Even for an open, unbiased mind, which I strive to own, Truth is too elusive and too difficult to catch. It flits about among the myriad sides of all controversies, so much so that it discourages plunging into the necessary depths to capture even a fragment of it.
Basically, I believe that, because of the overwhelming and growing threats to our species, the UK’s primary responsibility, like all the rest of us, is to revitalize the United Nations, that is still a work in progress, and of which the EU is an important and needed part. The EU is young, does stumble, has done much good, and remains full of promise. Perhaps, it has too many bureaucrats. Of course it needs guidance and reforms which are better achieved from within than without. Europe, that has given us so much good and so many woes, must remain united in peace and goodwill.
That the United Kingdom is not united is shown in the facts that, of the 72% who turned out to vote in the persistent rain, only 52% voted to leave, mainly in England and Wales, yet London voted 60% to remain. In Scotland and Northern Ireland 62% and 56% voted to remain. Are they now to resent a tyranny of the majority?
To start an understanding of Brexit, I can take just a shallow dive to find millions of people who are peeved at the UK and millions more who are elated. Millions of these millions are in the UK itself, especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland, some of whom are now contemplating moves that could lead to the dismemberment of the UK and kill the Union Jack, that pretty and proud symbol of unity. Brexit has given a boost to far-right elements in France, Germany, and the Netherlands to also leave. Brexit has even encouraged separatist movement in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Quebec, and Texas. Malignant tumours do spread.
This takes me back to my Irish grandparents telling me of all their peeves at the English when they ruled Ireland. But then I learned that the Irish have never been united and that they can blame their quarrelsome selves for one faction inviting the Norman English to come with military aid only to see them stay and rule.
Why, then, were the Irish (and Scots and Welsh) such a major factor in building the British Commonwealth and Empire? As a schoolboy growing up in the debris of WWI, fortunately among no ruined countryside but with too many victims of PTSD, many the fathers on my schoolmates who had to care for them. I was very proud of being a member of the Commonwealth that was, in spite of the exploitations of all empires, whether economic or military, my empire was doing good things around the world in building schools and railroads, reducing famines and tribal wars, outlawing native exploitation, and at least trying to make Fair Play the rule among nations. Never having a large army, it recruited natives while its navy and civil service excelled.
When WWII was forced upon us, I was proud to see the entire Commonwealth join me in going to the aid of an endangered UK. What a great feeling of comradeship to train, to fly, then be a POW, with men from 23 different countries, a feeling enhanced by our errant daughter, the United States, when neutral, allowing thousands of its youth to come and join us.
For me, this defies the assertion that we are still shackled to our tribal roots. We do have a release key. I found delight in making new friends among men from different countries, cultures, and beliefs, the vast majority of whom, even among the enemy Germans and Luftwaffe, were decent human beings.
I had been dismayed at the failure of the League of Nations to prevent WWII and thought part of the blame was the fault of the US declining to join it or to endorse Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points, some opponents arguing: “If God was content with 10 commandments, why does Wilson want 14?”
After WWII, I was encouraged by the League of Nations becoming the United Nations. Qualms arose when I could see that the US, now the world’s acknowledged super power, was ignoring the vital contributions of the USSR, China, and the Commonwealth. There were signs that oligarchs in the US were determined to use the UN to enhance their own well being. There was the choice of New York for its headquarters and the veto powers given to the major victors of WWII, a power to be used mainly by the USSR and USA to prolong the Cold War. Instead of the longed-for disarmament, munitions merchants flourished.
Canada, led by Lester Pearson, father of UN peacekeeping and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, offered 5,000 troops to start an embracive UN standing army that would include trained personnel from all countries, working in harmony. What went wrong?
Currently, the top ten nations financing UN peacekeeping are: US 28%, Japan 11%, France, Germany, UK, and China 7% each, Italy 4%, Russia, Canada, and Spain 3% each. The top countries supplying troops and police are: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Nepal, Senegal, Ghana, China, Nigeria, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Morocco, ranging from 9,432 to 2,314. The US provides 80, Russia 71. This results in the UN getting poorly paid and trained soldiers who are quite temporary and who have been guilty of rape and pillaging rather than protecting. Canada’s major contributions declined after 1995, funnelling its efforts through NATO.
Returning to the EU: It was inaugurated in 1950 by France and Germany, determined never to go to war again. A deal was signed by six nations to pool their coal and steel resources. The UK joined in 1973. By 2013 membership had grown to 28. The 2015 budget in euros was 145 billion with Germany contributing 21.4%, France 15.7%, the UK 12.6%, Italy 11.5%, Spain 8.1% and the rest less than that. It promotes agriculture, the environment, human rights, equality, education, research, and free movement of goods and people.
Those supporting Brexit argue that the 28 Commissioners are an appointed fat-cat elite, inadequately concerned about the rank and file. But are elected officials any better? So evident in the current US election cycle is the $4 billion misspent on influencing voters how to vote. Democracy has surrendered to money.
Previous alliances such as Commonwealth preferences are nullified when joining the EU. This hurts countries such as New Zealand that had relied heavily on UK trade but whose exports to the UK now amount to only 2.3%. More compromise is needed.
Inflamed passions rose to the horrifying extent of Thomas Mair shouting “Britain First” as he murdered, on 17 June, Jo Cox, a rising pro-Remain MP of the Labour Party in Yorkshire.
Like Donald Trump fans who fear lax US borders, many Britons worry about the EU’s borderless countries that have seen thousands of refugees, trying to settle in the UK, reach the English Channel, but then are stranded in squalid camps in Calais and other French ports.
Along with this human misery, both the Queen and the mayor of London have welcomed mega-rich Arabs from the Gulf States who are buying up London, investing in hotels, wealthy homes, and businesses and bringing in some 453,000 tourists each summer, some with gold plated cars valued at £370,000 each. None of these countries admit any Syrian refugees. The UN pleas for help in assisting the current 65,000,000 displaced persons is so underfunded that refugees in crowded camps must survive on 70 cents a day.
Climate change and a grossly-overpopulated world give us droughts, floods, poverty, wars, and migrations. The UK has generously allowed its comfortable Anglo-Saxon life style to be dramatically changed. It has accepted, in one decade, 7.5 million immigrants, amounting to 12% of its population. It has opened the door to 800 million former colonists to apply for work in the UK with no visa required. Accepted immigrants come from not only former colonies but also from China, the Philippines, Ireland, Poland and other EU countries, and the United States. Millions of Britons have now declared “Enough is enough!”
Can we not say the same for the EU that has accepted 31,368,000 migrants? It, too, is swamped and has taken down the Welcome signs.
What about Daesh, Boko Haram, Al Shababa, Al Qaida, Taliban, and all these other associations we call terrorists that are sprinkled around the world? What do they have in common? What motivates them? Poverty? Religious myths? Western exploitation? Inadequate education? They pose an immense threat not solved by military might. Contraceptives could be more effective than bullets but they will take generations to be so. This “terrorist” phenomena exists among so many encouraging world activities: tourism, trade, philanthropy, co-operation among scientists and universities that Hope remains a valid possession.
So, UK, even though you have already contributed so much to our world, the world cannot let you retire. We do need to ask you for more. Please ask the EU to accept you back, then improve it, so it can improve the UN so that it can save our species that is hell-bent on extinction.