Sat, Jul 02, 2016 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Brexit exposes fascism

In a short letter to the Financial Times, Simon Crosby said that the Roman Tacitus reported how Britons would seek to escape by walking into bogland until they were up to their necks in mud.

Crosby then says, referring to the Brexit referendum: “We just did it again.”

It’s a nice quote, but there’s a more complex picture behind the shocking results that saw the UK pass a non-binding referendum on leaving the EU last week. The real story behind the referendum and the result cannot be boiled down to a backlash against globalization and integration and a desire to reclaim national sovereignty, as commentator James Wang (王景弘) has argued (“Parallels between Brexit and Taiwan,” June 29, page 8).

His link between Brexit and the desire of Taiwanese youth not to have their nation annexed by China is nonsensical, since at no point has the EU threatened to invade the UK in the name of unifying Europe. Wang’s analysis is a misplaced reach to apply an analogy where it does not fit.

Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised a referendum on EU membership should he win the last general election last year as a means to blindside a rising UK Independence Party that was eating into the more right-wing base of his party’s support.

The idea was to cement his own authority within the party and nullify the rising challenge to his leadership by former London mayor Boris Johnson. The EU referendum was a device to settle an internecine dispute between two factions of the Conservative Party.

There was no need for a referendum and the result of it would have no constitutionally binding effect like the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. It would have a democratic effect though that would make the result hard to ignore for Westminster’s political class.

Ultimately, if the leave camp won, the government would still have to decide whether to activate Article 50 to formally notifying the EU of the UK’s intent to leave.

The result of the referendum was that 52 percent of a turnout of 71.8 percent voted to leave and 48 percent voted to remain in the EU. That means the decision to leave the EU was passed by a “majority” of 37.3 percent of the total electorate.

Two-thirds of Scottish National Party and Labour Party voters chose to remain. Fifty-eight percent of Conservative voters chose leave. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted remain, as did London and a number of other big cities. England as a whole voted to leave.

Lord Ashcroft polls indicate that voters aged 18 to 44 chose to remain, while most older than 45 voted to leave, but turnout by older voters was far greater.

Educated and politically engaged voters chose to remain in the EU by a large margin.

The campaign for the referendum was possibly one of the most divisive, misinformed, racially charged and violent political events in British voting history.

Labour Party member of parliament Jo Cox was murdered by a British nationalist for defending the rights of migrants and refugees.

A much touted claim that £350 million [US$464.9 million] per week sent to the EU would be spent on the UK National Health Service instead was not only false, but swiftly walked back after the result.

The question of immigration became a dominant issue, with a number of voters thinking that they were voting to deport all immigrants.

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