Should we really be surprised at the tragic events of the past week – the murder of young MP Jo Cox in the UK and the slaughter of 49 innocent individuals in a gay night club in Orlando Florida in the USA?
I think not for anyone who has been following the debate in the UK in regard to the forthcoming Referendum on whether the UK remains in the EEC and Donald Trump’s pursuit of the American Presidency
And I am sure both Nigel Farage in the UK, and Donald Trump in the USA feel genuine sympathy for the families of those who have suffered such cruel losses.
But I suspect neither fully understand that the politics of division that both use to appeal to the bitter, the resentful, the less aware and may I be politically incorrect and also write less educated, informed and worldly elements of our societies, provides the very seedbed in which such violent acts will inevitably take place with increasing frequency.
I have always been very interested in politics but have always considered myself to be both a realist and a cynic – whatever the result of this or that election, whoever is in power will drift towards the centre, little will change and life will go on.
The last time I felt really anxious about world events was not 9/11, nor either of the Gulf Wars but the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the world held its breath to see who blinked first, Kennedy or Khrushchev and whether the world was going to be plunge towards nuclear Armageddon.
I feel the upcoming vote on whether the UK remains in the EEC could have more significant ramifications globally than any other single decision taken by a nation in the past 50 years and I feel a real concern for events that could unfold as a result of a possible decision to ‘Leave’.
Similarly, I am also concerned in case Trump actually does stumble into the Presidency but I feel slightly more sanguine about that as the USA has problems aplenty as it is – Trump will just be one more and in any case I suspect he has so alienated the Black and Latino Vote (which the Republicans said in 2012 was essential for any future electoral success) that the chance of a Trump Presidency is about likely as myself becoming the next Secretary General of the United Nations.
Here in the UK it strikes me that the majority of the people promoting the ‘Brexit’ argument and those most receptive to it and those who want to turn the clock backwards and not look forwards. Many are people I would describe as ‘Little Englanders’ and their attitudes are formed as a result of our being an island state.
They do not trust ‘Johnny Foreigner’, they mistakenly think everything is and can be better in the UK than in any other country but do not realise that the ‘Great’ went out of Great Britain generations ago.
Indeed, there are only three countries who are capable of being truly independent and self sustaining in today’s world – China, Russia and the USA. All other countries need to work together to survive and prosper.
And why is this?
Well to embellish Bill Clinton ‘It’s the economy (of scale) stupid’
None of the European players are really of a scale to compete with the three giants but together we can but this is conveniently overlooked by those who want to leave the EEC.
And indeed, most of the arguments peddled by the Brexit camp are nothing more than unsubstantiated generalisations designed to appeal to the uninformed.
Lets look at some of the main reasons the that the Brexit leaders believe justify our leaving the European Union.
Loss of Sovereignty
I am struggling to think of how our personal freedoms have been curtailed (rather than protected) by being members of the EEC and how this perceived ‘lack of sovereignty’ has impacted on my way of life or any UK citizen that I know. Is an appointed rather than an elected House of Lords as the supreme court in the UK the best example of the Democracy we try and promote to emerging nations.
If we were living in Hong Kong or Western Samoa today, or in pre independence India, or in Austria 1938 or in Eastern Europe in the 1960s I could understand arguments regarding lack of sovereignty but to be members of a club who agree to harmonise some laws to improve the rights and living standards of all its citizens is surely a positive step.
The reality is that a perceived Loss of Sovereignty is designed to appeal to some people’s Nationalist sentiments rather than be justified by how this impacts on our daily lives and indeed it is the same appeal to Nationalism which can quickly escalate into those tribal mobs I have sadly witnessed first hand when attending England’s football matches overseas.
Nigel Farage and his bedmates should be aware that Nationalism is a dangerous and irresponsible card to play and it is perhaps no coincidence that the individual charged with the murder of Jo Cox two days ago is alleged to have shouted ‘Britain first’ as he attacked her and declared his name in court as ‘……………Death to Traitors’
EEC Bureaucracy and Red Tape
I find this laughable in so many regards having been in business in the UK for over 30 years and growing from being a sole trader to the Chairman of a successful international company.
We as a nation are masters of red tape!
I spent six hours in one day last week bouncing between an Insurance Company, the Doctor’s Surgery, two hospital departments and a GP’s surgery but it was impossible to get a ‘joined up approach’ let alone make an appointment because the GP used Fax machines and the hospital would only receive authorisations by email and could not go one floor upstairs to use a fax machine.
Have you ever waited 5 months for a reply from the Inland Revenue who then requests details of over 10,000 documents in 30 days only to be told it was not necessary when I protested.
Have you ever waited months and months for the results of a planning application that is meant to be given in three months?
Have you ever tried to purchase a cross country train ticket in the UK?
The citizens of most nations in the world are no different from those in the UK and everyone complains about bureaucratic overload from their own particular government.
However in the UK we have developed it into an art form but of course the Brexit camps default position is ‘Blame it on the EEC’.
‘We will quickly negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the EEC and nothing will change’.
If the Brexit camp really believe this they are truly living in an Alice in Wonderland world.
Note the following:
1 If the UK does vote to leave the European Union it could be the end of the EEC as it will encourage groups like UKIP and the Eurosceptics in other EEC states. So it is certain that the EEC will try and impose the most draconian costs on the UK to ensure other countries get the message ‘In is in and Out is out and costly!’. If we vote to leave we will surely reap the results of the seeds we sow and it will not be pleasant!
2 The Brexit Camp insists the EEC will quickly give us preferential terms and a Free Trade deal but the Canadian experience will show this can take the best part of a decade and is not a ‘shoo in’ and the Swiss will testify such a deal comes with a lot of conditions.
And excuse me but is the following not somewhat perverse.
Last week the Brexit camp tried to position themselves as a government in waiting with a series of statements about what ‘they’ would be able to deliver if the ‘Leave’ vote was successful.
Putting to one side that the Brexit Camp would have no mandate to form a government and negotiate let alone deliver anything, the economics of what they promised simply did not add up as the Leave campaign has already indicated increased commitments to the NHS, Education and to maintain Farming subsidies which far exceeded their own projected savings from no longer being an EEC member.
The truth is no one knows exactly what will be the consequences of a Leave vote because no one has a crystal ball but the Brexit Camp are not interested in the merits of growing a nation or growing the economy. Rather they just want the benefits of headline grabbing claims, whether or not the claims have any merits.
So for me the arguments do not add up – or even come close to justifying a departure from the EEC and to the contrary, not one credible international body or forum from the IMF downwards has recommended anything but remaining in the EEC as being in the best interests for both the UK and the rest of the world.
But of course for the Brexit camp this is just another example of Johnny Foreigner telling us what to do rather than reasoned judgement.
4 Immigration Few people would dispute that most immigrants who come to the UK, just like the Mexicans in the USA, perform vital and often lower paid jobs that the UK’s native populations appear unwilling to undertake. And our Health system could not work without immigrants.
5 The woes of the Euro No one is suggesting the UK joins the Eurozone but for all the criticisms of the management of the Euro one clear fact is often ignored – the pound is 10% weaker against the Euro now than it was when it was launched in 1999!
The first time I went to Germany (1967) there were 10DM to the Pound and 36 years later when the Euro was launched there were 3.5DM to the Pound and the Euro has continued to strengthen against the Pound just as the Deutschmark did.
Personally I do not believe for one minute that the arguments for departing from the EEC are anything other than being fuelled by a group of individuals who want to turn the clock back and turn this country away other nations and their arguments are not credible and they display no hope or ambition for the future.
But if people are tempted to be influenced by the headline grabbing claimsand vote ‘Leave’ let me remind them of the wise Chinese adage ‘Be Careful what you wish for’!
What could be a possible consequence of a departure from the EEC?
1 The Break up of the UK Everything indicates that the majority of Scots support the popular SNP’s position to remain in the EEC and the argument for a second referendum with Scottish Independence being linked to an application to (re)join the EEC is inevitable and would likely be successful.
And that would be followed by demands for referendums in Wales and Ulster which could hardly be denied if Scotland was given that option.
I have no idea how Wales would vote but the Unionist majority in Ulster would probably ensure there was a positive wish to remain in the UK but a referendum in Ulster would surely relight historical tensions with every possibility of the re-emergence of terrorism and violence in Ulster and possibly the mainland.
2 The break up of Europe – If the UK votes to leave this could lead to a domino effect with demands for referendums in other countries. And if for example another major power like France was to vote to leave it would surely be a terminal blow to Europe and the EEC with individual nations having much less influence on the world stage.
And in today’s world surely it is both common sense and in everyone’s interest to work with your neighbours but the consequences of such a break up are likely to be far reaching
– Central and Western Europe has gone three generations without conflict and the it is not insignificant reason that the only conflict in Europe since the war has been in the Balkans when the EEC was absent.
– A joint approach to Terrorism will always be better than a combination of individual nations.
– An expansionist Russia under an aggressive Putin will be delighted to re-establish its hegemony over the EEC without the bulwark of an EEC.
With no united Europe there is no doubt that both terrorist organisations and Russia can and would exploit the situation for their advantage.
And there has to be a possibility that Europe will disintegrate and at some point there will be war in Europe as there has been throughout history until the last three generations. We should never take this for granted.
3 The consequences of decisions fuelled by division and hatred: I am sure I am not the only person who remembers that the rise of Hitler in post WW1 Germany has many parallels with Nigel Farage’s appeal to the disadvantaged with his heinous and scaremongering references to ‘Turks’ and British women being molested and raped.
Hitler’s comments were of course primarily directed at the Jews and ethnic minorities and also found resonance in elements of society who were looking for a convenient target and explanation for their woes which were primarily caused by excessive post war reparations.
Farage’s comments have a chilling similarity to Trump’s comments about Mexicans and Moslems in the USA and Farage needs to be very aware that he bears a responsibility for contributing to a society from which the Jo Cox’s assailant can emerge full of anger, hatred and crying for ‘Britain first’
And of course it was such comments in 1920s Germany that led to the rise of an extreme right wing party that was destined to plunge much of the world into chaos and destruction.
Of course people will say ‘that could never happen in the UK’ but the foundation is already in place with substantial support for UKIP and who knows what will arise from the ashes of a Conservative party that could easily tear itself in two in the aftermath of this divisive referendum.
Of course no one thought there was any possibility of Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party in the UK, nor of him surviving in the position but with a divided Conservative Party and a snap election it is a possibility he could be the next Prime Minister.
Anything is possible in politics it appears – but hopefully not a Trump presidency!
4 Higher Taxes and a weaker Pound – I suspect that as the Chancellor has indicated a cross bench majority in parliament would vote for higher taxes to fund the costs of our departure from the EEC and we would all therefore pay a higher price for the consequence of a collective decision to leave the EEC.
5 A further decline in the value of Sterling The Pound has declined against the Euro in the 17 years since Sterling was launched in 1999. In other words the pound will buy you less when you travel and spend money overseas and imports will cost more. Most financial institutions, publications, banks and bodies predict that it is inevitable that the Pound will weaken just as it has weakened as the prospects to leave appear to have risen.
I am not saying it is likely but it is indeed possible that a decision by the British people to leave the UK could have a domino effect and that voting Brexit could result in the end of an ordered western society as we know. We will do well to remember that in 1914 a little assassination in Serbia triggered off a war that led to the deaths of tens of millions.
The sad point is that the majority of people who vote for Brexit will be doing so as a result of a divisive campaign and scare tactics that have stressed the negative points on immigration (without acknowledging that the majority of immigrants to the UK come from outside the EEC) and it is likely that decades of mayhem and uncertainty in Europe will be the result of a vote to Leave.
This campaign has been led by a group of campaigners who for 30 years have been on a wrecking mission. They have perpetuated the same myths so often it is believed by almost half of the population to be the gospel truth! And they have held every Conservative Party Prime Minister and leader to hostage to impose their will on the Party and Nation.
The Eurosceptics have chosen to blame every ill in the UK on our EEC membership and the EEC has been a convenient whipping boy. The EEC has made plenty of mistakes and wasted expenditure as indeed has every government in history whether Churchill, Thatcher and Cameron on one side of the divide or Attlee, Wilson and Blair on the other.
But as a result of a 30 year concerted campaign by the Eurosceptics the Conservative Party has floundered and provided no credible opposition to the Blair government for a decade.
Not without justification did the normally restrained John Major refer to ‘those bastards’ stabbing him in the back from within his own party.
I have never voted for the Conservative Party and I am not quite sure why David Cameron agreed to hold a Referendum in the first place as the downside risk is so much greater than the upside benefits.
I can only imagine he was hoping a decisive vote to remain in the EEC would lance this Eurosceptic boil and put the issue to bed for once and forever.
But that aint gonna happen!
And if that was his reasoning his judgement was severely flawed and in the event of a voteto Leave he will be consigned to history as the Prime Minister who delivered mayhem to Europe and broke up the not so United Kingdom.
The animosity and vindictiveness on both sides of the debate has made it nigh on impossible for the Conservative party to reunite as one. In my opinion Cameron should have insisted any members of his government had to resign their position if they wished to canvass against the government position and now I cannot see how they can be trusted to return as team players in a post referendum Cameron cabinet. I suspect some prominent Brexiteers would not have been moved to campaign to leave if their status and salaries were under threat!
And if as the polls and bookmakers are correct and it is a close result then the Eurosceptics are not going to go away if they narrowly lose – and whilst they will not get another referendum they will continue to frustrate government unless they have the balls to quit the Conservative Party and form their own party or join UKIP.
And if the Leave campaign narrowly wins there is still going to be a cross bench majority of MPs who were in favour of staying so who knows where this is going.
What is clear is that the internal politics of the Conservative Party is going to be fun and games whatever the result and fascinating to follow over the next 12 months and a vote to leave will deservedly shorten the odds on Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Prime Minister if an election is called.
I am fortunate to have homes in several counties and I have visited 100 counties for work and pleasure.
In many of these countries the people believe and their leaders tell them, just as the leaders of the UK and the USA tell their citizens, that they live in the greatest nation in the world.
From my own experience I know there is not a ‘greatest nation in the world’ (although the Swiss, Canadians and Singaporeans have stronger arguments than most but are far too modest to say so!) and like people all nations have strengths and weaknesses but there are many more nations with stronger claims than the UK including many in Europe.
We British love to jibe about the French but their motorway system is superior and more efficient than ours as is their rail network and commitment to public transport. Their cities are cleaner (or were until the English Football supporters arrived) and better preserved, their hotels are better quality and more affordable and their hospitals are more accessible.
Patriotism is not saying your country is best and sticking your head in the sand. It is about being realistic and doing the best to improve the welfare and standard of living for its citizens. And in the 21st century that means working with your neighbours for everyone’s benefit.
But in the UK a concern for working and supporting each other has been replaced by a group personified by the ever vocal Nigel Farage, he of the giant ego who promised to resign if he was unable to secure a place in parliament but then ‘changed his mind’ after his party ‘begged him to stay’. He is a man already seen as a ‘busted flush’ by his party’s only MP and who has expelled the last interim UKIP Party Leader so determined is he to try and remain centre stage and impose his divisive philosophy on the nation.
Not for one moment will he acknowledge that his comments have contributed to the creation of poisonous and hateful groups in our society from which emerged the killer of a young MP who was keen that Britain remained in the EEC.
If the UK does indeed vote to leave the UK the Euro sceptics in the Conservative Party and UKIP will have imposed their will on the British people and a lot of people inside and outside of the UK will have to suffer the consequences.
And the lessons of history should be clear to all because in a similar manner the extreme right of the Republican Party imposed their will on the rest of the world by ensuring George Bush was elected President for 8 years rather than Al Gore. And the threat of ISIS to western society and global stabilisation is a consequence we are all still suffering from 8 years after Bush the younger left office.
And if you believe, as I do, that any responsible British voter has a right and duty to citizens across the globe to vote to remain in the EEC so as to maintain global stability, what do I make of the likely consequences of a Trump Presidency in regard to Global stability?
Not a lot!
I cannot believe it is a viable option because as I have already indicated the Republican High Command after twice losing to Obama stated that with aging supporters it was essential that the Republican Party embraced and made itself attractive to the rapidly growing Latino sector of the American electorate.
Well that’s not going to work as Trump has managed to get the entire Latino sector offside and will attract less Latino support than either McCain or Romney! And as the Black vote are solidly behind Hillary Clinton in the Democratic camp it is going to be an uphill battle for Trump.
The only niggle as far as I am concerned is that for about 40% of the American electorate the name Clinton is attacked with a vehemence more appropriate to being directed towards a child killer and it seems to have dated from her unsuccessful efforts to steer a Universal Health Care Package through Congress in the first Clinton Presidency. This was a cross that almost 20 years later Obama also had to bear, attracting vilification and oprium for introducing Obamacare.
For me with a cv that boasts First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most experienced Presidential candidate since Bush the Elder (Congressman, Director of the CIA, Ambassador to China and the UN) and quite possibly the best qualified ever.
Personally, after reading Obama’s biography ‘Dreams from my Father’ in 2008 before he became President, I was convinced Hillary would make the better President but it was not to be and the problem is that for whatever reason people do not warm to her as they do to her husband.
Whilst Bill also polarises many in the USA, by contrast to his wife many of the remainder of the electorate are enthusiastic (Bill) Clinton supporters but people do not take to Hillary who often appears proscribed and to lack warmth.
Hopefully and as appears likely, there are even more who either dislike Trump or do not trust him to be responsible enough to be President.
Although not as conservative as Ted Cruz, Trump is adept at positioning himself to appeal to the disadvantaged who blame government and foreign influences for their woes and as America is one of the most insular nations in the world it is easy to gain (limited) support by branding Mexicans as rapists and Moslems as terrorists.
But at the end of the day whilst clearly not stupid he is not that wise or bright either with bankruptcy and a string of failed businesses in his wake as well as his successes over the last 30 years. And whatever excuse those who have been at the helm of a failed business will trot out as an excuse (‘my principal customer failed and did not pay his debts’) 99% of the time it is a result of poor management or an error of judgement of those in charge (That’s no excuse – why did you not diversify instead of letting your company get over dependent on one client)
So when push comes to shove I am fairly relaxed about Trump being the candidate because I am fairly comfortable that unloved or not and pursued by vindictive opponents for one reason or another (Whitewater, the Libyan Embassy, using her own insecure email) that Hillary Clinton will prevail and that is a good thing for the rest of the world. For all the trumped (sorry) up charges against her, years of Whitewater investigations yielded up zero irregularities and the Libyan attack was hardly her responsibility. And is using your own email account really a hanging offence?
Hillary is sensible, she is serious, she is experienced and ethically she is on the right side of most arguments and if she wants to use him she has the benefit of 24/7 input from the most qualified advisor on the planet.
By contrast Trump’s rhetoric like Nigel Farage and the Brexit camp in the UK is designed to prey on the fears of the less educated and whether intended or not results in the poorly advised taking matters into their own hands to right the perceived wrongs caused by EEC supporters in the UK or Freedom of Choice supporters in the USA. ie Lets just shoot them!
It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote that England and America were two nations divided by a common language and I must profess my eyes glaze over when I hear yet another American politician wax on about so called American values.
I am sorry if it offends any readers but I really do not think that the USA has any credible claim to be the nation with the self appointed role of promoting and extolling its values around the world.
A nation that cannot pass the legislation to protect its citizens from one another?
A nation who lambasts any politician who tries to introduce universal health care available for its citizens.
The evidence for gun control is compelling – firearm related homicides are 7 times higher per 10,000 pax in the US than in neighbouring Canada which has gun control legislation in place but American society does not have the collective will to even restrict the sale of multi repeating assault weapons due to the pernicious influence of the gun lobby America cannot.
Most nations in the world have values that aspire to provide health care for as many citizens as possible but not in the USA it seems.
So I have little sympathy for the internal problems of the USA which are usually self inflicted.
I have no sympathy for a nation that legitimises the right for its citizens to acquire weapons for multiple killings and the rest of the world has surely given up feeling sympathy for the nation every time there is another mass killing spree in the USA. These are surely self inflicted wounds as long as the USA refuses to change its gun control laws.
We all know that the right to bear arms for self protection 200 years ago and which is enshrined in the Constitution has no relevance to the weapons for mass killing that can now be purchased over the counter at the drop of a hat.
A self repeating rifle or two that can kill 49 people is OK – how about a small nuclear device for ‘self protection’? Would that be permissible?
I have little sympathy for a nation that derides those leaders who aspire to provide health coverage for its less well off citizens. Most governments and societies strive and aspire to provide health care for their citizens but in America ‘ObamaCare’ is condemned by many as being akin to a criminal and illegal activity
But I must accept that despite its citizens and elected representatives being very insular and having little knowledge or understanding in regards to the rest of the world the USA nevertheless exercises great influence around the world and very few people will be comfortable with Donald Trump having his finger on the nuclear button!
This is a man who claims he will not get a fair hearing into the collapse of his failed university because the presiding Judge is of Mexican origin!
Clearly this is a man who will (not) be a master of constructive dialogue but rather one who will appeal to the basest elements of the society he will purport to represent and as we see all too often in the USA – extremist views result in extremist actions and like Brexit has the capacity to impact on all of us around the world.
The reason that the USA is opposed by so many extremist Islamic groups and States is because before Obama it has refused to practice an even handed policy in the Middle East in general and in particular to the question of Israel and Palestine.
Can you imagine the contribution a man like Trump can make to Global instability – he will make Bush the younger look like a rank amateur in that regard!
So I hope any reader who is planning to vote in either the UK Referendum on whether to remain in the EEC or the forthcoming US Presidential Election will remember that you have a responsibility to those who live in other countries who will be affected by your vote.
We only have one planet and lines on a map are just that.
Yes we have our separate traditions but we will only survive if we work together.
Voting to turn your back on your neighbours and cause mayhem and uncertainty is a selfish act and our neighbours deserve better.
Voting to elect a President who is committed to building walls rather than bridges and to generalise and exclude entire nations on the basis of faith is not a neighbourly act.
We need leaders and systems which bring people together in a spirit of co-operation and voting for either Brexit or Trump can have the gravest of consequences for the rest of us.
And your vote is so very important – remember it was just a few hundred hanging chads in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election that imposed Bush the younger on the planet back in 2000.
So let’s not react to the divisive calls for support from the Brexit and Trump camps but instead vote to remain in the EEC so we can shape the Europe in which we want to live work and play.
And if you are in America please vote for Hillary so she can continue the work begun by Obama to enable the rest of the world to view and engage with the USA as a ‘normal’ country again.
And since writing this article I have put my money where my mouth is and have backed the Remain Vote to win.
© Michael Bromfield