Brexit: Who is actually responsible?


Event data

5. 4. 2017
Karl-Renner-Institut, Bruno-Kreisky-Saal
Wolfgang Greif, Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten
Simon Dubbins, Gewerkschaft UNITE, Direktor für Internationales und Forschung

Here is the second part of the article on Brexit. The first part can be found here.

Simon Dubbins reports:

At the time, the partners of the European Union did not know how they should react to this. From the date of the referendum on 23 June 2016 until Christmas little happened. Theresa May started to announce: “Brexit means Brexit!“, but if one asked what that meant exactly, nobody could give an answer.

Dubbins compares Brexit to a falling rock, which suddenly shatters the windscreen into many small pieces. Although the roots of this presumably lie much deeper, exactly at this moment, all of this was expressed.

With approx. 70%, the under 30-year-olds voted for remaining, while the over 65-year-olds voted to exit. The generation division was very obvious.

Furthermore, there was a significant difference between cities (pro-EU) and rural areas (anti-EU).

In Scotland, 62% wanted to remain in the EU, in Northern Ireland 56%, while the majority of England and Wales voted for the exit.

Poorer people were more likely to vote for the exit than wealthier people.

According to Dubbins, this shows the deep division within the British population.

But currently politics and the press show a misleading picture, as they stress that the people have decided. It is a fact that 33 million people voted. However, only 600,000 people made the difference. If they had voted differently, the result would have been completely different. Therefore, one cannot really talk about a vast majority. In addition, one should not forget the lies: about the 350 million pounds per week more for the health system; that Great Britain will rebuild its sovereignty, etc.

We have a divided country, and I believe that it is not an exaggeration to say that many people were lied to regarding what would happen after Brexit.

Needless to say, people were also frustrated due to decades with lack of perspectives, that the industry was gone, many poor people could see no future, there was frustration which already manifested itself in the violence outbursts in major cities in 2011.

What happens in the next twelve months?

In January of this year, Theresa May finally started to clarify what could happen and admitted that Great Britain in fact may have to leave the internal market as well as the duty market.

The first priority is to stop immigration and to re-establish the checks at the borders. In this moment it became clear that May stood firmly at the side of the hardline Brexiteers.

On 29 March 2017, Theresa May triggered Article 50, whereby a two-year time limit for Great Britain’s exit of the European Union began. A fact which inevitably led to having to deal with what will happen next.

What is very clear to me: the government and the press and all of those who led this campaign often forget that there are two sides to these negotiations. One only hears about what we will get, what we will demand, what happens if we do not get it – without actually understanding the reality that we will not decide this on our own.

When these negotiations start, one will have to think about the main topics of both sides.

What we were promised: we can indeed remain in the internal market – but, in my opinion, this will not happen.

The government wants at least duty-free access to the internal market, they do not want the European Court of Justice to comment on any British issues and they want a transitional agreement, as it will probably not be implementable so quickly within these two years.

On the other hand, we have the EU, which says: before even talking about things such as the internal market, they have their own list, and first of all a bill has to be paid.

It is not at all easy to say what will happen next and, presumably, we are in one of the most dangerous times of the post-war epoch. Playing with nationalism is so dangerous; we are all familiar with the stories of the past hundred years, and the fact that we find ourselves once again in this position is like being captive in a nightmare, from which we cannot wake up.

Dubbins does not consider it completely unlikely, and perhaps that is only a naive hope, that it is not yet over and Brexit could possibly still be delayed, above all when the economic situation is much worse.

For the remaining 27 member states, Dubbins calls on solidarity. Splitting up is not a solution. As a workers’ movement in Europe, pressure has to be applied in order that the European Commission and also the national governments finally execute political change.

The austerity policy against Greece, Spain, Portugal etc. has to cease. It cannot continue in this manner. It is clear that the situation in Greece is not improving – on the contrary – and it is clear that it also did not help Spain.

There is a future, there are possibilities, but there are several difficult phases until we reach this point. I do not want to leave a negative impression. We are facing an incredibly large number of difficulties. Trump would like to see the EU collapsing and there are other powers, which would also like to see this.

In conclusion, Dubbins stressed once again that he believes in the future of Europe, however, other changes have to take place. But the workers and socialist movements of the EU are the only power which can really effect this.

Translation German-English: Anna Stockenhuber


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