Saturday 2 July 2016

Brexit – The UK in Crisis

Photo credit: The Independent

I must admit that I chuckled last Tuesday night as BBC TV Newsnight opened with the Sex Pistols punk rock classic Anarchy in the UK. But we are in a very serious political crisis at present, caused by the vote last week to exit the European Union (EU), and it is no laughing matter really.

Today, thousands of people marched through London in protest at the result of the referendum in what was billed as the "March for Europe". The aim of the marchers is to stop the triggering of ‘Article 50’ of the EU’s constitution which will formally begin proceedings for Britain’s exit and put a two year timescale on negotiations.

A week is indeed a long time in politics. In this last week we have seen shock, but certainly not awe. Reported racist incidents are up by some 500% in the UK, and here is a list of just a few:

Suspected racist graffiti was found on the front entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in Hammersmith, west London, early on Sunday morning.

Cambridgeshire police are investigating reports of racist laminated cards being distributed in Huntingdon on Friday in the hours after the leave result was announced.

Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, has warned that since the referendum result was announced people were being stopped in the street and told to leave the country.

In Gloucester, Max Fras said he was in a Tesco supermarket on Friday night with his young son when a white man became agitated in the queue for the checkout and began yelling: “This is England now, foreigners have 48 hours to fuck right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?”

Fras said the man began quizzing people in the queue about where they were from. “He pointed at another gentleman in front of him and said: ‘Where are you from, are you Spanish? Are you Italian? Are you Romanian?’ And he said ‘No, I’m English’,” said Fras.

Heaven Crawley, a research professor at Coventry University, reports about an incident allegedly witnessed by her daughter in Birmingham. “This evening my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw [a] group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting ‘Get out, we voted leave’,” she posted on Twitter.

Welsh businesswoman and remain campaigner Shazia Awan was told by Warren Faulkner to pack her bags and go home after she expressed disappointment in the leave result.

With further instances reported of a Polish woman being told to get off a bus and “get packing”, of a Polish man being told at an airport that he “shouldn’t still be here, that we had voted to be rid of people like him”, of a Polish coffee shop worker being jeered at and told “you’re going home now” and of Polish children at a primary school crying because they were scared of getting deported from Britain.

It is noticeable that the far right in EU countries, Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, are the ones cheering loudest about Brexit.

Of course the economy has taken a tumble, in particular the pound has slumped, and we have only just started on this, the instability is likely to last for years, and may provoke another recession.

And where are our political leaders at this time of grave crisis? Well, it is hard tell really. The Tories are in disarray, with the Prime Minister having thrown the towel in after the referendum result and is effectively on gardening leave until September when a new leader and Prime Minister will be chosen by the Tory party. They are fighting like ferrets in a sack over who will succeed Cameron and which direction the party will be taken in.

The Lib Dems, opportunists that we know them to be, have spotted a route back to some popularity by announcing that staying in the EU will be at the heart of their general election manifesto. They report a spike in membership of over 10,000 people.

Labour, oh dear, are making the Tories look like responsible grown-ups compared the unsightly squabble in their own ranks. 172 MPs signed a motion of no confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn and 40 shadow ministers resigned. This is a cynical attempt to use the distress caused by the Brexit vote to stage a coup. Corbyn looks to only have the support of 40 or so of his MPs, but is probably backed by a majority of the membership and supporters and the trade unions, for now. It looks like there will be a challenge to Corbyn, and there is even talk of if this fails, forming a kind of SDP mark 2.

What a shambles. In Nero like fashion our politicians are fiddling while the country burns. Personal ambition, egos and long standing grudges are much more important to them than what is happening to country.   

The only statesman like performance I have seen through any of this, was by a Tory, Michael Heseltine, again on BBC TV Newsnight when he basically said that we should get on with the negotiations, it doesn’t need to be the leader of the Tory party to begin this process. When negotiations are complete the deal should be put to another referendum or we hold a general election. Very sensible, and at least it is a plan, with no other plan in sight.

The British government needs to decide what it wants exactly, and everything will then flow from there. At the moment we are in limbo.


  1. Thanks, Mike.

    The scene seems set for a 'rise in community tensions' at home, post-Brexit vote, as Islington Tribune reports. A similar report in Camden New Journal — not yet uploaded to the Internet — cites the fears of Camden Council leader Sarah Hayward being signalled to police. It could be argued that Labour councils that have not stood up to central government attacks on poor people and social housing tenants have helped breed those community tensions.

    And Cameron has appointed racist Oliver Letwin to head Britain's 'Brexit Unit'. 'Minister for Bins' Letwin to head 'Brexit Unit'