Sunday, 26 June 2016

EU no more.

I woke up this morning (25 June 2016) to a disunited states of Europe or disunited Kingdom. The news in Straits Times went awry and viral with the great divorce. Is this then the perfect storm of things to come where the waves of economic, social and political uncertainties would lead many into uncharted territories or dangerous waters?

The internal and external repercussions cannot be denied. The pound has fallen to its lowest in three decades (S$1.80 to the pound). The stock markets all over are licking its wound, stumped and groping. Scotland and Northern Ireland are at a complete loss since they are forced to go with the anti-EU flow. Nothing short of a second referendum would extricate them from this invidious mess. And David Cameron told millions yesterday that he intends to resign. His self-assured gamble had cost him his job.

While some are calling it a knee-jerk reaction, with one comment saying that “a lot of people are doing it out of defiance (and) it is based on feelings, not logic,” and another lamenting that “I’m very disappointed…I think the older voters have, rather selfishly, voted to get a “quick fix” to their problems without thinking of the long term implications leaving the EU will have, particularly for the younger generation,” it can’t be denied that a win is a win, and in democratic lingo, the people have indeed spoken. But why the shocking win? - you may ask. (And I am quite sure this is not some kind of Trump-logic-defying-hysteria traipsing across the Atlantic).

One European correspondent, Jonathan Eyal, offers his two-cents worth here: “Those who voted against the EU were largely white working-class voters, people for whom the European Union is regarded, not as an opportunity, but as a threat; workers who saw their jobs taken away by the hundred of thousands of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe who poured into Britain over the past few years.”

Mr Eyal continued with this: “The referendum was also a revolution against Britain’s established parties, none of which proved able to address the growing sense of resentment in rural communities or decaying post-industrial towns. The vote was also a rebellion against globalization, a reminder that while the forces of global markets have created winners, they have also created many losers.”

That’s not all.

Here is another incisive observation by James Crabtree, a visiting senior research fellow at LKY School of Public Policy:-

“At its most visceral, this rejection (of EU) focuses on migration, one of globalisation’s defining attributes…Behind this lay a mélange of worries about an influx of Polish workers, Syrian refugees and Muslim terrorists – fears that are strikingly similar to those Mr Trump exploits in the US. In Britain, the Remain camp never did find a convincing reply. If the EU itself is to survive, it too must find better answers to the misgivings of its citizens over unfettered movements of people.”

This next part resonates with me somewhat:-

“Yet Brexit is also a forceful repudiation of a second set of views favoured instinctively by liberal metropolitan types, namely, that the present era of open globalisation could produce prosperity for all citizens. It is by now widely accepted that the last two decades have seen a highly uneven distribution of the gains from global integration, most of which have been enjoyed by those who, in Britain’s case, likely voted to remain in the EU. But so far, even Europe’s redistributive welfare states have failed to redress this.”

Lesson? One, and let me be clear, I am for EU (at least the ideals behind it), but it is her application under opportunistic, mercenary-like hands that is the unwieldy leviathan that needs to be addressed here. So, below is my musing of what had gone wrong, a reflection of sorts...

Is this the death of EU for UK? Or is it the death of idealism? UK has got more than six decades to get it right and the scorecard on Thursday has shown that she has got it mostly wrong.

The victory of Brexit could very well be headlined as the “the grave miscalculation of David Cameron” and this has cost him his job. The captain of the ship is going to gentlemanly alight at the next stop because he had steered his way into the Scylla and Charybdis of political self-destruction.

Arthur Miller once said that “an era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.” Have Mr Cameron’s party and ideology exhausted theirs? Have the ideals of a united states of Europe reached the morning hangover of its overnight bingeing party, and it is now reeling from its head-splitting effect?

Here, I wonder, if the Holy Roman Emperors, the Hapsburgs, Napoleon and Hitler united Europe by force (against the will of the people), haven’t the founders of the EU united the people of one continent by sheer popular will out of the ashes of the second world war? I mean, is not the idea of a united Europe the collective effort of a group of visionaries, and not a group of empire-builders, war-hungry megalomaniacs or deviant mercenaries? (Or has it become that way overtime - like all idealism that went full throttle and warped?)

I guess, when the honeymoon is over, what remains is the mundane duty of taking out the trash and changing the diapers, and the Brexit has shown that you can’t save a union with blind faith, detached idealism and disguised opportunism. Hypocrisy does idealism no favors.

Alas, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intention in this case, and however bedazzling and noble the concept of the EU is, it is an outright political suicide to pretend that if a tree falls in the middle of the forest and no one is there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound.

It is more likely the case that a sound was made (a thunderous one in fact as Thursday has shown), but those high up there are either too busy lapping up the exclusive benefits of EU for themselves to hear it or hoping that it would all just go away if they ignore it for long enough. Cheerz.

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