I have updated this post following the march in London, yesterday, 25th March .
John Maynard Keynes famously said “If the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” The facts post referendum are considerably changed from what any of us expected, pro or con. It may be wisdom after the event, but I was dismayed by a succession of unpleasant surprises. First, the outburst of anti-immigrant violence, then the weakening of the pound. It plummeted, partially recovered, but remains at a permanently lower level, even though the Euro also appears to have been weakened by the Brexit vote against the dollar. Investors in industry have expressed doubts. Martin Wolf provided a comprehensive account of the damage done in the Financial Times
But some unforeseen facts loom larger than others. Nicola Sturgeon’s conference announcement last week , reiterated in March with a call for a second referendum on Scottish independence, was hardly a surprise. It is reasonable for Scotland to suggest a fresh independence vote in view of Scotland having voted ‘Remain’. And what is to happen on the Irish border?
Once again the polls got it wrong. They thought the referendum was a close call. It seem generally accepted that the areas which voted 70% ‘Leave’ did so in response to the slogan ‘Take back control’. The anti-immigrant backlash in those areas indicates that the main issue they thought they were taking control of was our borders: immigration. I do not understand why ‘Remainers’ have not, to my knowledge used the argument that Brexit is unlikely to deliver what its voters wanted. As Home Secretary, Theresa May specifically said that Farage’s points system would not work here. She has not offered anything in its place.
Regular readers will be aware that I believe a Europe –wide Basic income is a better way of dealing with this issue. Since I originally wrote this post, the launch of the World Basic Income movement has brought this possibility nearer. Banners on yesterday’s march could have read:
“WORLD BASIC INCOME: How to slow immigration by persuasion, not force”
What did not figure much in the referendum campaign was that Britain will have to choose between immigration, and the Single market. If goods can move freely, then so must people. Why should the rest of the EU allow Britain to have it both ways? The promises which produced the 3.8% Brexit majority will have to be broken. I think those who thought they were taking back control need to know this.
The police estimate of the march in London on 25th March was 100,000. I could not get near enough to the screen or pa system to hear the speeches. I gather there was a Green contingent, but not seeing them in the crush, I stayed mostly with ‘Leeds for Europe’.
But just as the worst homophobe is a gay in denial, I wonder if some of those defending the result most shrilly, are subconsciously aghast at the enormity of what they have wreaked. I thought Boris Johnson sounded uncharacteristically conciliatory rather than triumphant when the result was announced. But to me the biggest give-away was Farage’s ‘Job done’ resignation. If anyone should have thought out all the ramifications, and been able to come forward with confident answers to any problems, it was him. If the case again Brexit as it has unfolded was not serious enough, May’s determination to push for a hard Brexit makes it frightful.
Even before the result, former Prime Minister John Major, hardly a hothead, accused the ‘Leave’ campaign of lying. On the contrary, I am willing to assume that everyone acted in good faith. Telling Brexiteers that they are either liars or idiots will just make them defend their position all the more forcibly. They need an escape route: I did not foresee any of the ‘cons’ I mention. My motive was that if there is to be any hope of nation states being stronger than transnational companies, the EU, albeit with some fundamental changes (which an international Basic Income will facilitate), is a must (and so is a united UK). Will none of those who argued ‘Leave’ follow Keynes’ advice? Are none of them big enough to say “It hasn’t panned out as we thought. Sorry.”
We are on the eve of triggering Article 50. We have only straws to clutch at.