Jul 02, 2016 Letters
United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron lost his job, after losing the UK Referendum to leave or remain (the Brexit vote) in the European Union (EU). There are real consequences when populists and demagogues play politics with people’s emotions, and there are many other lessons for the political class, the media and voters everywhere.
First is the conundrum caused by democracy? On the one hand is the right of individuals to vote which needs to be honored. On the other hand is how the few, in the name of democracy, will decide the fate of the many. On a major constitutional question, ‘Brexit politicians’ have persuaded just over 17 million voters, mainly Welsh and English, to directly decide the fate of nearly 65 million citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) including Scots who voted to remain in the EU. Indirectly, given the repercussions, Brexit impacts over 435 million other Europeans and possibly many millions more from African, Pacific and Caribbean Countries who have nothing to do with the political infighting within David Cameron’s ruling Tory government. How could such a monumental matter be decided merely on the basis of a simple majority?
Second, and following on from the first, we live in an age when the world is very interconnected politically, economically, legally, electronically and even culturally. For example, forty years of UK law has evolved within the framework of European Union (EU) law, and EU law is connected to international trade, finance, telecommunications and security arrangements. The UK is not some little inconsequential banana republic. It has enormous global reach and influence, being the world’s fifth largest economy and London, its capital, the world’s premier financial center. Estimates are that about 2.6 trillion dollars was erased from the value of assets held worldwide, on Friday 24 June 2016 alone. Further, Brexit could not come at a worst time, since the world economy is teetering on the edge of further weakening. Yet some of this seems to have evidently escaped the attention of the Brexit leaders. It is not enough therefore for politicians to hide behind sovereignty, since actions can have earthshaking repercussions worldwide. The outrage among mainland Europeans is therefore understandable. They have nearly 66 years of concrete investments in the EU integration project to protect.
Third, the pertinent lesson of Brexit is not only the lack of discriminating judgement among sections of an electorate who decide the outcome of an election; rather it is more about the consequences which flow from the behavior of the political class. One assumes that people in a highly literate society are fully capable of understanding the world in which they live. Evidently however large sections of all populations vote based on their emotions. Many are clearly uninformed.
UK media played a decisive part in this story. The most important lesson is that impartiality and the duty to inform and educate people was ignored, as many chose to actively engage in the most reprehensible demagoguery. Therefore, many did not vote based on understanding of the world around them and events proceeding therein. Politicians know and exploit this by inflaming emotions and people’s fears surrounding immigrants and loss of jobs, race, and nationalism and sovereignty.
Fourth, and very telling, is that Brexit leaders have no remedies to offer UK citizens for the immediate negative fallout, much less the long term consequences of what they have set in motion. The UK’s only EU Commissioner with responsibility for Financial Services said, on Saturday 25th June 2016, that ‘Brexit leaders created no plan before, during and since the Referendum’. The Brexit Referendum reveals how irresponsible the political class actually is. It is as if to say, we will win first and think about the repercussions and what to do later. Is anyone surprised at Boris Johnson’s political maneuvering?
Finally, behavior of the political class is one of the root causes of society’s problems, and dangerous demagoguery has won in a major European country, again. The last time demagoguery won in Europe it precipitated a major war, destroyed 1000 years of European material progress and other forms of its civilization and strengthened communism. Could it happen again? Integration and cooperation is less likely to lead to belligerence and strife than separation. Given that a political crisis is now taking hold in the UK, compounding market instability,Intra-European cooperation is needed now more than ever to prevent further instability. The vote to leave the EU is both regrettable and distressing.
A key lesson, for voters and the media in Guyana as elsewhere, is the necessity to always be wary, not only of those who put themselves up for leadership but especially some of the moves they try to make while in power.
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