It’s been quite a week in the world. John Lewis took us back to the 60s with a sit-in, in the House of Congress to protest that body’s lack of action on gun control. As a Canadian, gun control is a no-brainer. I’ve watched and waited since JFK was assassinated for action on this critical issue. Back to the 60s indeed. And so it drags on, with the NRA’s hair-trigger sights trained on any attempts at meaningful legislation.
However, the event that grabbed my attention this week was the UK vote on leaving the European Union or Brexit. It was evident that it was going to be a close vote, but as the day approached markets expressed their confidence by moving upwards. However, matters began to quickly move in the opposite direction. By the time I went to sleep it was evident that the Leave side had won, albeit by a narrow margin. No Clarity Act for this referendum.
However, as bad as I suspected it was going to be, it quickly became evident that it was going to be far worse. As one commentator said on the morning after, “By the time I’d put the kettle on, the stock markets were in free fall, Scotland was debating a new independence referendum, Sinn Fein was making secession noises, and the prime minister had resigned.” The UK was like the person who had been on a bender the night before and was waking up to ask, “What have we done?” This morning-after regret was classic: “The facts are coming in now and our eyes are actually open.” A bit late. Sadly this is what happens when you put your faith in demagogues, yield to prejudice, and cast an uninformed vote.
And this: “In the West Midlands village of Meriden, some of the 17 million voters who had willed Britain’s departure from the EU into being were not so much celebrating Freedom Friday as enduring terrors of self-doubt. A few seemed like kids who had disobeyed instructions, pressed the eject button in the pilot’s cockpit, and were starting to wonder what the hell was happening.” A leap of faith. Dangerous stuff in a democracy, which is predicated on an informed electorate.
And that was only the beginning. In the just over 36 hours or so that has followed, we have seen additional consequences. Mark Carney emerged to reassure that he has a contingency plan to inject $250 billion into the economy, as needed. It’s hardly reassuring that this is necessary. Standard & Poors and Moody’s are reassessing their ratings, pension plans may be affected, and the UK appears to be headed toward losing far more money than the Leave side claimed it would gain. It doesn’t happen often, but this time I agreed with the bankers.
However, I doubt the bankers were aware of this result. It turns out that scientists were getting quite a bit of research money from the EU. Are the Leave voters willing to pony up to replace this lost money with their tax dollars/pounds?
Then there is that case of Cornwall, which it seems had been getting millions of pounds in subsidies from the EU due to its poor economy, yet had voted to leave.
John Pollard, the leader of Cornwall council said: “Now that we know the UK will be leaving the EU we will be taking urgent steps to ensure that the UK Government protects Cornwall’s position in any negotiations.
“We will be insisting that Cornwall receives investment equal to that provided by the EU programme which has averaged £60m per year over the last ten years.”
European money has helped develop infrastructure, universities and broadband internet in the county. From 2007 to 2013, €654m was given to pay for these projects, the Financial Times reported.
But a statement on the council website posted on Friday said prior to the referendum said the county was reassured by the Leave side that withdrawing from the EU would not affect the funding already allocated by Brussels.
Leave campaigners also promised the county would not be worse off in terms of the investment it receives. “We are seeking urgent confirmation from Ministers that this is the case,” the statement added.
Nigel Farage, the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) leader, attempted to backpedal on his promise to put purported millions in savings after exiting the EU into the NHS (National Health Service). This is the same guy who hours earlier claimed victory “without a single bullet being fired.” It seems that the senseless and tragic killing of Jo Cox campaigning for the Remain side only a week prior, that put the campaign on hold for a few days, was but a blip on his radar screen.
This is only a sampling of the fallout from Thursday’s vote. It is the worst case thus far of the consequences of voters heading to the polls without a clue about the implications of their choice. Everyone has an opinion, but please make it an informed opinion. It’s a plea for taking the time to carefully examine the claims all sides are making, to look beyond the rhetoric. With the US election looming ahead in November, and other future important votes, may it be a cautionary case study in the importance of taking the role of a citizen seriously.