By Liam McDonald
On the 24th June I wrote to my branches in Scotland to express my devastation and my pain as well as my personal gratitude for their hard work throughout the campaign. This was certainly not a situation I had anticipated on the night of the count.
As we now wander through the political hinterland, I am filled with a sense of unease. Never before has a country considered enacting Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, thus effectively committing itself to a 2 year leave date. I believe that David Cameron has made the right choice for both sides of the campaign by resigning and allowing his successor to negotiate our exit agreement. As a Remain campaigner he too must live up to the reality of our future outside the EU.
By voting Leave, we have suspended the sword of Damocles above our own heads. The idea of an amicable separation is now mythical: We have turned our backs on the most progressive political union in the world and in the process lost protection for worker’s rights (like holiday pay and a max number of working hours a week), rights to free travel, funding for medical and scientific research and loss of climate change regulations to name a few.
This is the largest political lurch to the right that British politics has seen since Margaret Thatcher was swept to power in 1979. Thatcher herself experienced a “U-turn” moment on the EU. In 1975, she was famously seen sporting a woollen jumper patterned with the flags of member states of the EU campaigning for continued EU membership. Fast forward almost ten years we have a steely eyed Mrs Thatcher demanding “we are simply asking to have our own money back” at the Fontainebleau Summit. Quite a contrast! Ultimately it would be the EU that would be back to finish off her premiership.
Now, in 2016 we have another charismatic blond determined to wage war against the EU. Boris Johnston – a man who was the Daily Telegraph’s former Brussels reporter – has decided not to run for the leadership of the Tory party. After a bitter and vicious campaign, which many suspected was his springboard into Number 10, his “loyal” Lieutenant Gove pips him to the post and stands himself. It’s not a proper Tory leadership contest unless a blood is drawn. I don’t envy the winner (or are they the true loser?) who has to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU.
The phrase: “United we stand, divide we fall” has never resonated so eerily than on that Friday morning. I worry about the UK where in Scotland all 32 council regions came out to back Remain juxtaposed against Lake England of Leave with but a few puddles of Remain. I’m also worried about the EU and whether Brexit’s success is the beginning of a series of referenda throughout Europe. Where do we go from here? No-one can tell us (yet)! There are of course a plethora of options on the table which would require another article to themselves to even begin to do them justice.
As an isolated maverick state how do we expect to tackle the big issues facing the world alone? Will climate change and the migrant crisis no longer be our concern anymore?
David Cameron said “we have the character of an island nation: independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.” In more ways than one David Cameron has hit the nail on the head. For many in Britain the name: “European” does not naturally trip off the tongue and we consider ourselves by our nationality rather than embracing our continental roots. It is a sad but accurate analysis from Cameron. The practical benefits of the EU were definitely a driving factor in the Remain but more still needs to be done to
Whilst it would be easy to hang our heads at the loss we have suffered we must muster the courage to fightback. The battle has been lost but the war for EU membership is far from over.