Archive for the ‘UK’ category

Brexit – Popularism At Its Best

February 2, 2020

With the singing of Auld Lang Syne, the European Parliament bid farewell to the United Kingdom.  Following a UK 2016 referendum, Britain has labored long and hard to strike a deal.  This task was made more difficult with the extremely sensitive nature of the North Ireland/Irish Republic border.  Through the three plus years of negotiations, Brexit hardliners have continued to promise “fields of honey” once the yoke of the EU was removed.  “Britain will be sovereign again”.

Now, the British ship is sailing, and predictions will become reality.  Will the future UK be as promised?

Since the 2016 referendum, the British people’s bottom line opinion have wavered as new information predicted unexpected difficulties.  In December of 2019, however, a national election swept the Conservative Party into full majority and cemented Prime Minister Boris Johnson control over Parliament.  Brexit was approved.

Brexit may proved to be a mistake but at least Brexit must be seen as the will of the British people.

Historians will have a complex task assessing whether Brexit was good for the UK.  Should UK citizen’s moods sour on Brexit, historians will have to contend with so many “I told you Brexit wouldn’t work”.  

There is almost no chance that the British economy will suddenly look like “silicon valley” or manufacturing will suddenly return to the glory of pre-world war II.  Banking and Finance may find their future less clear if movement to the EU is limited.  Paris or Frankfurt could look more attractive than a London focused on pound sterling.

England’s 56 million citizens seems tiny compared to the EU’s 500 million.  The end to the “free movement of labor” will not change the demographics of the UK and any EU tourist will still know when they are in Germany or in France.  But the UK will be sovereign.  Hmmm.

Brexit was the result of a populist notion.  Whatever was wrong or less than expected in the UK resulted not from UK government, but instead from “evil” bureaucrats in Belgium.  The underlying tragedy is that there are always an abundance of politicians who are only too ready to manipulate and exploit voters using “populist” ideas and slogans.  Unfortunately, Brexit will be seen for some time as the poster child for popularism.  

There is frequently confusion in separating “democratic rule” from “popularism”.  And to be sure, both can at times be different faces of the same concept.  Brexit, however, lacked any discussion of fact and policy, most likely because fact and policy are often not “popular”. 

Rebuilding Europe following WWII has provided 75 years of relative peace and prosperity.  England finds itself at a different fork in the road now with hard choices facing economic growth.   These choices may not be “popular” or obvious. 

Where is Winston Churchill when we need him? Why instead are there only Donald Trump impersonators?

Immigration – Take A Breath

May 8, 2015

The Tories won the election UK yesterday. Most pundits had written the conservatives off and at best predicted a minority government. Instead, for yet unexplained reasons, the Conservatives won an outright majority. So what does it mean?

Upfront it means Prime Minister Cameron will get to remain Prime Minister for as many as another 5 years. It also means he will have to fulfill his campaign pledge of letting Britain vote on whether to remain part of the European Union. Hmmm.

It has always made me scratch my head to hear English citizens speak of the UK and Europe, as if they were as distant as the US and China. While it is true Europeans drive on the left side of the road and their native languages are not english, there is a scant 20 or so miles separating England from the Continent. But many English see it differently.

The UK has avoided joining the Euro (the common currency) without any recognized damage to the pound. But being part of the EU has from time to time created great ire amongst the English. (It must be said that the European Parliament must be one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, maybe next to the UN.) The main argument with the EU is, immigration, or more specifically the apparent lack of EU effort in stopping unauthorized immigration into the US from Continental shores.

The EU has a rule which says no boarders can interfere with an EU resident seeking employment in any EU country. So workers from less well off EU countries can simple travel to London and look for work, all while taking advantage of the UK social safety net. That was hard to accept but there is an even bigger issue.

Economic refugees from all over (mainly the Middle East and Africa) are streaming into Southern Europe and then working their way towards the UK. The English Channel stands in their way so large camps have risen on the shores opposite England. Smuggling by any means available, these refugees attempt daily to enter the UK. Once in Britain, the refugees can stay as long as they wish, work if they wish, or just collect welfare.

The Brits don’t like this and by extension don’t like the lax EU.

These refugees in many cases really do not intend to return to the native countries, many of which are torn by war and fighting. For them, the UK represents a salvation of sorts.

The US has an immigration problem too. We have some 12 million undocumented aliens living in the US. The largest group with these 12 million has been Hispanic (mainly Mexican) but there is now an increasing number of Indians and Chinese. The Mexicans are good workers, have strong family values, and are religion centered people much like most Americans. Indian and Chinese immigrants while culturally different also are family centered and achievement oriented. These groups can be very additive to the current American fabric.

Listening to our politicians and some of our labor leaders you would never believe what I have just written. The world is going to end would be their predictions unless we send all these immigrants home.

But think about the problem the UK has and the so called one we have. Hmmm.

Immigration cannot be unlimited and the rate must be controlled in order to assure social order. But someone must have been absent when they were handing out brains to not see the immigration issue facing the US as quite different from that facing the UK.

Both need attention from fair minded and just leaders. For the US comprehensive immigration reform will be a 2016 election issue just as it was for Prime Minister Cameron.