It’s heartening to see the daylight hours begin to stretch out once more and where summer beckons albeit for what seems like a brief moment. The bad and most expensive period of the year is over with taxes and winter fuel bills all paid up to date and offering a short respite before Community Charges fall due. In this respect, there has been discussions about replacing the latter with a new form of payment but already, there are rumblings among local councils’ eager to abandon the current freeze on Community Charge payments although, if that happens, then it may be next year before we encounter it. It's just one of many big decisions that we’re likely to be hearing about in the months ahead, some of which have already been delayed yet cannot be avoided for much longer. 2016 thus seems set to be the ‘year of big decisions’ and I’m planning to add a series to this website providing some background to these challenges in the near future albeit from a personal perspective. This issue, it's the post-Brexit referendum which effectively ends our membership within the European Community for all time and where new questions about Scottish Independence have resurfaced in the wake of the result. In the wake of this, the planned update to this website has taken far longer to materialise and I apologise for that. I've taken several weeks to research and consider what the future may hold in the wake of this decision.
The Brexit Reality - Life without European Censure
On Thursday 23rd June 2016, and in a referendum which could have potentially involved forty-six million people, the British people voted to leave the European Union albeit by a narrow margin. It's a date that shall remain prominent in the annals of history not only for the UK but for a smug and complacement union of nations who never really believed that we might actually seek departure from the increasingly federalist authoritiy that the EC has become and far different from the 'Common Market' ideology that we signed up for in 1973.
Despite greatly hiked prices in the shops, butter mountains. wine lakes, and more, we voted for a second time in 1975 to support the insane Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at the heart of the European Economic Community (EEC) doctrine largely on the basis of improving continental farming practices. Above all else, membership was supposed to allow access to one of the largest marketplaces in the World without cross-border tarrifs or taxation resulting in greater UK employment and exports.
Britain paid a heavy price to join the EEC and even in the revamped form calling itself the European Community or EC for short, it's perfectly clear how Britain, as the third largest financial provider to EC coffers was poorly regarded in the run-up to the Brexit vote. What Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated with Brussels in advance of that crucial poll vote reminded reminded me of Chamberlain waving a worthless piece of paper shortly before World War Two began. There was nothing on that paper that guaranteed the right to refuse immigrants either in the short term or long term and I'm confident that this played a major effect on the voting patterns during the referendum. It's frustrating and annoying to realise just how close each side came to victory in their political campaigns and where the previously held Scottish Independence vote was in favour of a United Kingdom totally commited towards a United Europe. The inflexibility shown by the Europe Community to Britain and where it was needed most may yet prompt cause for other nations to reflect and pause before the entire structure and organisation comes under adverse scrutiny by the member nations.Is this the Federalist Europe that they signed up for? In the British case, clearly not, and where the provisions of the recently held Scottish referendum on the subject of independence has become moot and void since the status of the United Kingdom within Europe does not exist in current times. The map illustrated clearly shows a massive disparity between that of Scottish voters and that of English separatists and yet, Scots are supposed to accept this on the basis of the previous vote.
Already, it's perfectly clear that Brexit will compel Scotand to leave the EC whether we desire such an outcome or not. We've been sold a pup rather than a fully grown race hound and that demands revisiting the notion of Scottish Independance and a new referendum based on the current criteria and before Brexit is allowed to happen. It should become the primary purpose of Scottish politicians to ensure that the crucial referendum is presented before the formal declaration of the UK desire and before 'Article 50' is presented before the European Union. Despite this, I sincerely doubt whether a separist Scottish nation will find favour withn the European Community. In many ways, the inflexibility shown by the Europe Community to Britain at a time when it was needed most, has led to this situation and may yet prompt cause for them to pause and reflect before other nations arrive at similar conclusions and elect to follow departure from a Federalist Europe that they never signed up for? If only they had stuck to the basic ideals of a 'Common Market' and trading ideal then its dubious whether Brexit could ever have become a reality. Students at Universities who were eligible to vote have complained yet examination of these figures show how many of them 'couldn't be bothered' to vote. Analysis of the voting patterns show how active participation by them could have made a major difference to the outcome.
Taking a brief look at the statistics concerning political persausion, educational levels and age with the 'remain camp' shown on the left side of the graph; one can see how those of younger age were comfortable to remain inside the EU whilst the more elderely members of UK society felt separation was a far better objective. Those of more advanced eductational status clearly felt that better opportunities awaited them within membership of the European Union. The sad thing is that far fewer young people voted than might have been expected. It's been said that young people were denied this opportunity but its clear that it was their choice whether to vote or not. A substantial number of the latter chose not to vote so the outcome is what it is. In my previous artiicle on the subject of Brexit, I made it clear how I was likely to vote and like many people, I seriously woke up on Friday morning expecting to hear that the vote to continue with EU membership had been victorious. It came as quite a shock to realise that the opposite had occurred. For my part, I still think the decision to leave the EU is insane and drivien by xenophobic issues concerning immigration and perceived link to employment, housing and more. In a country in which more of us are reaching retirement age, with many to compelled to work on beyond that age, and with fewer younger people able to fill the necessary skills gap, then any planned and sensible and controlled immigration policy makes sense.
As stated in the headline of this article, I've deliberately taken a lot of time to consider the potential consequences of the Brexit decision. It's allowed me to see how quickly David Cameron abdicated his position as Prime Minister despite former claims that he would stay irrespective of the vote. It's allowed me to see total breakdown of the Labour Party and where the contest for leadership is probably moot. It's allowed me to see Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP embarrass herself and her party on a European scale and confirming that once we're out then that will include Scotland too. It's alowed me to see that we're in a false dawn period whilst Article 44 concerning EU departure remains in abeyance. Ideally, from my perspective, i sincerely hope that it remains this way for many years since the damage done to the British economy is already considerable. Before Brexit, sterling equated to about one dollar sixty-six on average but has since fallen to about one dollar twelve: great for exports if the product being sold is wholly of British manufacture but elsewise challenging. In Japan, a country with the worst debt record on the planet, they'd have been delighted by such news since they've been trying to acheive similar results for decades without success. In true British style, we've attained that status within days of the Brexit vote and forced the Bank of England to reduce interest rates to almost non-existant rates. It bodes well for the UK in the short term interlude in which we are currently existing within but what of the medium and longer term? How will multinational companies regard Britain in the future if it fails to secure similar trading agreements with the remaining contingents of the EC? Even before these questions have been asked, France has overtaken Britain in the global comparision of economic states and has relegated Britiain to its former status of being in sixth place. Thus far, and even before the hard discussions of trade agreements has begun; the news has been negative and self inflicted.
In the run-up and prelude to the Brexit vote, there was considerable debates about the status of Switzerland and Norway as regards the EU. In early 2017, Switzerland is due to lose that former status whilst Norway remains compelled to pay huge sums into EC coffers in order to retain its trading status with the EU and much in the same way that the UK already contributes as a member of the EU. Does anyone seriously expect that to change in an agreement to secure a trade deal with Europe? In similar ways, the former fishing rights to our coastal regions were sold off to Europe when we joined in 1972 and invited all and sundry to plunder the waters around our coast. Are we sufficiently naive to maintain that right in order to secure trade agreements with Europe? I could cite many more examples and enough to fill a tome with more pages than the most books ever published. In terms of law, by example, there might be 800,000 revisions to make as a consequence of EU departure. In a previous article, I warned of the dangers concerning TTIP involving the EC but in the new reality in which securing a new trade agreement with the USA, this hazard has now become magnified.
At present, we're presented with a glass either 'half full' or 'half empty' depending upon your point of view. In my optimistic mode, I can see British manufacturing flourish with high technology products like never before and with exports to all parts of the World and in which high value currency exchanges are involved. Sadly, my viewpoint is tempered by the notion of a country more akin to poorly paid workers assembling goods for minimal wages with the latter becoming more probable. Even before Brexit, there's plenty of evidence to support the latter view with former 'industrial estates' reduced to 'trading estate' status. It's a sign that, as if any were needed, we aren't sufficiently productive or efficient in the World when we are compared to others. Getting to the former position will demand investment in technology, recruitment and training to high standards and long term encouragement to retain staff until retiirement age. The big question is who might pay for this and the effects on company shares and pensions.
It's sad to say that I've said more in the last few paragraphs than Nicola Sturgeon has uttered since her return to meet with European Ministers. It's my impression that she received pretty short shrift during these discusssions and prompting the major degree of silence that we haven't heard since. In many ways, the 'Scottish Independence' vote has queered the pitch and making the current situation far more complex and difficult. Looking back, I might have changed my own beleif in the Union and elected for an Independant Nation whose income was highly reliant on North Sea Oil before foreign interferance largely originating from OPEC countries might have made us destitute and broke. At the time, I thought this was a lucky escape but never imagined how the subsequent Brexit vote would go.
Having said that and in the wake of the 'Independance Vote' it's shocking to see how many roads in Scotland are in urgent need to repair compared with that of Northern England. In addition, it remains strange to me how so many EU projects involved Highland Projects compared to the Bankfoot Roundabout Project begun in Southern Glenrothes with the lofty objective of creating a roundabout on two bridges above the A92 yet ended with a roundabout with raised parapets intended for these bridges yet never built because the money ran out! Companies like Cannon and ADC based their decisions to invest in Glenrothes and partially based upon the completion of that project! In current times, Glenrothes has the highest influx of motoring commuters in Fife region and yet lacks this facility while EU investment in the Highlands never had a chance of generating equal wealth opportunitties. Our basic problems of transportation often lie closer to that ugly building in Edinburgh rather than the European Union.