I got a call from my mother this week that I was expecting to get. “I was watching TV this weekend,” said Sonja Salkeld. “Great Britain voted to leave what? What’s going on over there? What’s ‘Brexit’ mean?”
Good question. What does “Brexit” mean? If you listened to J.K. Rowling early last week you’d swear the earth had been struck by a meteor 10 kilometers wide that killed 95 per cent of all life on earth.
“Brexit” was a referendum held in Great Britain the last weekend of June on whether or not the nation should resign its membership in the European Union. The EU is an economic alliance, akin to Canada, the U.S. and Mexico’s free trade zone, that had the goal of increasing movement of people and money within EU member states. It also involves some rather disturbing financial bailout powers that seem to fly in the face of the EU’s stated assumptions and goals (“a union of nations will benefit everyone economically”).
Claims of the end of times because Great Britain is leaving the European Union are exaggerated greatly. Great Britain was never a core member of the EU anyway; the pound sterling was still the standard currency, while EU members use the so-called “Euro.” The non-binding vote resulted in 51.9 per cent voting to leave the EU, while 48.1 per cent voted to stay. Critics called the margin “razor thin,” which is ridiculous. It’s virtually four per cent out of a total of 33,577,342 votes cast, equaling roughly 1,500,000 million votes. That’s a thick razor.
It should come as no surprise that the EU is floundering. The basic premise of the EU is flawed, being that all EU member states are equal economically and should be expected to perform as such. Total bunk. The economic power of Portugal is of no comparison to that of Germany, yet that’s the premise the EU was based upon. You can’t have one roommate paying 30 per cent of the rent, another paying 70 per cent of the rent and the Greeks paying nothing.
Speaking of the Greeks, an unsurprising factor in Great Britain voting “leave the EU” is the ongoing Greek financial crisis (which is likely due to flare up again soon). In essence, the Greeks had disastrous financial philosophies such as a national retirement age of 50 coupled with the 2008 recession that left the nation unable to fund its own government. The Greeks asked their EU friends to bail them out. Actually, the Greeks asked their EU friends to bail them out a few times all the while plainly stating, “No, we won’t be changing our fiscal policies to ensure this chaos never happens again. We just want the bailout money, thank you very much.”
In all fairness to the Greeks, there were other weak, incompetent governments in the EU exposed by the 2008 recession, including Ireland, Iceland and Spain.
The influx of Middle Eastern refugees to EU member states is also a factor in the referendum. Literally millions of people are fleeing deplorable conditions in Middle Eastern states like Syria, entering countries already dealing with recession. The immigrants have varying levels of education and employable skills and most come from military dictatorships where their experience as members of a democratic society is limited to say the least.
The Greek economic chaos and immigrant crisis were examples used in Great Britain by “leave the EU” supporters. They stated such problems were, are and should not be the concern of the taxpayers of Great Britain, especially as the nation already, for example, pays hundreds of million of pounds to United Nations agencies annually to handle things like civil war and refugees.
As well, “leave the EU” supporters stated it seems Great Britain’s tax dollars were under the control of the EU committee, not the democratically elected members of Great Britain’s government.
Voters in Great Britain aren’t the only ones who have deep reservations about the way international trade and diplomacy have been handled over the past eight years. As the United States under President Barack Obama refused to show the global leadership required of the only remaining superpower, those responsibilities have been handed to smaller nations that obviously can’t handle and don’t want that responsibility.
The “leave the EU” result in Great Britain should be a wake-up call to global governments about whether their duty is to foreign citizens, or to their own.
Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.