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Brexit has happened- but why?

The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. This was a surprise to many, but every report I read before the vote implied that it was going to be very close.

Why did this happen? What prompted rejection of a free trade union that had seemingly benefited every member country economically and socially? And what happens next?

I don’t have answers, but I have opinions just as others do: and since this is my blog, I get to share those opinions with you.

Issues that swayed the vote

First I’ll enumerate some of the ‘reasons the UK chose to exit the EU’ I’ve seen discussed, and give my take on each of them:

  • Good jobs are being exported: the idea here is that, since the UK has joined the EU, a lot of good manufacturing jobs have moved to other countries.
    • My take: this is true, but this is actually correlation not causation.  The vast majority of manufacturing jobs that have moved in the past 50 years have gone to India and China, neither of which are part of the EU.  The EU didn’t cause the jobs to move off shore.  

      This is part of the globalization that, at least in part, the EU was formed to manage and compete with.  Leaving the EU won’t bring these jobs back to the UK, unless everyone in the UK is willing to give up their cheap imports.  Note that this has long since expanded beyond manufacturing and into the white collar (e.g.: IT) service industries.  

  • Too many immigrants: lots of foreigners are able to easily relocate to the UK, and they take jobs away from ‘natives’.
    • My take: What does a ‘native’ citizen of the UK look like?  How many generations does it take to become a ‘native’?  And how many of these ‘foreigners’ are taking the kinds of jobs locals even want?

      This sounds a lot like the kind of nationalism and racism that led to world wars and internment camps in years past.  It is worrisome, and kind of ugly.

  • Too much bureaucracy: There are lots of complex and sometimes silly laws about things like what constitutes a correct bunch of bananas that are passed by the EU.  If the UK got rid of this, things would be simpler.
    • My take: Bureaucracy is irritating.  But I fail to see how exiting the EU will make this simpler.  Instead of reaching agreement on a common law for all of the EU, now the UK will need separate agreements with each member country.  This will add more complexity, not less.

      And it is important to note that an argument of words/laws is far better than an argument of guns and bombs.  World War I and II were economic and emotional wars that started in part due to excess nationalism- heading back down that path seems like a bad idea.

  • Foreigners making laws for the UK: Some group in Brussels is setting laws for life in the United Kingdom.  
    • My take: the EU laws will still exist, and the UK will still need to deal with those laws in order to do business with EU members.  But now the UK will have no hand in setting those laws, and will not in any way benefit from the common market those laws permit.
  • Elites are making the decisions: Fancy-pants politicians and rich people are making decisions that the common man has no control over.
    • My take: And exiting the EU changes this how, exactly?  I suppose the rich people and politicians will speak with a recognizable accent, but beyond that the issue still remains.  Citizens need to use their votes and voices, regardless of whether the decisions are made in Whitehall or Brussels.

My Opinion

The Brexit vote to exit was not based on facts. The outcome was primarily a form of protest vote similar to what I believe we are seeing with the Trump ascendency. People are frustrated and want change, so they do rather silly things like vote for changes that will cost them trillions and solve nothing. Bellicose personalities and nonsensical memes win the vote more than logic; racism, nationalism, and isolationism rise to the fore, and the outcome is potentially terrifying.

The ultimate outcome of the UK exiting the European Union is unknown. I expect nothing good to come from it, but am hopeful that the result can be at least neutral. Regardless, it is at least somewhat disheartening to see a nation I respect making decisions that seem based on racist and nationalist tendencies that have cost so much in the past.

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