Remain campaigners continue to bewail the result of the UK referendum and to forecast gloom and doom for the country. We need to respond as positively as we can to this widespread unwillingness to accept the result.
The press, like so many other organisations, was split between Remain and Leave camps. No one wants to change their minds, so the ‘losers’ will continue to make sour noises, at least until they are proved wrong by changed circumstances. Here is one example:
“Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has been the anti-globalists’ biggest prize: the vote in June to abandon the world’s most successful free-trade club was won by cynically pandering to voters’ insular instincts, splitting mainstream parties down the middle.”
Where does the Economist get the notion that the EU is “the world’s most successful free-trade club”? They don’t offer any evidence, not even to compare any EU successes with any other “free-trade club” failures. The Economist is gung-ho in favour of TPP, TPIP and other prospective ‘clubs’. So, they believe, or feel they must say, that the EU is successful, indeed “the world’s most successful”. The EU is of course the world’s largest free trade area and for many of its nations (not Britain) inter-EU trade is their most important. But it is the slowest-growing amongst its main rivals – its success is underwhelming.
The author says that the vote “was won by cynically pandering to voters’ insular instincts”. This disparages not only the sound arguments that were put forward in support of Brexit but also, and more revealingly, it sneers at the dumb voters whose insular instincts led them to vote the wrong way.
The disdain for the voting populace shown by so many who believe they benefit from the EU is one cause of the dissatisfaction clearly shown by British voters, and those in many other countries, who do not experience the advantages being gained by the relatively well-to-do. Not least among the latter are the “mainstream parties” that appear to be “splitting down the middle”.
If the traditional parties are no longer seen to be representing the views of so many of their constituents then it is not surprising that the parties are in turmoil. But this doesn’t entitle them, and the press, to blame the voters for the problem by throwing accusations such as ‘insular’, ‘anti-immigrant’, ‘anti-globalisation’, all of which can be found in the Economist since the referendum.
“News that strengthens the anti-globalisers’ appeal comes almost daily…. The danger is that a rising sense of insecurity will lead to more electoral victories for closed-world types. This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”
The author notices “the rising sense of insecurity” but then arbitrarily pins the blame on those who are feeling insecure, without any attempt to analyse why this is happening. Discomfort, insecurity, disaffection certainly present grave risks, and not only to the “free world”. (Why are they still using that Cold War rhetoric?) In fact the grave risk is to democracies that are struggling to hold the centre (including Greece, France, Germany, Hungary) and nothing matters more than trying to understand this risk and searching for ways to mitigate it.
Here is the pitch, and at first glance it’s a good one:
“Start by remembering what is at stake. The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has underpinned global prosperity for seven decades. It enabled the rebuilding of post-war Europe, saw off the closed world of Soviet communism and, by connecting China to the global economy, brought about the greatest poverty reduction in history.”
But then comes the ‘analysis’:
“The wall-builders have already done great damage. Britain seems to be heading for a recession, thanks to the prospect of Brexit. The European Union is tottering: … the EU could collapse.”
But this is to avoid, rather than simply to miss, the point. “Wall-builders” are not in power in Europe or America (though he may be close in America). The author hasn’t quite got the nerve to say outright what he really believes, that voters are stupid. In fact voters have a sound sense that the EU is not for them, even if they struggle to articulate this sense. And if they have reservations about globalisation, could it be because they have the sense that the benefits haven’t touched them?
Credit goes to the “multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances” and blame goes to the voters. This is a clear expression, from one side, of the dangerous gap that is growing between those who believe they benefit from current political and commercial trends and those who believe they don’t. Until the blinkers (blinders to any American readers) come off the problem will continue to get worse.
The understanding towards which the ‘haves’ are heading, even if they can’t see it yet, is that democracy is an inconvenience and a possible threat to their well-being. The EU has already implemented the ‘solution’, which is to do away with democracy and so consolidate the supposed benefits without interference. That this solution will fail is already clear, from the reactions of the dispossessed through to the manifest failures of the economic union, which attempts to impose uniform rules on irredeemable diversity.