BU has ascertained from correspondents that an atmosphere of disbelief pervades the United Kingdom today in the wake of the Leave vote. In the last two weeks, most people, on whatever side of the divide, have felt that Remain would prevail. The Remain campaign leaders (headed by PM Cameron) had booked the venue for a victory celebration, a booking that had to be cancelled. Meanwhile, the Leave campaign had no celebratory plans. They didn’t think they would have anything to celebrate. Meanwhile in Brussels, the atmosphere, as far as we are able to discern, is total shock. The Brussels leaders are now apportioning all blame to David Cameron on the basis that he ought never have given the British electorate the right to vote in referendum on a matter of such vital importance. They claim that the UK parliament has “sovereignty” in these matters.
It is clear from the UK press that the campaign was strongly contested and, sadly, as we can see from the BBC, even after the electorate has made its will known, the contest continues. The PM has announced that he is stepping down and it is clear that Boris Johnson is the frontrunner to replace him.
On several occasions, Remain MPs have said that surely the electorate will not support a government of which “Boris the Buffoon” is PM and they have even derided the Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove whose background could best be described as humble. Mr Gove’s father had a fish shop in Aberdeen and educated his son with his meagre financial means to become Lord Chancellor of Britain, instead of the golden backgrounds and education at Eton College enjoyed by David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne and, incidentally, the same Boris Johnson who happens to be the child of Turkish immigrants.
But whatever the results, BU takes no position on either Remain or Leave. What we do look at, however, is the likely result of Brexit on the Commonwealth, more narrowly on the Region and narrowing our perspective again, on Barbados.
Specifically, in Barbados we used to have a sugar industry, but the EU contributed heavily to its demise, so that now we are entirely dependent on tourism and foreign investment and off-shore banking. One of those scarcely exists any longer and the other fluctuates wildly. Regionally, an examination of EU Rules shows that there are no less than 4 EU directives on bananas, ranging from their curvature to other completely irrelevant requirements. So our banana-producing neighbours are subject to the dictates of Brussels in their traditional supply of bananas to the UK.
It is instructive that many years before Boris Johnson became a politician and while he was a journalist with the UK’s Telegraph Newspaper, he was already bemoaning the fact that the UK had side lined the Commonwealth in order to meet its obligations to the EU. As a politician, Mr Johnson’s position did not change and as one of the Leave leaders, he has been vocal in his desire to enter a far closer association with the Commonwealth, a sentiment echoed by Mr Gove and many others on the Leave side who alone have recognised and publicized the role played in the National Health Service by health professionals from the Commonwealth, many of them from Barbados, while the Remain camp has seemed obsessed solely with the “Johnny-come-lately’s” from the EU. Mr Johnson and Mr Gove have been at pains to make it clear that they want immigration, but not unlimited immigration from the EU, but rather to open up immigration to the Commonwealth. As we know, the promises and opinions of politicians are often written in the sand with a tidal wave approaching. However, these views did not depend on political expediency when they were stated, but have the appearance of being convictions. So maybe Her Majesty will not be alone now in holding the Commonwealth, from the British position, together any longer and she, at age 90, will finally have some assistance within the executive of the UK.
Then there is Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister who, among the expedient politicians, certainly takes the cake today. Ms Sturgeon, having lost a Scottish referendum for independence from the UK just two years ago, is now stating that another referendum is now “on the table”. It has transpired that in France Marine le Pen, the leader of the National Front, is the frontrunner in the imminent French presidential elections and has made it clear that she will hold a referendum to bring France out of the EU and the polls show 68% of the French electorate want to leave the EU. Poland too wants out. So does the Netherlands. Ditto Denmark and Portugal. And most importantly, Germany is heading that way as well. So, if Ms Sturgeon does manage to extract Scotland from the UK on the basis of Scotland remaining a part of the EU, she may well be leaving the UK and its vital (to Scotland) subsidies (given the near collapse of North Sea Oil) just in time to help preside over the demise of the EU and then not be able to participate, or have to negotiate to participate, in the UK’s new trade deals globally and with the Commonwealth.
There is going to be a vacuum that may well be of great benefit to the Commonwealth, Region and Barbados and maybe we should be looking at optimising our possible advantages and look to fill a part of that vacuum, instead of bemoaning the inevitable demise of a super state advantageous only to multi-national bankers, investors and corporations.