The weirdest thing I have found in the reaction to the referendum is the dichotomy between what (some; many?) Remain voters label themselves as, and the consequences of a Remain vote.
Let me explain.
Some Remain voters are anti-big business. But they voted for the option that big business preferred.
Some Remain voters dislike the current Conservative government. But they voted for the option that our government’s leaders, Cameron and Osborne, wanted.
Some Remain voters are anti-racists. But they voted for the option that protects white Europeans to the detriment of Asians and Africans.
Old vs Young & Lower vs Middle/Upper
The difference in demographics between Remain and Leave voters has been cited as showing that the young (read ‘multicultural’) and the higher educated (read ‘intelligent’) members of society have been shafted by the old (read ‘racist’, ‘bigoted’ or ‘xenophobic’) and the less well educated (read ‘stupid’).
But if instead the Remain voters had slightly won, how would this same split have been interpreted by the Leave voters? Would Leave voters have argued that the older (read ‘experienced’, ‘knowledgeable’) and less well educated (read ‘working class’) have been shafted by the younger (read ‘inexperienced’ or ‘unaware’) and the higher educated (read ‘middle-upper class’ or ‘elite’)?
The unemployed, the social renters, the lower social groups – they voted Leave. The ones who voted Remain are the ones not as traditionally associated with the Left-wing – home owners, those with university degrees, professionals and managers. The ones that the left-wing might traditionally consider to be the ones whose political preferences have led to the present inequality of the UK.
Big Business wanted IN
Instead of classing Leave voters as racist, what if we looked for a more sympathetic reason to vote Leave? For example, what if these people (the unemployed, lower income, lower educated) aren’t blaming the EU for their position, but blaming big business?
And what did big business want? It wanted to stay in the EU. Was it because big business believes the EU is necessary to protect its workers’ rights against a Conservative government? Presumably not, because big business could improve workers’ rights out of choice rather than because of a legal requirement. So if big business wanted IN, it appears to be because they think that on balance, despite EU regulation, being IN is more beneficial to them. Thus a vote for OUT is a vote against the Establishment and big business, not for it.
Indeed, the discussions between the EU and the US about TTIP shows why an OUT vote may be better than IN for our working class – because TTIP would mean lowering EU standards to those of the US, not raising US standards to the EU.
And what if these people who voted Leave again don’t blame the EU but blame the Conservative government, and in particular Cameron and Osborne? What did these two want? They wanted to Remain. So if our current leaders, who chose austerity and social security cuts over investment and tax rises, want to stay IN – then that might indicate that the better economic outcome for the poor is to be OUT. Faced with competing economic arguments from individuals and organisations who don’t have the best record on accuracy, it’s as a good a reason as any other for voting OUT.
Protecting British workers
Remain voters want regulation that provides for and enforces workers’ rights. They don’t see this coming from our current government, and therefore want to remain in the EU in order to enforce these regulations upon a national government.
Leave voters want protection for British workers. They see job quality and wages undermined by low-skilled workers coming from poorer EU countries. They therefore want to leave the EU, in order that the UK can control who comes to live and work here. Leave voters may hope that, by leaving the EU, companies will be forced to increase working standards in order to attract British workers. If companies don’t do this automatically, perhaps there will be a resurgence in Trade Union membership. And we can elect a different government next time. That’s what a democracy is.
Protecting non-UK countries and citizens
Remain voters are concerned about EU citizens who may want to work here. Leave voters may be concerned about non-EU countries whose economies are harmed by their inability to compete with EU subsidised goods – and TTIP will make this worse. The EU, wrote George Gilliett in the Independent, is “a syndicate of wealthy states preserving their global privilege at the expense of international equality.” It protects white Europeans against the needs of refugees; coerces weaker countries into detrimental agreements; refuses entry to Turkey, a majority Muslim country.
Remain voters are concerned about our economic position if we leave. The pund has dropped, as uncertainty scares investors. Perhaps big business will leave – but not all Remain voters like big business anyway, blaming them for the financial crisis of 2008/09.
Leave voters are concerned about our economic position if we stay. The EU, for the last eight years, has badly mismanaged the economies of its member states. Greece is not in a good position right now. The EU is still struggling to function. Leave voters don’t want to be tied to a dysfunctional organisation whose economic growth, compared to all other countries, has been low to say the least. Nor do many want closer union with the other EU countries, which prevents the EU from taking the only option that would make a single currency work: political union.
We seem to have resulted in a situation where Remain voters who call for protection for workers, control of big business and a welcoming attitude to people of other countries have instead voted for the opposite - a result that favours big business over the poor both of this county and the rest of the non-EU world.
The referendum result, of a narrow vote for Leave, will perhaps give us the opportunity as a country to take care of our poor and join the entire international community rather than favouring white Europeans and big business. Let's hope that our leaders, by listening to the concerns of both sides, will see where the two sides have a common aim, and find an approach that will bring us to a position where we care for all people, and particularly the marginalised.