EDITORIAL: BREXIT REFERENDUM AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY

The United Kingdom leaving the European Union is highly possible. Following the results of the referendum, uncertainty and regret have taken over this union of nations. The legitimacy of this democratic vote has been heavily questioned, as both 16 and 17-year-olds and immigrants (except for those coming from Common Wealth countries) were excluded from voting (more than three million could have had their say).

Jordi Albacete

The consequences of ‘Brexit’ are still uncertain. Many economists such as the former Greek Economy Minister Yanis Varoufakis pointed out the risk of losing social protection for workers. The trends of the fierce globalised market, that put pressure on labour costs, would make the UK compete with other countries that have never experienced a welfare system.

Donald Trump said before the referendum that if he became president of the US and the British people left the EU, he ‘wouldn’t make the UK queue’ when negotiating international trading agreements. “I’m going to work with everyone with good judgement regardless of their membership of the EU. But what is clear is that you won’t be the last ones queuing, I can assure this beforehand”, claimed Trump in an interview, where he said that he was in favour of Brexit.

The welfare state that characterised the United Kingdom will be a thing of the past. In fact, this has already been undermined in recent years, especially in England and Wales, where a co-payment system has been implemented in the health sector and university fees have tripled in just six years.

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Democratic Quality

Uncertainty and false information in the campaign have made ‘Leave’ voters now regret their decision. This is a phenomenon has been labelled “Bregret”: the regret of breaking away from Europe.

In 2015 Nigel Farage was a strong advocate of the need to privatise the National Health System (NHS) over the next ten years. Just hours after the referendum  results came in, Farage publically acknowledged that he couldn’t fulfil this pledge of spending the £350 million coming in from the EU each week on the NHS instead. Furthermore, Farage has recognised that this figure of £350m/week was incorrect.

The exclusion of key demographic groups, such as immigrants and young people when making such huge decisions for  future of the United Kingdom, puts into question the true democracy  of this referendum. Young people aged 16 and 17-years-old couldn’t vote, as opposed to older generations who enjoy their pensions. European residents (more than three million) claimed their right to vote in the referendum, as they pay taxes to the British state. The campaign for the inclusion of migrants to vote was already initiated before the referendum. Alvaro Blazquez, a migrant living in Scotland, wrote on Facebook that this campaign was only signed by 39,000 people, and political parties didn’t endorse it. In contrast, the campaign to repeat the referendum has been signed by more than three million only in two days.

European Union

Political and economic alliances are often far from the people’s alliances. The evolution of the EU in recent years can be seen, up to a certain extent, as an example of this. I am not the first person to be upset by the way of how the EU is dealing with the refugee crisis, and how European borders have been blocked to them. I know photographers who cover the evictions of refugee camps, where basic human rights, regardless of the age of the refugees, are violated.

I believe that the economic treatment that Southern European countries have received from Germany is insulting, especially taking into account that Germany was the first buyer of national debt in Spain during its most irresponsible era of economic growth, known as the ‘brick bubble’.

What is my take on the referendum results? Firstly, I think the claim that this is the result of democracy should be taken with a pinch of salt, since millions of residents in the UK were excluded from voting.

Secondly, I think that the working class has been neglected. Again, low-income people frustrated by the policies that come with austerity(from their own government) have been led to the dream of taking back England’s pastures green – but these are colonialist dreams, a far cry from the forward thinking 21st century we live in. But his is nothing new, and it is happening in other European countries.

Thirdly, I agree with those who claim that the UK is now divided. The populist strategies that the ‘Leave’ campaign has used were disgusting, provoking violence against migrants and those in solidarity with them. To give some context to this tension, it is understood that the murderer of Labour MP Jo Cox shouted ‘Britain First!’ before fatally wounding her Nigel Farage used a poster showing refugees trying to cross a border to raise fear of immigration – a cruel campaign tactic indeed. Just two days after the results, there have been attacks to small Polish businesses in areas of England and Wales. In addition, Islamophobia is spreading all over the country already.I do believe that this is not a true representation of the majority of cosmopolitan British people, but no doubt these facts are incredibly worrying.  

I’ve been living in Scotland for four years, and it is a nation that has welcomed me with open arms, giving me both opportunities and great friends along the way. Scotland is a nation where I learnt how courageous one can be in creating sustainable environmental policies, simply by taking advantage of some EU law initiatives. It’s a nation where a large proportion of its people are tired of feeling ignored because of its small population. It is sometimes difficult to understand  the harsh political culture spawned in  England in comparison to compassionate Scotland, as the Tory establishment and xenophobia seem alien here. My political stand is internationalism, and as a journalist, I try not to have blind loyalty to any political party. I believe that most of the English and Welsh population do not agree with the new political and social paradigm ahead, and my solidarity is with them If only the strident opinions of the Scottish people could be heard, about both this referendum and other issues, maybe then they could take back their sovereignty. Perhaps the time has come to ask the people of Scotland how they want to see themselves in the international community.

Autor: Jordi Albacete

I am an environmental journalist. My passion for the protection of human and environmental rights has been inspired by research led journalism. My ambition is to communicate and inspire people to make positive changes in the environment. Twitter @albacetejordi or Linkedin.

Periodista medioambiental. Mi pasión por la protección de los derechos humanos y medioambientales se ha forjado a través de la investigación periodística. Mi objetivo es comunicar e inspirar a la gente para hacer cambios positivos y proteger el medioambiente. Twitter @albacetejordi o Linkedin.

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