Brexit, or Not – And Then What?

Over the last months comment has frequently been made that we need to be having a conversation on how to bring people back together after the divisiveness of Brexit.

Yet, I see no evidence of this conversation being had.

The whole atmosphere surrounding the issue is unpleasant and divisive, and frequently vitriolic, and however it is eventually concluded (if, indeed, it ever is), there is the prospect of a large number of bitterly disappointed and angry people making their feelings known and even the possibility of some turning to violence.

We urgently need to be having this conversation, and we need to be having it before whatever the conclusion is, happens. Otherwise those putting ideas forward will be constantly accused of smugness or bitterness or some other motives.

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Not sure why I chose this image – something to do with the whole sorry process, I suspect.

So how is it proposed that we bring people together who have held often bitterly opposing views and who have been, perhaps, shocked by the hostility with which they have been voiced? People who may feel that one-time friends have become unexpected enemies? A familiar observation on the American Civil War (the first one, that is, just in case another has broken out by the time this is published) is that it divided families and turned brother against brother, father against son, and friend against friend. This left a bitter legacy for years afterwards, a legacy that persists yet in some places over a hundred and fifty years after hostilities supposedly ceased.

It is this sort of legacy we must avoid at all costs.

Whether we leave or remain, I think it important to focus on this being a healing process, so the focus might perhaps be on the community and the environment, where there is the potential for all of us to contribute to the healing.

There should be purely enjoyable things, such as festivals and concerts, but also important issues should be tackled such as re-wilding and planting trees, or projects to help those disadvantaged in society. People might be encouraged to take part in this as a way to enable those of differing views to work with a common purpose. Whether we are in or out of Europe, community at a local level is important and is part of who we all are.

It is vitally important that we agree not to replay the arguments over and over again once it is over. The emphasis must be on how we move forward in whatever situation we find ourselves in, not point fingers and discuss whose fault it was in the first place.

There has been a certain amount of talk of the traditional political parties being no longer fit for purpose, and the possibility of them fragmenting. If this does happen, it seems likely to contribute to uncertainty and instability in the political process, perhaps with no party able to gain power outright in future elections. Like it or not, we would then enter an era of coalition government, much as is seen in much of Europe. If we have left Europe, of course, this would be rather ironic.

Strangely, this could be part of the conversation, as we will need to find a way to move on from purely adversarial politics, towards a point where parties look more for common ground. This was supposedly attempted with the Conservative / Labour talks on the Brexit plan, but neither side appeared to negotiate in complete good faith and I suppose I can think of several reasons why that was.

As an aside, it would be fantastic if every politician connected with the whole sorry process could be ditched and fresh untainted ones brought in, but I know that really is wishing for the impossible.

Yet I find it difficult to think of other ways a nation-wide healing process could take place, and so this is why the conversation needs urgent input from everyone.

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26 thoughts on “Brexit, or Not – And Then What?

  1. It’s a no-win situation isn’t it Mick? Whichever way we go will leave a huge percentage of the population feeling let down and perhaps deceived. I can’t see any way out of the divisive atmosphere that currently exists, the majority of people seem to have fixed views that they have no intention of changing. Our old British values of decency, fairness, and compromise seemed to have completely gone now. It’s a sad state of affairs.

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    1. Indeed, Jonno. I can imagine a cabinet meeting four years ago…’Let’s hold a referendum on whether or not to leave the EU. People will jump at the chance and we’ll be ever so popular! What could possibly go wrong?’

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  2. I am continually struck by the parallels between the Brexit conundrum and America’s division over our future as an inclusive and welcoming nation or one that accepts the illegitimate rule of a hate-filled and corrupt despot. Let’s hope we both act wisely.

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  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if lying and making unobtainable promises caused the liar physical pain? Unfortunately, it usually ends up with someone else getting the short end of the stick. Too much “old boys club” and not enough personal repercussions.

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  4. I’m not an expert at this thing but I suppose it’s been cooked by the politicians (and burnt in the process) and they are unable to eat or dispose of the same. Unfortunately, it is the public who have to bear with the burnt smell! Have I missed something?

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  5. I never quite understand how these ‘conversations’ are supposed to take place, what their form could be, in all frankness, Mick; and it very much seems as if minds are firmly made up on the whole issue, in any case. Time will tell, and it may take a few years for that telling. As a socialist, I’m not enamoured with the EU which I see as something of a neoliberalist citadel. I want us to be free to provide state aid (no can do under EU rules, with few exceptions), to nationalise utilites and money supply, to state-fund a Green New Deal. Costas Lapavitsas is very good on all this — he’s Professor of Economics at SOAS, and former member of Syriza — and his interviews/talks always informative.

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    1. I agree that minds are pretty well made up, Hariod, and the conversation is certainly not about changing anybody’s mind – everyone appears just too firmly entrenched for that – but about moving on from the anger and distrust afterwards, no matter how this plays out in the end. I don’t know where these conversations can best take place, and that is really the point of my post. I don’t see any will to have this conversation, I don’t see anyone proposing a suitable platform, but unless we do I think we have to resign ourselves to what at the very least is going to be a mixture of triumphalism, blaming and resentment afterwards.

      I think it will be important to find ways to bring people from opposing ‘sides’ back together, and without that I do fear that the political party in power might look to manufacture a crisis or two to attempt that, much as many are beginning to fear Trump may provoke a war to bolster his chances of hanging onto power. Up to a few years ago, I might have looked to the Labour Party to provide a lead on this, but they seem to have no idea what they want to be at the moment and as a traditional labour supporter, I despair of them.

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      1. Thanks Mick. When I said ‘time will tell’, I’m remaining open to the idea that Brexit will not in actuality prove to be the ‘disaster’ many are predicitng; although it will take a few years before we can wholly make any final assessment. Some might argue that 40 years of neoliberalism, of rampant ‘free’ markets (many are rigged, of course), of unbridled capitalism, has resulted in the ‘disaster’ of vast inequality, which in turn has led to the rise of the Far Right across Europe. Yes, Corbyn is past his sell-by date, and needs to move on quickly. But much of the membership (and I’m amongst them) want a proper socialist party to oppose the Tories, not a return to the sort of centrism that typified New Labour. Seems as if an election is coming in the next 2/3 months, so we’ll see how the centrists do — I’d be surprised if the Lib Dems won more than 60 seats, but as with everyone else, it’s all guesswork on my part.

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        1. I think it’s guesswork on anybody’s part at the moment, Hariod. If the Lib Dems did win 60 seats, it seems likely they’d hold the balance of power again, which might be a good thing. It seems to be an incredibly unpopular thing to say, but I still think they made the correct move in going into coalition with the Tories last time – in fact, I don’t think they had any choice, really – as with one or two exceptions, I think they did put a brake on some of the worst excesses the Tories were likely to enact. Although which of the other parties would win the most would depend strongly on the timing of the election.

          My vote, though, will now go to the Greens. Leaving aside the Brexit debate for now, I don’t think there is any more urgent or important issue than the climate catastrophe we’re facing, and my vote will go to anyone who is willing to exert the most pressure, by whatever means necessary, to get some movement on this. And that ain’t Labour, I’m afraid.

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          1. Certainly agree with you on AGW etc, and I do hope the Green Party gain some more seats at last — really need PR elections to do so, of course. And yes, the timing of the election is critical, whether it’s pre- or post-Brexit. I’d assume that if it was pre-Brexit, then Labour would take a big hit up North to Farage & Co. And it’s very hard to see Johnson calling one just after Brexit. But again, it’s all total guesswork on my part. Johnson/Cummings get to set the timing, and I suspect it’s all mapped-out. Clever bugger that Cummings.

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            1. Personally, I think he’d call one after Brexit, as it’s difficult to see him getting away with crashing out of the EU while there’s campaigning going on – I suspect there would be a good legal argument to block it under those circumstances. He might also calculate both that Farage would have lost his raison d’etre afterwards, and the Lib Dems would no longer be in a position to promise to block it, thereby easing the pressure on a lot of the vulnerable Tory seats. But, anyone’s guess. Who knows how the maths would work.

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              1. Not with you, Mick, when you say, ‘I think he’d call one after Brexit, as it’s difficult to see him getting away with crashing out of the EU while there’s campaigning going on.’. As I currently (mis)understand it, then there’s just enough time for a G.E. immediately before October 31st., so there’d be no campaigning on or after that date. This presumes a No-Confidence vote in the first week of September. Have I misunderstood yourself or the situation?

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                1. P.S. My scenario above would have the Remainer vote split between Lib Dems, SNP, Greens and Labour, and Brexiteers gravitating to Tories as they believe Johnson’s pledge to exit (so why bother with Farage?). If so, then the Tories remain in power with an increased majority.

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                  1. That could happen, but I would have thought enough Brexiteers would still plump for the Brexit party to split the Tory vote anyway, possibly not trusting Johnson to actually go out with no deal. Of course, the Labour vote would also be split, so the maths is a nightmare.

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