Personal Commentary

It has been sad to see so much untruth in the lead up to the referendum.  It has been very sad to see the 16-18 years olds, the EU (non UK/non Eire) residents in the UK denied a vote, and those overseas UK expats who have lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years denied a vote.  It is pretty clear from the polls that the country remains split and that needs to be mended but I am not convinced that moving forward to some 'Hard Brexit' is going to mend the rift.  It seems foolish to me to negotiate to be in a common trade pact when that is what we have now, to negotiate reciprocal visiting, education, health, ownership and residency for all the UK citizens in the EU, and vice versa, to negotiate new cross EU university deals etc., when we have all that on a plate together with an opt out on further EU integration.

The referendum was a disaster in democracy and a disaster, particularly for the poorer, older, infirm, single expats outside of the UK, particularly those relying on just a UK government pension.

The lies were dreadfulThis was purposely worded so as to give the impression that the following three lies are facts

(1) The EU gets 350 million a week from us, NET.  It does not.  We send it that money but we get a rebate, we get grants for science, infrastructure, industrial development, education... and so on.  That is not what the bus says.  It is 'economic with the truth' - that is a lie.  In fact the net contribution per person per week is about one pound, way less than a pint of beer a week, total, according to BBC news, 67million per week.

(2) it implies, along with the poster below, we can now spend the 350 million on the NHS.  That is a lie.  We can't.  As virtually all the economists, the world bank, the OECD, the governor of the Bank of England etc., the country is now poorer off, the NHS will now suffer, as will we all, because of the withdrawal of confidence in the financial sector in the UK, because we have no trade deal with the EU, because the currency  is worth less than before, because the Bank of England has had to sell gold to keep the currency afloat, already.  Sadly the BBC poll shows that 68% of those voting leave believe that the NHS will be better funded in 5 years time, whilst only 21% of those voting remain believe that.  In reality the message of large funding for the NHS has hit home.  Leavers, presumably chose to vote leave partly because of this.  There simply is not 350 million to distribute, and there never was.  Unfortunately it shows that some people accepted the lies to be truth.

(3) Let's take back control - OF WHAT?  Our borders?  If we want to keep trading with the EU, they have rules about who they trade with.  One rule is open borders: that EU citizens can travel to Britain.  If not, we no longer trade with the EU and we cut off our nose to spite our face and become a massively poorer country.

The people most affected by this decision will be those living under a more divided Europe in five years time.  The 18-24 age group voted 75% in favour of remaining. Most of the young people whose lives will be affected by this, want to have free movement, free trade, no walls and barriers.  Many visit Europe and love being part of the European scene. These young people are the ones that will carry the can of this decision. 

This makes the referendum different from (a) a general election, where the length of time prior to re-election, is 5 years, so the decision is not for ever, and different from (b) a referendum like that held to consider a change to the voting system, the results of which affect everyone equally. Referenda are unlikely to protect the rights of minorities who are most affected particularly the expats in Spain, France and the rest of the EU, non-UK EUs living and working in the UK, and the young.

Irish, Indian, Australian, Bangladeshi, and Canadian etc. residents in the UK were allowed to vote - which is fine.  But Spanish, French, Polish, Lithuanian etc. who are living in the UK now were not allowed to vote.  They are the ones most likely to be affected by the vote, and there are 3 million of them in the UK.  If they had voted, almost certainly, the vote would have gone the other way.  That is not fair.  British expats in the EU are allowed to vote in local country elections in the EU.  This is not a democratic vote, it did not include the people who will be affected.

Many people voted to leave but, within hours, became disillusioned by promises that were lies.  Leave politicians talked of 350million per week that we could distribute to the NHS, then, hours after the results were announced, pointed out that such distribution was not possible.  The currency has sunk to a 31 year low against the dollar and any savings when we no longer pay anything to the EU will be used to pay off the debts we will incur because our currency is now regarded as less safe, is downgraded by the credit agencies, and therefore borrowing will cost more.

Any savings (pensions) that relate to stock prices have fallen.  Some banks and industrialists have indicated they will withdraw from the UK.  That means fewer jobs.  1.3 trillian pounds was lost immediately, that's nearly 6 months worth of our contributions lost from the economy in a day.

The other EU countries cannot afford lengthy negotiations, and they want to demonstrate to their own people that to leave the EU is painful.  We will suffer that pain.

The pressure on immigration will not change until poorer and less stable countries become wealthier and safer.  That implies we should be voting for the common good, not just for ourselves. 

 In practice if we want a free trade agreement like Norway  we must sign up for free movement of people.

The UK is heading towards splitting up.  Scotland do not want to leave the EU.  Northern Ireland do not want a reinstatment of the barriers between them and the rest of Ireland.  Great Britain will not be Great Britain any more.  It will be England and Wales. 

Campaign for this referendum to be regarded as advisory on government, for an act of parliament being necessary before Article 50 is invoked, for a second referendum to test the new mood of the nation, if necessary.  The lies of any campaign should not drive the politics of our country.

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Thanks for reading this.  I am emeritus professor of Computing from Staffordshire University.  Currently, though, a clergyman with pastoral care for British expats in Spain, many of whom fear the consequences on their own lives of this decision.  Democracy should be based on people voting because they have been given the truth, not lies and half lies.  It should be based on who will be affected most, and on the common good, never on any racist views. This vote was not democratic because (a) the truth was difficult to filter from the lies and (b) because the constituency of voters does not represent the people who are going to be most affected by the situation. 

Finally, as I hope I have shown in the analysis, the vote is no longer the will of the people.

Adrian Low

rev.adrian.low@gmail.com