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24 June 2016 [The text below has been revised several times since it was initially posted on this date]
VICTORY FOR THE PEOPLE, DEFEAT FOR THE RULING CLASS
The peasants have revolted. Tired of tugging their forelocks and being ordered about by stuck-up toffs from London and flash gits from Brussels, the common people of Britain, the silent majority, the down-trodden masses have risen up in rebellion against their arrogant overlords. It is 1380 all over again – that momentous year in which heroic Kentishmen Wat Tyler and John Ball led a people’s revolt against the tyrant King Richard II and his minions in the oppressive landlord class.
In a referendum yesterday 23 June 2016 a majority of British voters decided that the United Kingdom should secede from the 28-nation European Union (EU) of which it has been a member state since 1973.
The result, announced today, was:
51.9 % of the electorate – 17 410 742 people – voted in favour of leaving the EU.
48.1 % – 16 141 241 – voted in favour of staying in the EU.
The turn-out was 72.2 % – the highest in a UK-wide ballot since 1992.
There were significant regional variations in the result. A breakdown for the four nations that comprise the United Kingdom (2016 population 65 million) shows that there were majorities for leaving the EU in England (population 55 million) and Wales (population 3 million). Scotland (population 5.4 million) and Northern Ireland (population 1.9 million) both produced majorities in favour of remaining within the EU.
In England (population 55 million) 53.4% of voters wanted to leave the EU, as opposed to 46.6% who preferred to remain. (This figure includes the results for London (population 8.6 million) , where 40.1% wanted to leave, compared with 59.9% who wanted to remain).
In Wales 52.5% of voters wanted to leave, as opposed to 47.5% who wanted to remain.
In Scotland 38% of voters wanted to leave, as opposed to 62% who wanted to remain.
In Northern Ireland 44.2% of voters wanted to leave, as opposed to 55.8% who wanted to remain.
A tentative initial demographic analysis of the results suggests that a majority of the poorer, less educated and older sectors of the UK population wanted to leave the EU, whereas the richer, better educated and younger sectors preferred to remain.
“BLISS WAS IT IN THAT DAWN TO BE ALIVE“
Line by the English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) in “The French Revolution, as it Appeared to Enthusiasts” (1809)
It was precisly 6 am, as the sun began to rise over Britain, that the ballot tally dispelled any doubt that the British electorate had voted to leave the European Union after 43 years of half-hearted semi-detached membership.
“Dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” commented pro-secession heavyweight Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, the latter-day avatar of Wat Tyler and John Ball. Farage predicted that 23 June 2016 would go down in history as Britain’s “Independence Day”.
Readers of our last post CONTRA UNIONEM EUROPAEAM published on St George’s Day 23 April 2016 will know that Antigone1984 emphatically welcomes the outcome, for which we have campaigned for more than three decades.
In a bare-faced ploy to spook supporters of Brexit (Britain’s Exit), apocalyptic predictions of doom were put about by the EU elite and their eurofanatic lickspittles in Britain’s tweedledum-and-tweedledee Labour and Conservative parties. Meanwhile, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, predicted that a Brexit vote would mean nothing less than the end of Western political civilisation.
Indeed we were warned that If Britain left the EU, tsunamis would sweep across the land, the sun would grow dark, plague and disease would ravage the land, the milky way would turn green, and the universe would be back where it was 13 billion years ago at the start of the Big Bang.
And yet here we are are on a fine sunny morning on Midsummer Day and everything around us seems a picture of normality.
True, global stock markets had the heebie-jeebies for a while and forex parities gyrated wildly for a time. But the world has not come to an end.
The Financial Times quoted a capital markets specialist: “As a client observed this morning [24 June], the earth is still spinning and the sun still rose, and we have to get on with our business.”
Another city expert opined: “In a few seconds it was obvious that, in spite of the vote, UK government bonds were still seen as one of the world’s haven assets.”
Admittedly, the EU and UK political establishments were severely traumatised. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “It’s an explosive shock. At stake is the break-up, pure and simple, of the [European] Union.”
To that we say: bring it on! The sooner that artificial meddling self-aggrandizing federation collapses and Europe reverts to being a comity of independent nation states, the better for everyone.
The Eurocrats had it coming to them. The long-suffering citizens of Britain have finally risen in revolt and stuck it to the British and continental ruling class.
DIRTY TRICKS TO BE EXPECTED
What should we expect now?
The fact is that no one can predict precisely or even imprecisely what the short or long term effects of Brexit will be. We shall just have to wait and see.
However, it is eminently possible that a rear-guard action will be mounted to stymie the will of the people. Be prepared for dirty tricks.
While the Brexit campaign has won a famous victory, we reprise the warning we voiced in our last post:
Most commentators seem to have lost track of the fact that the referendum has no legal force: it will not tie the government to one course of action or the other. In the event of an “Out” vote, for example, it is quite possible that the UK government will adopt the democratically questionable procedure pioneered a number of times by other Member States where the result of a referendum has gone against the wishes of the EU establishment, namely to engage in further, normally sham, negotiations, and then hold a second referendum on the spurious grounds that they have now got a better deal to present to the electorate….European electorates, worn out by referendum fatigue, have tended to cave in to the wishes of the establishment on those occasions when this tactic has been adopted.
Here is what happened.
On 2 June 1992 the Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum. On 18 May 1993 the Danes accepted the Maastricht Treaty in a second referendum.
On 7 June 2001 the Irish rejected the Treaty of Nice in a referendum. On 19 October 2002 the Irish approved the Treaty of Nice in a second referendum.
On 29 May 2001 the French and on 1 June 2001 the Dutch rejected the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. There was no second referendum in either country and the constitutional treaty was abandoned – nominally. However, in an underhand manoeuvre characteristic of the EU’s innate tendency to circumvent democratic decisions with which it does not agree, substantial chunks of the constitutional treaty were quietly reintroduced in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 (initially known as the Reform Treaty). As two EU experts, John Pinder and Simon Usherwood admit in their book “The European Union” (2007), “Much of the comprehensive reform proposed in the Constitutional Treaty remains in the Reform Treaty”.
Similar calls for a re-run of the Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016 have already been made. In fact, as early as 25 June 2016, a petition signed by a million people had been sent to the UK Parliament calling specifically for a second referendum. However, doubts soon emerged regarding the authenticity of the petition.
Moreover, for Britain to leave the EU, the House of Commons (the lower house of the British parliament) will have to vote to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which gave primacy to European law and surrendered much of Britain’s sovereignty to European institutions on the Continent. Because of the parliamentary arithmetic, this will not necessarily happen. Regardless of the pro-exit vote in yesterday’s referendum, about half the Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) together with most of the Labour Party’s MPs and virtually all the Scottish Nationalist MPs are personally opposed to withdrawal.
Another threat to Brexit looms in the form of the possibility of a UK parliamentary election this autumn. Both the Conservative and Labour Parties could go into this election with a platform committing them to negotiate substantial concessions from the EU institutions with a view to holding a second referendum should they consider the concessions significant enough to warrant overriding the referendum of 23 June 2016.
THE GREEK PRECEDENT
A precedent for ignoring a referendum where the electorate has taken a decision at variance with the wishes of the ruling class was set last year by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
In a referendum held in Greece on 5 July 2015, at the request of the Tsipras government voters overwhelmingly (61.3% to 38.7%) rejected a vicious austerity programme being foisted on Greece, in exchange for a bail-out loan, by a triad of foreign bean-counters (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) egged on by penny-pinching German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
Merely a week afterwards, on 13 July 2015, at a summit of eurozone (the 19 EU states whose currency is the euro) leaders, to universal astonishment, Tsipras, whose whole political career had been built on leftwing opposition to foreign-imposed austerity, agreed to implement an even harsher programme of austerity measures (pension cuts and tax increases) than those which had just been rejected in the referendum by a massive majority of the Greek electorate.
And to think that this took place in Greece, the cradle of western democracy!
So how did “tricky-dicky” Tsipras, the former hardline leftie, justify accepting an austerity package worse than that which had just been overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Greece?
His ploy was to call a snap parliamentary election on 20 September 2015 on the premise that a win for his government would represent the electorate’s endorsement of his decision on 13 July 2015 to ignore the result of the referendum of 5 July 2015 and cave in to the diktats of the triad.
Stone the crows, he won that election!
[Wikipedia comments: turnout was exceptionally low at 56.6%, the lowest ever recorded in a Greek legislative election since the restoration of democracy in 1974. Post-election analysis determined that voters’ apathy and dissaffection with politics as well as weariness after being continuously called to the polls (this election marked the third vote in 2015, following the January 2015 election and the July 2015 referendum) were the most likely causes for the low turnout.]
The procedure adopted by Tsipras to set aside the results of the Greek referendum of 5 July 2015 could be copied in Britain in conjunction with a UK parliamentary election this autumn.
THE CONSERVATIVE SUCCESSION
The referendum was called by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in order to allow his party – split down the middle on this issue – to let off steam, while at the same time kicking this spiny topic into the long grass for at least another generation. The assumption was that the electorate would vote to stay in the EU.
Unfortunately for Cameron, in any gamble there is the possibility of an upset. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) once wrote, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley”. Contrary to what they were instructed to do by Big Business and the British establishment of both right and left, the bloody-minded British electorate voted by a majority to leave the European Union. Cameron lost his bet and his job – he is to resign as Prime Minister this autumn.
It will be up to his successor to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon by formally informing the European Council that Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Article 50 allows two years for the EU and the state leaving the union to negotiate a new relationship. However, this period can be extended if all EU member states agree.
It should also be borne in mind that, regardless of the referendum result in favour of Brexit, there is no compulsion on a British Prime Minister to activate Article 50. Constitutionally, the outcome of a UK referendum is not binding on government or parliament. Knowing that this is the case, EU leaders are already having kittens over the likelihood of economic and social disruption throughout Europe and, to a lesser extent globally, if the British procrastinate in resorting to Article 50.
The candidate who is currently tipped as most likely to succeed Cameron as Conservative Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, the last mayor of London, who led the Brexit campaign in the hope – justified, as it turned out – that this would give him the exposure he needed to be in pole position for the prime ministerial vacancy. Unfortunately, in our view, Johnson is the most opportunistic self-obsessed principle-free politician active in Britain today. If you had the misfortune to shake hands with him, you’d need to count your fingers afterwards to make sure that they were all still there. If Johnson becomes Prime Minister this autumn, it is he who will oversee Article 50 negotiations for Britain. Ominously, despite his key role in the campaign, Johnson’s form on Brexit does not induce confidence. Undecided which side to side with at the start of the referendum campaign, he prepared two alternative drafts for his weekly column in a rightwing newspaper, one in favour of Brexit and one opposing it. Post-result, he has also suggested that there is no need for any haste in starting up Article 50 negotiations – not a position you would expect from a committed Brexiteer. Finally, we seem to remember – subject to correction – that at some point before or after the campaign started he mooted the possibility of holding a second referendum if the first referendum did not produce the correct result.
We would not buy a second-hand car from this man.
Stop press: The danger that Johnson would put a spanner in the works, so far as Brexit is concerned, has been removed. On 30 June 2016, for reasons not yet clear, he threw in the towel, renouncing his bid for the premiership and passing on the baton to his fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove, UK Justice Minister, a more heavy-weight politician than Johnson and someone that is more likely to stick to his guns. Gove has now thrown his hat into the ring as candidate for the post of Prime Minister. However, he faces formidable opposition from Theresa May, UK Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior), who is on the hard right of the Conservative Party and has made her mark as a vicious opponent of cross-border human rights legislation. Ominously for Brexit, while maintaining a low profile, during the referendum campaign May nonetheless supported Britain remaining an EU member state. Implementation of Brexit is unlikely to be safe in her hands. The result of the contest for the premiership will be announced on 9 September 2016.
Editorial note: This text is a work in progress. We may expand on it as developments occur. We are also hoping to draft a number of shorter posts over coming weeks dealing with specific aspects of the Brexit bombshell.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
- Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
- Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
- The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
- Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- Ladder (21 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
- Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.