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Ole England, Nostalgia, and Brexit

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

There is a lesson for these Virgin Isles, and for countries striving for social and economic prosperity in the proceeding narrative.

It states that national success is not derived through the cynical adoption of populist xenophobia, austerity, and war mongering.

Real prosperity is created by putting effort and resources in raising the quality of life for the majority of a country’s citizens.

This can only be achieved by investing in a relevant education model, quality housing, and quality and accessible healthcare. Governments should ensure that investment in critical social, physical, and technological infrastructure,reaches every citizen. That is the best hope for peace and prosperity.

Now, Brexit is a child of Britain’s older generation. The British under 30s are overwhelmingly European in habit and outlook.

The younger generation has grown up, and adopted a culture, that is much more Euro friendly. The youth of Britain are correct in scratching their collective heads on the folly of parents and grandparents who voted to leave a Europe that has – quoting David Mitchell of the UK Guardian Newspaper- “more than any other institution in history, preserved the peace between the major nations of Europe”.

Britain’s youth appear wiser than their parents. They understand that the UKs trade and cultural links are today, primarily European.

Guardian Contributor Paul Mason, derides the fantasy of a Post Brexit Britain, “rekindling its colonial empire as a market and diplomatic sphere of influence”.

He sees false hope in an economic alliance between Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and former economic dependencies, such as Nigeria and India.

Taking an opposing view, Economist Andrew Lilico, believes in a hard Brexit: viciously cutting the cord tying the UK to Europe. Lilico wants a military alliance involving the white English speaking countries.

Add to that a free movement deal that would facilitate economic and social prosperity in the “White Commonwealth”. There is a rationale behind Lilico’s assertions. It rests on the cultural and social similarities between these countries.

However, Lilico assertions are limited by caveats.

Australia is in China’s Asia Pacific geographic sphere of influence. As China’s economic and military power grows, Australia will find China a much more important factor in its own security and prosperity, than a nostalgic cry from the past to revive an imperial culture. Then, Canada will always find the USA its most important economic partner.

Geography, geopolitics, and raw economic power, override melancholia, history, and culture, in today’s global environment.

The facts show that Britain will be worse off for Brexit. Why then does the country appear determined to leave Europe against its own interests? The reason exists in the nature of the thinking of right wing British Conservatism.

Xenophobia in the UK is molded by the right wing press, and a nostalgia that sees the glorious and imperial past, as a vision for tomorrow.

Liam Fox is the UK Minister for International Trade. In March, 2017, Fox attempted to persuade the 52 nations of the Commonwealth into a free trade agreement with the UK.

This was an exercise in futility. Why? The majority of these countries presently have free trade with the EU owing to their links with Britain.

Mason describes a Britain that yearns to go back to the time when her destiny was to rule the waves, through sea power and cultural hegemony. Those days are no more.

Linda Colley wrote a story in the Guardian of June 14, 2017 headlined, “Britain and the US once ran the world. Now they are all at sea”. In her narrative, Colley asserted that the UK and USA were losing ground partly because of a rising Asia.

Consequently, older whites in both countries disliked what they perceived as a decline and loss of direction. With the loss of national power, is loss of status of a country’s citizens.

In the US, Trump used the fear of a rising China, and the hemorrhage of jobs and investments to China and Mexico, and stopping illegal immigration, by building a Great Wall, to steer himself into the White House.

In the same vein, Brexit was a solution to unacceptable immigration, and a halt to national decline: a UK freed from Europe would recover and reestablish her historic destiny, as an independent global player, and world power.

Colley describes in her story how on both sides of the Atlantic, “sections of the right have been made deeply unhappy by the pace and nature of global change’’.

In the USA and UK, the establishments have failed to “successfully address the harsh realities of a shifting world”.
The new world is fast shifting and uncertain. Power and wealth in the west is declining in relative terms when compared with an emergent China and Asia. What is the solution for the UK? There is one. It sits with the small developed states.

Michael O’Sullivan and David Skilling writing in the Foreign Affairs Blog of June 8, 2017, “LESSONS OF SMALL STATES,’’ asserted that, in the past 30 years, developed countries from Sweden to New Zealand have outstripped their larger peers in terms of economic growth and quality of life.

These countries share certain specifics. They invest in education and training. This investment follows a pattern: from compulsory vocational and university education, to lifelong learning.

They boost their competitive advantage by investing heavily in high quality infrastructure such as the information technology sectors. They have strong social protection systems that support their most vulnerable, even when there is economic recession.

More interestingly, the broadest lesson from the world’s small developed states is that economic success depends on INTANGIBLE INFRASTRUCTURE.

This is ensuring the availability and quality of education, public health provision, technology, and leveraging effectively a country’s geography, uniqueness, and social and economic advantages.

Interestingly, this is Keynesian economic theory. John Maynard Keynes argued that the best way to achieve a successful economy was to generate aggregate demand, by investing in the social infrastructure. In other words invest in all the people, not a tiny minority of people.

The British General Election of June 8 showed that British Citizens had a better understanding of global realities than their political leaders. The British, especially young Britons, fully understand that austerity has been Britain’s undoing. They further perceive that there is no viable future for Britain outside of Europe.

The good news is that the two pivots of Europe, Germany and France do not want the UK outside of Europe. Both nations understand that both the UK and Europe are worse off with Brexit. The USA is drifting towards isolationism. That makes the case for a strong Europe that shall become the new anchor of western stability.

More interestingly, a recent poll showed that a second Brexit referendum would see a turnabout. The majority of Britons would stay in Europe if a new referendum were held today.

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