Trying to Understand the Brexit Vote

People have asked me to write a blog post about the current Brexit situation. I voted remain.  I have noticed that many of my friends in London are surprised and upset about the decision people have made in the wider country to leave the EU.

Why did we have the vote?

At the last election David Cameron thought that UKIP, another party, which was formed specifically to leave the European Union, would take a lot of votes from his own Conservative party, so he told voters if they voted Conservative,  he would give them a vote on staying part of the EU. The amount by which this neutralised UKIP in the elections is unclear, although even if the Conservatives had done considerably worse, they would still have formed the government, albeit probably as leader of a coalition. Cameron never thought there would be a referendum because he thought he would have to go into coalition and the lib democrats who are very pro- Europe would block it.  However the conservatives won outright.

What Happened?

In general across the country, older people voted to leave and younger people voted to remain. However older people are more likely to actually turn up and vote, whereas younger people have a terrible voting record, the turnout for the 18-25-year-olds was a very low, 47%.

People in big cities voted to remain. London, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle etc.  University cities like Cambridge and Oxford and Exeter voted to stay. Places like Cheltenham and the Cotswolds where many people live who work and commute to London voted to stay. Scotland almost completely voted to stay.   Everyone else voted to leave.

Of course in every area there were people on both sides, and there is no area where it was a kind of 95%-5% situation apart from Gibraltar.

I think there was a large group of people, perhaps aged between 25-50, who are not at all racist, understand the world is changing but voted to leave anyway. Why?

European free movement

In order to increase economic growth, cheap labour has been brought into the EU by allowing countries in eastern Europe to join up. It significantly improved those people’s quality of life, their prospects and their freedom.

The cheap labour came to the UK too. For a long time we had Polish plumbers and electricians who worked harder for less money. Now there are plenty of Bulgarians doing similar work. The people coming here are young and need hospitals less on average than people who have been here since birth. They are not (on average) looking for benefits either, they are coming here to work. They pay tax and every reliable economic indicator says that the UK as a country is richer (per capita, including these guys) because of their presence and industry.

Where it went wrong – Hospitals and Schools

Some if not most of the extra money from migrant workers should be used to support those areas where there are more migrating workers. This is not controversial, it is how a country works. Tax income and spend on hospitals and schools to support the people who are making the income. That money hasn’t been spent, the government has simply failed to operate the country in a fair way.

The government should spend some of this money we are making from immigrants on better public services in the areas where there are lots of immigrants.  Instead, they are closing many hospitals across the UK in an idealistic, idiotic, anti-economics austerity drive. My local hospital North Middlesex Hospital is now crumbling under the pressure because the other nearest A & E has closed and I live in an area with a large number of EU and non EU immigrants. There are similar hospital closures going on all across the country.

You hear people on the news saying “the UK is full, we don’t have any space for any immigrants, send them back home” and many of us think instinctively what a racist idiot.  However what that person is saying is that their hospitals are full. Their schools are full.  And they are right, they are full.  Nobody is doing anything about it and its getting worse and all they can see is more people arriving in the country.  The crazy thing is those people arriving are making money for the country. Who’s getting the money?  Hmmm, I wonder.

How about saying “look at all these people here from the EU making money for us, here is a new hospital, here is a shiny new school, isn’t this lovely!” THAT would have been the way to run the country and we’d ALL have got a lot richer .

Where it went wrong – Jobs

The minimum wage is going up and unemployment is quite low.  Personally I’m doing fine, it’s not easy living in London believe me but my quality of life is steadily improving.  However if I was someone who was working at the bottom of the pay scale, my life would not have been steadily improving.

You can’t pay immigrants from the EU less than the minimum wage as that would be illegal. However some businesses always run things so as to get away with whatever they can get away with and some EU immigrants are grateful to have any kind of half decent pay and minimum wage is good for them so they will put up with endless other abuses at the hands of employers. They play tricks like employing people on zero hour contracts so they don’t know if they will be hired from one day to the next.  These people’s job security has been stripped from them, they don’t know if they will be working next week. Can you imagine if someone asked you to adopt such a contract?  OK, if you are earning huge money that’s different – you can probably afford to be out of work for a while when you are looking for something else if you earn £100 K or something. Imagine being on minimum wage £14K with a family and a zero hours contract.

The British people at the bottom end of the pay scale have to put up with this because in many places they are competing for work with EU immigrants. Their lives are getting worse. How is it acceptable that the rich people’s lives get better while the poor people’s lives get worse?

The Government didn’t do anything about it, so the people told the Government to go and get stuffed.

But what about the Racists!

So there are a bunch of racists in this whole thing too.  Let us assume that the reasonable non-racist people I have been talking about here are only a few percent of the total. If they had voted remain then that would have been enough, the victory was only 52% to 48%.

Corbyn

People are blaming Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the opposition because he didn’t campaign harder. The fact he campaigned at all is a miracle, he wants to renationalise industry and as things are going that’s actually going to be more difficult under European laws which are being introduced as we speak. Why this is happening is crazy incidentally, our UK privatised public services are a disaster – we pay much more and get much less. So why the EU is doing this can only be for the benefit of the rich and powerful. I voted remain despite this, I’ll explain why below.

So Corbyn swallowed his view and tried his best to summon up some enthusiasm. To demonise him when he has gone out on a limb like that is not fair. That said, I do not think he has the oratory skills to win over the electorate and his kind of socialism is a bit old fashioned. If there is another vote for a leader of the Labour Party and there is an anti-austerity, genuinely left wing candidate who I think can address people better than Corbyn I’ll vote for that person, but if we end up with another bunch of tory-lite purple candidates I’ll be voting Corbyn again without any hesitation.

Why did I vote remain?

Well I’ve made it clear that the EU is great for science. However in general, the EU is a kinder, more left wing place than the UK. People in the EU pay more tax, they have better public services and I feel (felt) proud to be a member. I used to live in Brussels. The people at the EU (a huge number of whom are British, our influence was massive) are indeed blinkered and self-important to a ridiculous degree but they are also good people who believe in making people’s lives better. Unlike our current government.

Our country is not being run for the good of the people within it. The EU is (just about).  Unfortunately I believe that this Brexit decision will make things worse but I understand why it happened. My ideal road forward would be that the EU changes the way it operates to make things better for everyone including the bottom 30% and we somehow vote again to stay in.

Unfortunately we have just given power to people who will close more hospitals and schools.  They’ll probably try to blame someone else for that too.

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