I sit here now in my kitchen and I quietly curse David Cameroon. Why?
I don’t know him personally; we’ve never met yet his decision when in power in the UK to deal with his fears of a small band of BREXIT followers by offering the English people a referendum on whether to stay within the EU or leave has had massive ramifications for me and tens of millions of others, yet BREXIT has yet to occur and may never occur.
Go back a further ten years and you will find us in the financial crash of 2005 – 2010. That’s when our pillar banks turned to salt and Irelands government decided to introduce a new universal tax (USC) of c4% (which is still with us) and decided to raid only private pension pots stealing .6% of their values, three years on the trot.
The economy ground to a halt, millions lost their jobs and half-built ghost housing estates still litter the landscape of Ireland today. For many, the crash wiped out their entire portfolio of investments, properties and shares. All fell in value, sometimes to zero, some never to recover. People fell victims to stress, illness and even suicide as they struggled to keep businesses, doomed to fail, afloat. The crash itself just went on and on and on, year after year despite all the central banks printing money. In industry, no one had confidence in anyone else and the printing of money simply slashed the values of savings. You might as well have put the money in a bag under the bed for the return it got in a bank. It’s not much better even now.
However, we got through that, eventually, and then David Cameroon steps up to the plate in 2016. For purely political gain, he promises a referendum to the people of the UK and goes on to win a landslide re-election to power. When the date is set for the 23rd June 2016 the wording of his referendum is unambiguous, that much is true but the risks are underplayed and the people as sold a dream scenario if they voted leave.
Almost all the UK political parties support a Yes vote and it is left to UKIP and a few loners to campaign for the No vote. Right up to the day of the referendum itself, a Yes vote was anticipated by both the markets and the media. How wrong were they?
Having lived and worked in the UK for twenty years I thought I knew the UK’s mindset, but you see I had lived and worked in London for twenty years. London voted Yes but large swathes of the country outside London didn’t. London had always been a swirling vortex of immigrants from the rest of the world. Some came and stayed forever, some for a while but many came and went.
Outside London, in the rest of the UK, there was a simmering resentment of immigrants, even from migrants of only a few years previous. I’ve spoken to many UK citizens since the vote and from all parts of the realm, outside London there was a tangible dislike of the “recent” wave of immigrants because many arrived without the ability to speak English, were housed in council housing before local children were and were perceived as responsible for an increase in crime in the areas they were settled in. At local schools, the pace of learning in classes slowed as a large element of newcomers hadn’t enough English language skills to keep up with the course so the class slowed down to accommodate them. These are broad sweeping generalities that I cast across immigrants but surprisingly the UK citizens I met maintained this was their own real experiences in their own localities.
It seemed to rural and industrial town and village occupants that the UK Government was just dropping hundreds of immigrants in their midst and wiping their hands of them.
Now, this may well have been happening but may not necessarily have been because of membership of the EU. Britain had an empire of its own of, at one time, 800 million people and until fairly recently all of them had the right to an English passport and to come and live in the UK. Few expected them to do so until the advent of cheap travel by plane and ship offered migrants easy access to the UK and they came in their droves, fed on tales of gold strewn pavements brought back by a previous generation.
Back in the 1950s and 1960’s the Irish, Indian, Pakistani and West Indian countries had been the source of inward flowing immigrants which feed a need for cheap labour to fuel the economy. In the following decades more Commonwealth immigrants arrived and no doubt more EU workers migrated inwards too. When the crash of 2005 hit, many of these EU workers lost their jobs and hadn’t the infrastructure of family and friends to help them survive the crash. Many returned home but some didn’t and became a drain on the UK welfare system. Now the recovery has taken place these EU citizens are largely back at work and contributing to the UK economy.
But the expanding EU, with the UK sitting at the top table, did allow, in recent years, the addition of Eastern European states whose citizens after a waiting period, arrived illiterate and uneducated in the UK. Soon their like became as notorious in the UK countryside as the travelling tinkers who travelled in convoys and parked their caravans on parks, cricket pitches and any open ground that they could access.
Yes, there were well-educated migrants from those countries but they are not the reason why the UK voted to leave the EU.
The EU was also a soft target for the migration blame issue and was frequently used as such by the UK politicians but how the UK implemented the EU migration policy was largely left up to the UK government, not the EU. Also, the UK had opted out of the Schengen Area, an area comprising of 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The UK controlled its own borders and had it within its own powers to tighten or loosen controls.
Unbelievably David Cameron and his fellow parliamentarians sailed towards the BREXIT iceberg unaware of the depth of feeling that swayed 52% of the populace to vote No on that fateful day in June 2016. Of course, he resigned but I feel he if he felt that strongly about the UK staying in the EU he should have stayed on and sorted out his mess.
Now almost three years later things are still in abeyance. It looks like the UK will leave but on what terms are far from clear. For the UK the freedom of negotiating, unfettered by an EU customs union, their own trade deals with the rest of the world may be won at the expense of losing free access the EU markets.
What is clear is that big business cannot sit on the fence any longer and the large supply chain manufacturers have run out of time and had to act to protect their businesses. So going out of the UK is Nissan’s manufacturing of their new X-trail and Honda’s entire manufacturing presence. Out is going all the EU bodies previously headquartered in the UK and the European headquarters of many global corporations that need access to the EU markets.
A fair number of EU citizens have called it a day in the UK and uprooted and headed elsewhere. A larger than normal, number of UK citizens have applied for EU citizenship, particularly Irish citizenship.
Finally, I’d like to say that the UK citizens I feel most strongly for are the UK pensioners living in the EU who have seen their pensions drop by 20% in real terms and seen their pension portfolio if they had one, decimated by the 2005-2010 crash and further devalued by the BREXIT fiasco. How they are coping is anyone’s guess but there must have been a very real tightening of belts since that fateful day, vote day +1, when sterling fell off that cliff.
Further uncertainty awaits them as a no-deal BREXIT means their pension sterling payments may devalue further, their access to reciprocal EU medical services and their ability to drive in Europe using UK licences are in the balance.
What a position to put the average 75-year-old retiree in? How would you like your grandparents to endure this uncertainty at their stage of life?
Politicians in the UK parliament should move across party lines and unite in the national interest to agree something, anything to bring certainty to this unwieldy lethal mess.