Tuesday 28 June 2016

Pause - Brexit - Pause

It has been more than a month since my last piece. There are good reasons for that: we did get away to lovely Guernsey - a jewel in the English Channel. That explains the first pause. In addition we have been glued to news channels, newspapers, online news, the radio 4 Today programme - yes, even in tranquil Guernsey. Unsuprisingly Brexit has caught our attention.

While others were queuing to vote on June 23rd we were sunbathing on white sands in the bailliwick of Guernsey, a non-EU member, having used our postal vote on June 3rd. No resident of Guernsey had a vote, of course. The BBC online news stated '... The Channel Islands are not part of the UK.' We learned a lot - more than we wanted - on that fateful day.

I watched the results of the referendum until 4.40 a.m. I hardly slept thereafter as the news was not what I wanted to hear. I hadn't voted for Brexit. I felt PM David Cameron should not have called for a referendum and should not have allowed Nigel Farage - an MEP who wants the UK to be independent - the oxygen of publicity.

Friday's newspapers, on the 24th of June, revealed little as they had gone to press well before that fateful hour. At approximately 4.45 am the Brexiteers had gained too many votes for the Remain camp to be able to overtake them. The papers could only report on this in the Saturday editions - the day we travelled back to Bath. One of the very few pleasing elements in the post-EURef gloom is that Bath voted to remain. I was going home to a city where there weren't huge swathes of unemployed, poorly-paid, poorly-educated people who wanted to leave the EU. ( According to Professor Curtice of Strathclyde University such groups of people were more likely to vote to leave the EU.) I have taught  for many years in depressed areas - people's lives are stresed - their finances pinched - their opportunities reduced.  I would be less likely to meet people who shouted racist abuse at migrant workers. Bath has two universities.
( Professor Curtice suggests graduates generally want to remain in the EU). Many under-graduates and comfortably well-off post graduates reside here. Our local shop is run by an Asian couple who come to our parties; he is a graduate. Frequently we are driven in a taxi by a chap from Turkey and other times by a young man from Iran. A good friend of mine is Mexican, another is a Bulgarian post-graduate and the host for our Brasserie Writers. A third is from Sierra Leone and yet another is Latvian, also a post-graduate. I would be horrified if any of them were told 'to go home' now that the Brexiteers have 'won' the vote and we are to leave the EU. But Facebook is full of stories of racist verbal attacks. The EURef has unleashed a level of nastiness I can't remember since seeing graffitti shouting 'Blacks Go Home' in the 1960s.

I am fortunate to be living in Bath. It is indeed largely populated by an educated population who, if not wealthy, are comfortable. Of course Bath has its non-graduates and its poorer areas. I haven't been back from Guernsey long enough to chat to people I know who live in social housing. How did they vote? That conversation is yet to be had. Would their attitudes be in line with Professor Curtice's findings?

To move on from the immediate post EUref commentary I need to return to my title: Pause - Brexit - Pause

We are now in the second pause phase.
This pause is universal. The world holds its breath. As if some rocket launch had knocked planet earth out of its orbit, causing it to hurtle off its axis, crashing into the sun, the notion that the UK will leave the EU has had cataclysmic effects. And our parlimentarians don't seem to know what to do next. I would think the rest of the world must be looking at the UK in astonishment: a) how did we come to decide to leave the EU and rock financial certainties and securities?  b) what on earth are we doing about it? Surely losing our PM and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, losing two-thirds of the opposition party and rumours of losing Scotland from a non-EU UK must look to other nations as if little England is suddenly nothing bigger than Guernsey - and, in parts, far less beautiful.

One French journalist had commented that if the UK were to leave the EU it would be no more important on the world stage than Guernsey - which is doing very well - but he had a point. How long this  pause  will last is anyone's guess. No-one has a plan for  who, what, when article 50 is triggered.
I have been scouring the press for some inkling but until today journalists have analysed voting patterns and causes. I will write about that in my next entry. Meanwhile back to the pause.