poland

Brexit – blaming “the selfish English”

Following global television coverage on BBC World, CNN and Euronews on the day of the referendum I came across aggressive comments made by Brussels officials, left-wing politicians and journalists.

“Damn, it’s a bad day for Europe,” said the Deputy Chancellor of Germany while the BBC’s Andrew Neil said that “extreme populism is taking over the world”, describing the events as “a jump without a parachute”.

In my opinion, as a Polish correspondent in London who has observed the increasing frustrations of the British for over 25 years, if one is looking for people to blame then they can be found on the other side of the English Channel. Not in London, but in Brussels. The individuals responsible for the EU crisis are Martin Schulz, Jean Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans as well as other high-ranking EU officials. They have weakened the Union’s strength, restricted its potential and are, perhaps, responsible for the failure of the whole initiative. Responsible in three ways: economically, politically and axiologically, that is concerned with values. Let us start with the economy: the European Union is a gigantic creation, immobile, very costly and not very competitive. It has no chance of being able to compete with today’s market leaders. Studying the economic explosions of China, India, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan it is difficult not to think: “these are places where you can see the future, where you can see tomorrow”. When it comes to the European Union, you’re lucky if you can see yesterday. And the British economy is ranked fifth in the world and was the first, after Germany of course, which came out of the red after the 2007 crisis. It is not a coincidence that David Cameron, while submitting his EU reform package to Brussels in February, dedicated one point to the lack of mobility, ambition and competitiveness of the giant. He knew what he was talking about given that the unemployment rate in Great Britain is 5% - compared to 10% in the EU and 19% in Spain.

The next point: the political project. It is worth remembering that the European Coal and Steel Community was created in 1951, just after World War II, in order to prevent further bloodshed and conflicts in Europe. It was designed to protect smaller states from aggression and economic exploitation, to democratise relations between countries and finally give everyone a chance to prosper. And what does it look like now? Political and economic domination by Germany – something the European Coal and Steel Community warned against – a not very democratic way of setting and implementing EU law, divisions according to more and less important countries, the continuous transfer of powers from national parliaments to Brussels, lecturing on how to live and the scrutinising of citizen’s pockets, beds and pans. In addition to complete indolence when it comes to tackling the real and most urgent problems of the Union – the tsunami of migrants, the collapse of public services with the EU, the growing internal divisions between euroenthusiasts and eurosceptics, the damaging of the delicate fabric of society.

And, last but not least, axiology. The foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community and later the European Economic Community, was based on Christian values. Today, however, the Maastricht Treaty plays a dominant role – based on left-wing liberal beliefs, openly conflicting with Christian values. Gradually and without protest, the value system has been altered – instead of the Bible we are presented with a “new Bible for our times”, political correctness, which tries to dictate our lives. Therefore, if we are really to point the finger at someone, then one needs to change the direction that we are pointing in – from London to Brussels.

Those who have lived in the United Kingdom for a longer amount of time, and that includes myself, are immune to the propaganda slogans propagated by the left-wing: such as “the selfish English” or “the populists won”. I recommend listening to George Soros…and taking the opposite view. Because it is like in Leszek Kolakowski’s “Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia”, in which the king first listens to his subjects and then announces the opposite opinion, as “the people are as much as home at the top as the king at the bottom, and that is it”. That is why British living standards have substantially decreased over the last 25 years, in terms of all public services, the health ministry, transport as well as the economy, finances and public security. When I went to hospital for a check-up in the 1990s, we had a two-person room and an English nurse. When I went back for a similar procedure last year, I was placed in a room with 11 beds, with two nurses, both of which were from outside Europe and not able to speak English well. One has to wait several months to see a specialist, and up to 2-3 years to get hip replacement surgery, unless you get it done privately.

School classes used to have 21-24 pupils, now they have over 40. And the educational programme is full of projects on “how not to become a little racist” as well as LGBT Friendship Weeks. The state budget is wilting under the demands of the welfare state, social benefit payments and immigrants continue to stream in. It is worth knowing that from 1997, 250,000 have come to the country every year – upon winning the election the Labour Party passed a law sanctioning this situation – in 2010 the Conservatives promised to decrease this number to 50,000 – 70,000, although in reality it increased to 330,000. When it comes to public security, the less said the better – it is enough to point to the July 5th attacks, the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight, there is widespread awareness of mosques as “terrorist nests” and the several thousand ISIS fighters who are of British origin.

In all fairness, one can call the populists people who pay taxes to Brussels in the sum of 17 billion pounds each year, spent on aims that they don’t support. For example, legal assistance for 4,160 immigrant murderers and rapists who can’t be thrown out of the country as the European Court of Human Rights decided that they are allowed to stay in the country due to their “right to family life”. And all of this at the cost of British tax payer’s money! Brexit has nothing to do with populism – rather it has a lot to do with healthy common sense as well as the refusal to be brainwashed any longer. In my humble opinion, and I have lived and worked in Great Britain for a quarter of a century, the British demonstrated great courage and pragmatism. One shouldn’t forget that it is an island country, still very wealthy with a high GDP and a long tradition of political and trade contacts around the world.

A lot can be said about the United Kingdom’s relations with the continent, which is reluctant – and on the other hand about a nation of traders and sailors with a 400 year history of an Empire “where the sun never sets”; there is hardly a family that doesn’t have connections to some far-away corner of the world. It is no coincidence that Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, chose China, India, and Brazil as the destinations of their first official foreign visits. The Chinese are investing huge amounts of money in British real-estate, building hotels, spas, production facilities, they already own many traditional British companies such as Thames Water and British Telecom. And there is not much that indicates that this will change any time soon. Russian oligarchs hover between Moscow and London, Indian software millionaires – or “computer millionaires” travel between Bangalore and the UK, whilst the Chinese middle class are, alongside petro billionaires, the biggest buyers of British luxury goods. And also this is not likely to change. A high-ranking American public official recently assured that the so-called special relationship between the two countries – in terms of economy, military, intelligence sharing – will not suffer as a result of Brexit. John Kerry is due to visit London already today before flying on to Brussels in the afternoon.

In point of fact, the British decision was based not only on rational argument and common sense. Both in the referendum regarding the secession of Scotland as well as the decision on whether the Falkland Islands should leave the Union, David Cameron used mainly economic and financial arguments. And this line of argument proved to be effective. But this time around, and I was pretty surprised by this myself, another factor emerged which the prime minister had not taken into consideration. After two admonishments from Brussels bureaucrats – the first in 2013 when David Cameron presented his reform programme to the news agency Bloomberg and Laurent Fabius said that “one can not have an a la carte Union”, and the second in February this year when the prime minister put forward his 4-point package, which once again was met with criticism – something changed. Economic factors were complemented with other arguments. Terms such as national sovereignty, national pride and the right to autonomy starting appearing in public debate. This was epitomized by Nigel Farage, who spouted the slogan “we want our country back”. And, low and behold, on Thursday this actually happened.

Recently a “citizen’s disobedience initiative” has been created. But the signatures collected on the streets of London by Labour Party and Green Party activists and trade unionists won’t help to make London an extra-territorial area, or trigger a second referendum on leaving the EU, or another referendum regarding the secession of Scotland. First of all, this is because Thursday’s referendum took place according to democratic rules. Second, the next prime minister, whoever this may be, is the only person mandated to call such a referendum. Third, this will no doubt be a conservative and the Tories still have four more years of their term left. And the millions of signatures wont give the rebels any guarantees apart from that the House of Commons will debate the problem. The arguments against holding a “Scottish referendum” will be the costs of such an undertaking and the fact that the Scots had the opportunity to vote for independence two years but decided against it.

Let me remind you that the previous First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, campaigned for an independence referendum for over a decade before Prime Minister David Cameron decided to take this step. And another thing – are these street initiatives not reminiscent of “citizen disobedience initiatives” conceptualized by Donald Tusk, such as his call not to pay television licence fees, or other initiatives campaigned for by Platforma Obywatelska and the KOD movement? Can the trail not be traced back to the EU, “The Guardian” “L’Humanite” and “Gazeta Wyborcza”? That is the left-wing which only respects democracy when it is in line with their plans and objectives? Do you remember the referendum on abortion that was repeated Ireland when the EU did not like the result the first time around? Now similar actions are taking place, this time in London.

Instead of stoking panic, Brexit should be seen as a new opening. For the EU and for Poland. As the previous EU model brought misfortune and Brexit has created a chance for us to present our reform proposals for the EU, outlining our vision for the Union. I’ll say more about Poles living in Great Britain – and their future – next time around.

ELŻBIETA KRÓLIKOWSKA-AVIS

30.06.2016