I have read a lot about Brexit, both sides mind you, and I have watched debates before and after the historic vote last week in the United Kingdom (UK) when Leave (get out of the European Union (EU)) bested Remain (stay in the EU) 52% to 48%.
I also interviewed one of a number of friends I have in England, a British citizen who lives in the center of the UK, the day after the vote. For the record, this individual is near 30 years of age, educated, is a parent, is Jewish and pro-Israel, understands the British government and its benefits and limitations, is apolitical for the most part, is pro-abortion, but who voted for the Conservative in the last election mainly because the candidate was pro-Israel, and this friend by the way, voted Leave. I was actually surprised by that vote.
Now interviewing one person is certainly not scientific, it is anecdotal, but so much of what I read and saw on UK newscasts was also anecdotal, and what I learned from the answers to my many questions was so amazingly insightful, and I am very grateful for the input. Those insights are herein interspersed but not necessarily specifically identified – most of what is written is my own analysis, and I received approval from my friend who read this column before publication
I continue to have the same view of the whole thing I did weeks ago, as the dust begins to settle.
Something I noticed during the referendum campaign was how both sides exaggerated, to say the very least. Both sides. Also, how both sides fear-mongered. Both sides. There were also so many misconceptions.
If you didn’t know any better, you would think from the Remain folks and some media in Britain and around the world, that Leave voters were a bunch of knuckle-dragging, dimwitted, right-wing fools who hate all immigrants and democratic rule. And how dare those simple-minded peasants – and wow, so many millions of them — push back against the brilliant, superior aristocracy which knows what is best for the unwashed and the uncultured!
It was a bit difficult getting accurate demographics from exit polls breaking down the vote, but newsflash, people, Leave supporters were from all parties. As were Remain supporters. Sure Scotland went 62% to 38% Remain, but Scotland is another story altogether. If you want to know why, click here.
The referendum wasn’t simply a traditional party Tory versus Labour vote with the others splitting along ideological lines as well. In fact, the leader and face of Remain was Conservative Party head, Prime Minister David Cameron.
And understand this, US Republicans. I know many American pundits, even non-partisan ones, say what happened in the UK directly and strongly reflects what may happen in the US, that this helps Donald Trump. And while yes, one can compare the anger at the status quo – a revolt if you will, the Leave win, in my opinion, does not portend the same about the upcoming US election. There were different factors there as there are here. And there are Leave voters who don’t especially care for Donald Trump.
The vote in the UK was truly to so many a movement, an idea, and while personalities helped, e.g., Boris Johnson, the popular former London mayor being one for Leave, and a critic of Donald Trump by the way, and hurt, e.g., Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, not too well-liked being another for Remain (as well as President Obama seen as meddling and causing irritation), people from all sides were simply fed up and in agreement.
Many on the right and left in the US may be angry but their vehicles and directions for change are not even close to being the same. In the UK, this was not a right versus left referendum even though both sides had their extremes.
Another newsflash. Yes, while one of Leave’s promoters was the controversial right-wing UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who made immigration and migration a big issue, there were other concerns of great importance to many in the UK.
That included the desire for independence from an elitist and expensive, unaccounted-for, overly-bureaucratic EU – the need to, according to my source, regain a lost identity, the lost “Great” Britain, a stronger UK when it is self-reliant, self-governed only, and unburdened and not dragged down by a failing EU; as well as simple economics – many middle and lower income conservative and liberal voters feeling left behind decade after decade in a Eurocentric economy. Too much money went out to the EU with its unpopular rules and regulations, as too many Brits suffered within.
There was a misleading or perhaps even false ad campaign about 350 million British pounds being freed up should the UK leave the EU, but plenty of money does go to the EU from the UK, and its monetary obligations to the EU would be dissolved at exit. And Remain had its own falsehoods, such as Cameron claiming the EU gave more “special status” concessions to the UK than it really did.
Back to Farage. There are Leave voters who would never support him for Prime Minister. Also, Leave voters who want better control of the borders deem it quite insulting that they would be considered racist. So many of them are not against all immigration, they welcome immigrants – and are proud of their contributions – but only in a more controlled and secure manner. In a very dangerous world, and in a terror-stricken Europe, can fair-minded people really disagree with that?
As I mentioned above, finding who voted what and why wasn’t easy, and although I wish I had more data, there is some. Younger voters were more likely to Remain than older ones. They also felt it was unfair that their generation was overruled so to speak by the older folks who flocked to the polls
But first, the older folks remember what it was like before the EU so maybe they know better, and second, you young’uns did not vote in as high a percentage as your elders, 45 years of age and up. Many of you stayed home, perhaps even more than estimated, and that’s your fault. And a good portion of you were, and are still, uninformed as to what it all means.
It is true that areas where residents had higher education voted sharply for Remain, but those areas with less education only slightly went Leave. This is not scientific anyway, because there was no further breakdown so it is not known who within those areas voted which way or the other. Manufacturing areas that export to the EU actually voted Leave for the most part, but again, this is not scientific for the same reason as just mentioned.
Of course the press quickly found a few Leave supporters who expressed regret, as if it would be hard to find a handful of nervous nellies within 17.5 million voters. Some clueless ones were surprised by Cameron’s resignation after Remain’s loss. The British press said it would happen if Remain went down and even yours truly over here in La La Land knew Cameron would resign were he to take a big hit – that’s what they do in the UK. Does anyone think there were no Remain voters who thought they made a mistake as well? Please.
And there is a movement to re-referendum by Remain losers. This makes for more gratifying sour grapes copy by the trying-to-feel-better, biased press there and here, but it’s not gonna happen.
Now for my own selfish reasoning and view. As a Jew and a supporter of Israel, I wanted to know how Israel would be affected, and how Jews in the UK and in Europe would be affected as well. A Jewish Chronicle poll in May of UK Jews showed 49% Remain, 34% Leave, and 17% undecided.
PM Cameron, who actually, and in comparison to other European leaders, was most of the time quite decent with Israel, said it would be better for Israel for the UK to Remain so Britain could counter anti-Israel actions from within. Oh, really? How has that gone, oh, these last 23 years? The EU has been so nice to Israel, right? Jews have been kept safe in France and Britain and other places in Europe since the union’s inception, right?
And get this. On the same day as the Brexit vote, the EU joke of a parliament gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a standing ovation after a speech in which he espoused a modern day blood libel claim that Israeli rabbis were demanding that wells should be poisoned to kill the Palestinians.
Israel has enough enemies in Europe who bash it on a country by country basis and it doesn’t need those same enemies to also act as a condemnation collective shamefully enabling terrorism against Jews, or giving standing ovations to terrorism inciters.
EU countries on their own hurt Israel anyway outside of the EU parliament. They are quick to condemn Israel for defending itself, as they look the other way when Israelis are attacked or murdered by Palestinians on a daily basis. And they vote for Palestinian statehood and BDS sanctions. So I and others don’t buy it, Mr. Cameron.
Speaking of BDS, an outspoken opponent is Boris Johnson, who promoted Leave. He may now very well become Britain’s next Prime Minister. Johnson is wonderfully and unabashedly pro-Israel in the same mold as was Canada’s former PM Stephen Harper. More true friends we need.
So there. The UK said goodbye and I am OK with that, and a never timid, very strong Britain will be just fine once the shock of change diminishes and things settle down. And if other countries decide to leave the extravagantly expensive, self-aggrandizing, United Nations-like (actually worse because of forced mandates on member nations), anti-Israel European Union as well, and it collapses from its own bloated weight, I won’t mourn. I will say good riddance.