Monday, June 27, 2016


"You can cite perhaps half-a-dozen explanations as to why the once-phlegmatic British voted against their own economic interests by quitting the EU. British exceptionalism, migration, a scandalously duplicitous Leave campaign, stagnant incomes and post-crash austerity are all on the list. But the thread through it all was deep disgruntlement with a political and economic system that is seen as rigged against the hard-working classes. It was always clear that the referendum would fracture the Conservative party. But it was won by the “outs” only because millions of erstwhile Labour supporters deserted their own leftist leadership for the anti-immigrant xenophobia peddled by the United Kingdom Independence party. For decades politics was a game of turn and turnabout among the long established parties of centre-right and centre-left. Now, Conservatives and Labour in Britain, and Christian and Social Democrats on the European continent have lost control. Brexit will leave Britain poorer at home and diminished on the international stage. It marks a retreat from the world. The leaving of one union could lead to the break-up of another if Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, presses ahead with her plan for another independence referendum. A flight of foreign capital and businesses from the UK may tip the economy into recession. The leavers, led by the flamboyantly evasive Boris Johnson, have no plans to cope with any of this. Mr Johnson has not thought beyond an all-consuming ambition to replace David Cameron as prime minister. He has failed to offer a serious prospectus for the simple reason that, beyond some nostalgic nonsense about reconquering the world, he has no idea about what comes next."
Philip Stephens, "How a cautious nation came to tear down the political temple". The Financial Times. 24 June 2016, in
"Not before time it is slowly dawning on people in England that while this was very much their referendum it has consequences for the whole of the United Kingdom. They were warned this would be the case and, if it was not something that was ever uppermost in their thoughts, they cannot claim they were not told. Because they were. I don’t dispute English voters’ right to privilege their disgruntlement with the EU over their weakened preference for the United Kingdom to remain, well, just that. That’s a choice but choices have consequences. It has, in any case, been evident for some time that England’s commitment to the Union is just as provisional and ambivalent as Scotland’s.... In 2014, Better Together warned that voting for independence posed the greatest risk to Scotland’s EU membership. That was true then. It is evidently not true now. Voting, at some point, for independence is now the only way Scotland can become a full member of the EU. The suggestion any alternative is available is a suggestion for the birds. Like David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon knows this. She is talking about protecting ‘Scotland’s relationship with the European Union and our place in the single market’. That will be the famed Norwegian model, then. Membership of the EEA is the best-available, least-worst option for Sturgeon and, indeed, for the UK. That it is not what millions of people thought they were voting for is not Sturgeon’s problem. But mark this: I strongly suspect that anything less than the Norway model will lead to the break-up of Britain. And even that may not be enough to save it".
Alex Massie, "Is Brexit the beginning of the End of Britain?" The Spectator. 27 June 2016, in
Make no mistake about the matter: regardless of what the deluded hordes of people, sincere, anxious, frightened, alienated masses of the British thought that they were voting for last week, the end-result of last Thursday's vote, was by far the greatest act of mass political stupidity in the past fifty-years. At a time when Europe, the United States, the West in general faces many, many challenges, from Russia in the East to the Peoples Republic of China in the Orient, to the ongoing civil wars and chaos in the Near and Middle East, all eyes have now turned to the frivolous and idiotic issue of the United Kingdom (soon perhaps merely to be England and Northern Ireland) future relationship with the Twenty-seven nations of the European Union. I will not gainsay the truism that there is much to dislike, nay actively dislike about the European Union. The modern-day replica of the Holy Roman Empire in the latter's dotage. Especially, the fraught issue of uncontrolled immigration, as well as the issue of political legitimacy and illegitimacy. Regardless of all these facts and truism, the reality is that endeavoring to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, particularly now will have the end result of creating havoc: political havoc and economic havoc for both the Great Britain and the European Union. And resolving this completely unnecessary problem will take years and years to do. Will result in lower economic growth in both the United Kingdom and the European Union for years to come 1. And au fond, for a political game which one can now readily see, the instigators of which no longer believe in 2. From a purely diplomatic and political perspective, the upshot of the referendum results is best described in a speech by former American Ambassador Charles Freeman in Berlin on Saturday past to the 'Schiller Institute':
"Britain’s vote for Brexit has just exacerbated Europe’s confusion. Brexit promises to shatter the post-war order in Europe, to remove the British as intermediaries between the United States and “the Continent,” and to deal a potentially fatal blow to Britain’s special relationships with both" 3.
In short the wrong-headed results of last Thursday's referendum are not only an 'own-goal', but perhaps the ultimate case of national self-defenestration. In this instance an entire country has deliberately chosen to take leave of their senses. With consequences both diplomatic and economic which will last for years and years.
1. Martin Wolf, "Brexit will reconfigure the UK economy". The Financial Times. 24 June 2016, in
2. This can be readily seen by Boris Johnson's article in the Daily Telegraph in which as someone has commented accurately: "he [Johnson] almost certainly hoped to lose the referendum by a whisker, which would have left him perfectly positioned to snipe at David Cameron, but spared the tedious business of actually amputating the United Kingdom from Europe. The plan went awry, because he’s too natural a demagogue: like Jeremy Corbyn’s charismatic twin, he put his case too irrepressibly to attain the precise balance between plausibility and unpopularity that heroic failure would have required. Now that he unexpectedly finds himself at Downing Street’s threshold as a consequence, he needs to buy time – and his meaningless manifesto in the Telegraph is designed to do just that". In: Sadakat Kadri, "Bullxit". The London Review of Books. 27 June 2016, in See also: Sebastian Payne, "Boris Johnson must form a tangible plan for Brexit Britain". The Financial Times. 27 June 2016, in
3. The speech titled: "Things Fall Apart: America, Europe, and Asia in the New World Disorder Remarks to a Schiller Institute International Conference". Delivered on the 25th of June. The text of the speech was given to me by a close friend of Ambassador Freeman.


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