Which is why it should not

Nothing can be more damaging for Europe and the world if Brexit passes
Voices Brexit Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - 15:11

If Brexit passes on Thursday, the United Kingdom (UK) would have voted against itself, against Europe and everything else that the civilised world stands for. It would have voted against ambition, compassion, humanity, merit, talent and values that societies and people cherish and strive for - values that parents inculcate in their children.  It would have voted for isolation xenophobia with a big X.

In forty-eight hours from now voters in the UK will cast their ballots in a referendum on whether to leave the European Union (EU). If the so-called Brexit camp wins – Britain+exit=Brexit – it will be a shock for which Europe and the world is not prepared. It would mean the destruction of 43 years (for the UK) of carefully constructed free movement of goods, capital, people and services to build one of the world’s largest free trade areas. European integration was built on the debris of two wars where unspeakable crimes were committed. Similar crimes are now being committed east of Turkey and west of India. A dismantled Europe cannot add itself to further crimes and more debris – enough has been destroyed already. The stakes on Brexit are very high.

The young in UK – many of whom were not born when the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in 1992 creating a common monetary and economic union – were almost indifferent to the seismic nature of what is being sought up until the last few weeks when it dawned on them that more than borders were at stake. The ‘leave’ vote was seeking an annihilation of difference and diversity based on religion, lack of opportunities, unemployment and colour. Shamelessly but predictably, the ‘leave’ vote rhetoric left out its own guilt (NATO plus) in carpet-bombing entire cities including hospitals in the Middle East turning their people into refugees.

Unfortunate as it is, the brutal assassination last week of British lawmaker Jo Cox who was asking for voters to stay in the EU has forced people to sit up and ask– where are they headed? What they see is ugly. Voters in UK have been hurled into an arena of ideas according to which there isn’t enough of anything to go around so doors must be shut and difference must be deleted. In this worldview only the West is capable of creating wealth and opportunities making it a one-stop shop for all things modern and enviable, a mecca of progress. In their words the benefits of leaving the EU are a plenty as the bloc is a bottomless pit that accommodates all at the expense of UK.  Read the ‘leave’ campaign here.  

The ‘leave’ gang would like voters in UK to believe that they are now ‘polluted’ with refugees from Syria and Turkey, their jobs and women are unsafe and if not stopped Britain will not be Britain anymore. The conniving part of this rhetoric is that it has now come to seem ‘normal’ to calibrate and even celebrate venom. It was sort of ‘normal’ when the refugees came from Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. All hell broke lose when Syrian Muslim refugees came knocking for shelter and food. Donald Trump talking about excluding Muslims and Mexicans or others referring to Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage were all suddenly part of the package. The anti-immigration poster by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by Nigel Farge showing refugees trying to come into Europe  - an exact duplicate of the propaganda used by the Nazis – completed the lies.

Continental Europeans have always looked askance at the ‘Brits’ as they are called, insisting that London is a mere extension of Washington. The Continent’s history is indeed very different from that of the UK. When the latter joined the Common Market (EU’s precursor) in 1975, the difficulties of a former empire ceding control to faceless and anonymous bureaucrats in Brussels was a major issue. The UK has not changed to the common currency Euro – what will be the future of London as the world’s financial capital if Brexit passes?

For sure the ‘leave’ gang sees opportunity and only opportunity in going alone from the 28-member EU bloc. There’s the example of Switzerland and then there’s Norway, both countries not technically in the EU but both free to seek bilateral trade deals with faster growing economies without being bogged down by Europe and Brussels.

It’s a tight vote. At the time of writing one polls places ‘leave’ at 44 per cent and ‘remain’ at 42 per cent. The ‘leave gang’ is extolling the British to take back their country they once cherished, the country that made them great and dominant. Unfortunately all of Europe’s current ills – unemployment, the refugee crisis and terrorism – all lashing the campaigns damaging some, buttressing others and leaving swathes of people undecided.

Nobody can predict what the eventual consequences of Britain’s departure would be as no country has left the EU before.  Will there be copycat referendums? Even if no country follows the UK, the departure of the world’s fifth largest economy from the EU as well as a nuclear power is significant. A pro-Europe Scotland would then want to secede from Great Britain again so we are talking about the possible dissolution of the UK as well.

It took a brutal assassination to show just how far civilised discourse had slipped. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said politicians should not whip up hatred. Her call was picked up on the other side of the English Channel by another woman, and mother Sayeeda Warsi, a former minister and co-chair of the ruling Conservative Party. She accused the ‘leave’ campaigners of wrongly suggesting that staying in the EU would lead to vast numbers of Turkish and Syrian refugees coming to Britain in the near future.

“Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign…I don’t want the Leave camp to be running this country and I don’t want the messages coming out of that camp to form the basis of the kind of Britain that I want to live in and to bring my kids up in,” she told The Times newspaper.