So, there we have it. Against all expectations the UK has voted to leave the EU, and you will all have your views on that.
I am in the UK just now, and indeed voted “Leave”, but I have had feedback from European emigrants to New Zealand, especially German emigrants. They are not just surprised, they are upset.
There are among many who feel that for all its faults, the EU is an excellent forum for international cooperation. The challenge for the UK political leadership, extending beyond any next general election, is to show that cooperation can be enhanced by Brexit. I, for one, did not vote to leave Great Britain to live in Little Britain.
The poll last weekend, showing Leave ahead convincingly, has roused some interest over here. However, it is all rather bemused. All along the lines of “what is it that the British don’t get, about all the riches that flow from EU membership?”
The best instance I can give of this kind of thinking actually comes from an article in Der Spiegel about EU payments to projects in Cornwall. The article states [correctly] that “money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has been flowing into Cornwall for more than 20 years”. However, it goes on, with a sense of complete bewilderment; “But it hasn’t done the EU much good. According to opinion polls, even in the Cornwall subsidy paradise a majority will vote on June 23 in favor of leaving the EU”.
The author is not completely daft. He does acknowledge that; “The sum was anyway transferred to Brussels in the form of membership contributions. “It’s our money,” is the conclusion.” He even notes that; “When auditors recently examined the grant money flowing into the region, they arrived at a disappointing conclusion: The program has fallen short of all of its benchmarks.” Then he completely ignores these striking nuggets.
He even concludes that “In Newlyn many fishermen are likely to follow their hearts on June 23. But some might also follow their noses.” By “noses” he means money, implying that EU payments may sway their vote. Fishermen! Has he no understanding at all. Fishermen of all people. Fishermen, whose livelihood has been devastated by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
I probably do not need to tell you that the UK pays more into the EU than it receives back. So, post Brexit, the UK government could continue ALL EU payments, and still have £350million a week (or whatever is your chosen number) left over.
The debate in the UK finally seems to understand that there is nothing to fear about “Project Fear”. That emperor has no clothes. Outside the UK, the debate about Brexit still has a very retro, 1970’s feel to it.