BREXIT: THE CAMPAIGN TO “LEAVE” OR “REMAIN”
A HISTORIC AND EXISTENTIAL ACT WITH GLOBAL REVERBERATIONS
By: Harry C. Blaney III
INITIAL REPORT FROM LONDON
I arrived in London this weekend to the significant and sad event of the killing of Ms. Jo Cox, a Labour Member of Parliament from Yorkshire who was campaigning for the “Remain Campaign,” as the British characterize the efforts of those who push to keep the UK in the EU. The anti-EU and pro-Brexit types are referred to as the “Leave Campaign.” Some here believe that the killing of Ms. Cox by a clearly crazy and angry anti-Europe and racist man, who declared that his name was “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” when asked in court, is an indicator of the toxicity that has infiltrated British politics over this Thursday’s vote.
While there was a pause over the weekend by both campaigns, it ended here this Sunday with pledges by both sides to tone down the campaign. But nasty anti-immigrant and EU statements by some “Leave” types started immediately, the worst being from the far right UK Independence Party lead by Nigel Farage, who has previously said that British women are at risk of being raped by immigrants if we didn’t vote for Brexit. This weekend, his party displayed a poster that featured the label “Breaking Point” superimposed over a group of immigrants and advocated the UK “must break free of the EU and take back control of our borders.” Commentators have already noted the similarities to Nazi propaganda from the 1930s.
Furthermore, Even before Jo Cox was honored and buried, a former member of the British National Party declared he would run in the new open seat of Cox as a member of the Liberty GB Party. Jack Buckby’s new party lists among its main aims the “halting the Islamization of Britain [and] promoting British values and assimilation and multiculturalism.” Buckby embarked on a racist rant against Cox’s Labour Party saying the Labour Party caused the action by pushing immigration and multiculturalism. He stated that “the constituency is part of a region that has been turned upside down by mass immigration, with mosques sprouting like triffids, Islamic extremism proliferating, child-rape gangs still on the loose, and long-standing English communities under threat of demographic eradication.” The accused killer Thomas Mair was reported to be a supporter of Britain First, another Nazi style party.
In contrast, the leaders of the Conservative and Labour Parties united for the moment to pay respects and the House of Commons has been called back in session Monday to honor the slain Jo Cox.
In a Sunday night appearance on the BBC, the Prime Minister was subjected by the clearly pro-Leave moderator to a barrage of negative questions against the EU with an emphasis on immigration, the “cost” to the National Health Service and employment. David Cameron’s main argument was that Britain “working together” is better than in isolation. He also argued that an economy outside the EU would be harmful and tried to minimize the negative impact of immigration on jobs for “native” Britons given the new restriction he has negotiated with the EU. He gave a Churchillian defense of the importance of the unity of Europe, the key role that the UK could play as part of it, and the dangers of remaining outside. But the audience questions show many attendees supported getting out.
Tory MP and Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling had an article against the EU in the Sunday Mail that extolled the joys of leaving along the same facile lines of his article in the Washington Post arguing that they could easily get a free-trade agreement which EU leaders said would not take place. I wrote a critical letter to the editor against these same arguments in response.
A likely candidate to replace Cameron as Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, former mayor of London and current Tory MP. Johnson is key leader and voice of the anti-EU group. He is also a Trump-like figure, divisive and corrosive in many ways, and is using fear tactics to highlight the supposed dangers of being in the EU. David Cameron’s own party and cabinet are split almost evenly between Leave and Remain members. This division and Boris Johnson rebellion seem a bit like that of the Republican division between Trump and “Anyone Else.”
On the cultural side of the debate, the business icon Richard Branson, the musical show writer Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame are all backing he Remain side. On the other side is the right-wing political writer Peter Hitchens, who said the “EU was a distant…hostile, or indifferent to the freedoms we had so carefully created” in England. He thinks little with his strong prejudices and knows even less with his racist bent, and is blatantly wrong in this regard since the EU Human Rights Charter and EU Court are among the strongest in existence.
THE RECENT POLLS AND TRENDS:
Sunday night new polls came our here in London all showing that this vote is currently too close to call. Recently, there was a surge toward Leave, but the most recent polls (taken after the death of Cox and the speeches of Gordon Brown, many business and cultural leaders, and Prime Minister Cameron) now show the two sides at about even. The Survation poll showed 45% for Remain and 42% for Leave. The recent YouGov poll showed Remain at 44% and Leave at 43%, and an Opinion/IUM Sunday Observer poll showed an equal 44% for Leave and 44% for Remain. Yet other pols are showing a slight lead for the Leave side.
In the June 19th edition of the conservative Sunday Mail, columnist Dan Hodges wrote the following on the importance of the impending vote:
“Project Hate has brought us to the brink, Britain – the country we live in this morning – stands on the edge. This time next week it could all be gone. Our economic security. Our national security. Our international security. Imagine if it works. The overt racism. The graphic demonization of refugees. The graphic threats to stab the Prime Minister in the chest. Imagine if that is what constitutes a successful British political campaign in 2016.”
Those words of insight epitomize the state of the Britain to which I just arrived. It also reminded me of my own nation and the rise of Donald Trump and the corrosive politics he represents. It also helped to exemplify what my nation might become of America if Trump were to hold the reins of power in America and if the forces of racism, xenophobia, and idiocy gain control over our fair democracy.
More insights direct from London to come as this campaign comes to its last days, as well as a “post vote” review of its results and consequences.
Se our Brexit Page for more information on this issue.
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