ting their coun­tries into the EU.

Another irony is that among the ac­cu­sa­tions the “leave” sup­port­ers lev­elled against the EU is that the UK was be­ing gov­erned by Brus­sels’ bu­reau­crats, although the lat­ter are ap­pointed by demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ments un­like gi­ant busi­ness trusts, car­tels and cor­po­ra­tions.

So, now that Eng­land has voted to leave while Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land voted to re­main, what logic could Lon­don use against the elected Ed­in­burgh and Belfast ‘gov­ern­ments’ re­fus­ing to be gov­erned by the bu­reau­crats of Lon­don’? Young and the old On another level, the ma­jor­ity of younger vot­ers voted to re­main in the EU (around 73 per­cent in the 18-24 age group) while the ma­jor­ity of the about 60 years old voted to leave.

This is in­ter­est­ing since most of the tax pay­ers who fi­nance pub­lic ser­vices are from the pro­duc­tive younger vot­ers, while most of the older ones do not pay into the sys­tem but still ben­e­fit from it. It is also worth men­tion­ing that many of those are pen­sion­ers liv­ing in Europe, es­pe­cially France, Spain and Por­tu­gal.

Th­ese are im­por­tant de­tails per­tain­ing to the UK ref­er­en­dum; and although they may not mean much to read­ers in the Arab world, I be­lieve one needs to look into the po­lit­i­cal di­men­sions, not only the liv­ing con­di­tions, of the seis­mic change the ref­er­en­dum has caused.

The out­come has in­deed dis­cred­ited the Con­ser­va­tive and La­bor lead­er­ships that mis­han­dled the ref­er­en­dum, and failed mis­er­ably to stem the tide of racism many of us thought was de­feated by the elec­tion of Sadiq Khan as mayor of Lon­don.

It may also mean that the UK is now pay­ing a heavy price for un­der­in­vest­ing in its in­dus­trial base, re­ly­ing in­stead on for­eign in­vest­ment thanks to its at­trac­tive fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

The fact of the mat­ter is that this tide of racism is alive and well not only in the UK but also through­out Europe, as well as Amer­ica and Aus­tralia. This why the six founder mem­bers of the EU re­acted firmly to the ref­er­en­dum re­sult; as they feel it would be im­pos­si­ble to al­low racist par­ties – who, ac­tu­ally, hate each other – to build a sin­gle cross-bor­ders mega tac­ti­cal al­liance whose aim is to un­der­mine co-ex­is­tence, progress and mod­er­a­tion.

The six founder mem­bers find them­selves re­spon­si­ble for rewrit­ing the fu­ture vi­sion and in­sti­tu­tions of the EU, in or­der to pro­tect it against black­mail and de­struc­tion. In turn, the UK faces a tricky pe­riod of self­ap­praisal af­ter a sui­ci­dal ref­er­en­dum that has un­cov­ered how in­ad­e­quate its po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ships are. —Cour­tesy:AA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.