Political

The Morning After The Night Before – I Mean Brexit!

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By the time you read this, we will have had a little taste of the aftermath following on from a shock win for the UK Br exit campaign. Dear God help us! In the months and weeks leading up to the referendum, I remained a fervent supporter of the Br exit campaign, but when I cast my vote in the near closing hours of the referendum voting day, I must say I did so with a sense of resignation. The media forecasts during the day had been predicting results showing the Remain camp as being in the lead. I wasn’t surprised as that had always been my expectation judging from poll analysis in the lead up.

By the late evening when I was yet to cast my vote, I felt I had very little reason to believe that the Br exit camp could still win and I almost completely abandoned the idea of voting. I finally decided to catch the polling station less than an hour before voting was due to close. After voting, I went straight home and didn’t bother to turn on the news in my certainty that the Br exit campaign had already lost. I retired to bed shortly after and even the following morning still wasn’t in the mood to switch on the news to listen to jubilation’s of victory by supporters of the Remain campaign. My surprise and elation knew no bounds when just before 9am the following morning, I finally succumbed to the temptation to check the frantic alerts that had been coming in rapid succession through to my phone. I was shocked and immediately saddened to learn David Cameron had resigned and that against all the odds, the Brexit vote had won! There are scores of people now expressing alarm and dismay at what the decision by the UK to exit the EU implies. Call me stupid but I don’t for one minute share such sentiments and it is not because I am under any illusions about the fact that we are in for a rather rough ride for a period no one can determine as yet. On so many levels, the Brexit victory illustrates the simmering grass root dissatisfaction that eventually spilled over into the ballot box.

In the weeks leading up to the referendum, key figures, economic experts, heads of think tanks and even a few international leaders seemed to be falling over themselves and lining up to offer the most dire predictions of economic disaster in the event of a Brexit win. From the Prime Minister to the Governor of the Bank of England, heads of FTSE listed companies and big businesses etc; all weighed in on the debate in support of the Remain campaign ultimately to no avail. I personally was never in doubt that I wanted an exit from the EU and no amount of dire predictions was going to convince me otherwise because I simply applied layman’s logic to guide my decision. The case for leaving the EU in my mind were too glaring to be ignored. The social and economic cost of continuing in the EU could no longer be justified in the face of crumbling public service provision and infrastructure, chronic under-funding, a massive slide in the general standard of living for vast sections of the ordinary working population; set against the disproportionate high cost of living and above all, the repressively bureaucratic nature of the EU and its impact on the UK’s sovereignty and jurisdictions. Yes, there are some benefits to the EU, but simply not enough for what we were giving away and would continue to give away for decades to come. The more that politicians screeched on about how better off we were in the EU, the more my resolve hardened to vote out as the basic economic arguments simply didn’t stack up. I am no economist, but the size of the UK is a pin prick by many comparisons. Immigration numbers continue to swell and to flock into the UK year on year, taking immense toll on the UK’s capacity to directly or indirectly accommodate the ensuing chain of social and financial obligations necessitated by immigrant influx. Having lived and worked in the UK for longer than I care to count, I make my surmises based on practical experience of its impacts and not the on sentiments of wanting the UK to be seen as an open, liberal and multi-culturally oriented society. I have no problem with us being all of these thing if we can afford to foot the cost of what it takes to generally provide a decent standard of living for as many as are willing to work hard to achieve it. The concept of EU integration based on free movement of people across the EU has always to my mind sounded impractical and unsustainable. Governments simply do not have unlimited capacity infra-structurally and financially, to cater to the immigration influx on such unprecedented scales. Hard choices invariably have to be made when untenable levels of demand are reached, as I think they have in the UK or near so. While political mainstream figures frequently attempt to play down the real crisis levels that have been reached across wide areas of public service provision, lives of ordinary hard working people are being adversely affected by the near melt down that has no end in sight if we stick with the status quo.

We hear the usual mantra about how immigration is good for the nation and my argument is not that it isn’t, but there is such a thing as taking even a good thing too far! The ability of the UK to accommodate vast numbers of immigrants must be as near on par with its ability to provide a decent and cost-even standard of living for as many as possible and that in my experience is simply not the case. The UK has record number of homeless people on its streets, record numbers of people who cannot afford to rent or buy homes despite the fact that they work all the hours God sends, record numbers of state schools that simply cannot cope with the demand for school places and record numbers of people who cannot get or afford decent quality of healthcare or GP (General Practitioner) attention when they need it due to the near crumbling state of the NHS in many parts of the UK. Luckily, I do not depend on the NHS as I am fortunate to have excellent private health insurance. But it costs me much to maintain and many people simply cannot afford the costs of private health care and are therefore stuck with depending on a health service virtually on its knees. Yet our politicians still think it is a good idea to be part of an EU framework that is fundamentally based on an unsustainable principle of free movement of people. The UK is not the size of the USA or Australia and even these nations that are geographically more endowed than the UK, have their own concerns about immigration and they continue to take necessary steps to stem the flow of influx into their countries to ensure they don’t become cornered by overwhelm. Why do we get accused of being anti-immigration when we choose not to ignore glaring facts about worsening social living conditions caused by a system bursting at its seams and increasingly unable to cope? I voted to opt out of an EU alliance which among other issues, also does not permit the UK as a sovereign nation, freedom to determine a better suited immigration policy instead of us allowing this to continue being shaped by EU jurisdiction. We keep hearing about how the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world. Well it does not feel like that for the majority.

The UK spends a most disproportionate amount of its resources on supporting a welfare system that does not provide sufficient incentives to those who are on it, to find work and to stay in work. I can’t blame many on benefits because for many of them, it simply does not pay to work full time. The reality for most is that the cost of public transport, child care (if applicable) and rent are so prohibitive that the tendency is to give up on the idea of working even before commencing. The UK system encourages poverty rather than self-sufficiency or even wealth. It is into this system that we attract hordes of immigrants who upon arriving, get shoved or sucked into the poverty trap, together with their families. The argument also is given, that immigrants do many of the jobs that we don’t see white English people doing and for that reason immigrants provide great benefits by supporting the UK work force. No doubt true, but truth from a rather flawed perspective. I choose to view it from a slightly different angle and its not a complimentary one to white English folks – sorry! The realities of poverty that face many immigrants who come into the UK is such that they often will go to every length, more so than their white counterparts, to get an education, re-train and secure any jobs available. White counterparts do not necessarily go to these same lengths and what has happened over decades is that these types of roles get filled by those who are most desperate for them. You find that as you climb higher up the social scale and ladder of employment, you don’t witness as many immigrants in those positions as you find white counterparts. Why is that? I dare any politician or similar person to tell me why they think that it is a good thing for the country’s public services to be shouldered mainly by immigrants, many of whose first language isn’t even English, but it isn’t okay for this same level of representation to be reflected in more prestigious, higher paid positions across the work spectrum. If this isn’t silent racism at its most stealthy, I don’t know what is. Someone tell me who are the real racists? The ordinary man on the street who says it as he sees and feels it by exercising the civic right to vote on issues of concern to them or the posh talkers who tell us what or what not to think or say; but who appear to preside over a system that very rarely provides immigrants opportunities to achieve a genuinely good standard of life for them and their families. So when people express the fact that immigrants provide the greatest support to the network of public service provisions, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or rant at the ignorance and the smug condescension these comments are often layered with. Don’t get me wrong, I have the most passionate love and pride for my country, its values (some!) and its traditions of catering for the less privileged. But that’s why I can be unapologetically passionate about some of the social issues that affect more of the masses than many creamed politicians who simply are oblivious to these realities. Though British by birth, I am also Nigerian by parentage. I will always have the opportunity to move back to the country that I do love and have bonded ties with. Many who are familiar with Nigeria can attest that while it is an extremely vibrant country, it is not an easy country to live in or to adapt to. In fact it can be hell on earth unless one has sufficient means to foot the cost of maintaining an affluent lifestyle. But the fact remains that though I technically am not an immigrant, I do have an immigrant consciousness. Despite my strong sense of belonging in the UK as my primary place of abode, I also have the same sense of belonging when I am in Nigeria, which leaves me very open to the possibility of moving back. In fact at some point in the near future, I will be doing just that and vacating my portion of allocated space here in the UK, for hordes more immigrants to occupy (I’m sure it won’t just be a 1:1 substitution). The same applies for many immigrants in this country who maintain their nostalgic links with their nations of origin and sometimes even harbor plans of moving back at some point in their future. On the contrary, there are millions of ordinary British folks who apart from holiday trips taken, have no option than the UK. For them, British culture and its values is what gives them their sense of cultural and national identity and they don’t wish to see this gradually and increasingly replaced through persistently uncurtailed immigration by some kind of non-specific world cultural ism that constantly chips away at the essence of what British culture is all about. If they choose to migrate to other nations they are still British citizens living in another country. By contrast, when I move back to Nigeria, I am not regarded as a Briton living in Nigeria, but as a Nigerian living like any other, in the midst of predominantly fellow Nigerians. This makes the crucial difference in terms of perception and my sense of cultural identity. I know of colleagues who have simply packed up and moved to other climes because they were fed up with some of these aspects of the cultural and economic impacts of mass immigration and the sense of things being out of control.

This may or not be a valid position to hold but one’s perception is their reality. These are real concerns and only just a few of the issues that affect the consideration as to whether the EU is a force for the overall good of the UK, or a force for something that the UK never anticipated. If that makes me a racist or a person to be labelled with some derogatory label, then I ‘happily’ accept the label because I simply can’t shed these concerns or pretend that I don’t have them not just for myself who does not even plan to live here for much longer, but also for the scores of ordinary people that I engage in conversation with who are often too cautious about voicing their deepest concerns for fear of being labelled. I give you a simple analogy based on my layman’s logic, rather than on what I am told by smooth-talking politicians. I have a three bedroom house which can only cater for a limited number of occupants, for example three adults. I also earn a fixed amount of income that can only support a certain stretch in my expenditure, my living costs and not much else beyond that. I might have the most noble intentions to accommodate more people in my home with its limited space and my limited earnings; but the fact is, I can only stretch my noble intentions so far by accommodating just a few more people. So, in addition to the original occupants of my home, I may choose to accommodate a further five persons. By this time it would be quite a stretch, with me now having to house and cater for eight people in total. Don’t forget my home has originally been designed to accommodate just three people. At this point, I sensibly begin to appreciate that I am stretched to the limits financially. No matter how much I would wish to take in more occupants, I wouldn’t for instance be able to accommodate a further thousand people in this same home, on a salary already stretched to absolute limits and expect us all to still live comfortably and harmoniously within the limited space.

Even if these occupants were to offer me some additional supplement to subsidize the cost of their occupancy, there would still be other logistical problems of capacity being stretched to unacceptable levels. There would be a need for additional toilets, bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens needing to be built within the space limits. It would not be racist, xenophobic, homophobic or phobic of me in any way to insist that my home and my income could only cater for a certain number of occupants. I would also find it inconceivable that my right to that decision could be challenged by an external party/parties who had little or no understanding of my financial challenges or my personal preferences as regarding who I chose to give my home access to. I have offered a rather simplistic analogy I know, but this illustration serves me better than all the political spin being dished out around the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU. This basic logic strikes me as the reason why it made absolute common sense for the UK to exit the EU and for me to support the Brexit campaign. It is not anti-immigration to reject the idea of uncontrolled influx against the backdrop of shrinking investment in public services. Neither do I think or believe for one moment that Nigel Farage (leader of UKIP) is bigoted or racist to raise the alarm about social issues and conditions in a tone that resonates with the realities of present day experience for the majority. His plain and uncompromising speaking is in contrast with the whitewashed picture that politicians and those who live in rose-tinted baubles try to present. If that makes racists of us who hold this view and who prefer to appraise things from the perspective of the common man on the street, then I’m afraid politicians are more out of touch than I gave them credit for, and the absence of common sense across the mainstream political spectrum is more real than I imagined. Of course there are many ordinary folks who, as they are perfectly entitled to, hold a different view and would prefer for the UK to remain in the EU. It is simply a matter of perspective and what one chooses to priorities. They point to other factors as reasons for their preference; like there being greater strength in unity and the stability of being part of a wider socioeconomic EU framework, as good enough reasons not to upset the apple cart. Well, I like upsetting the apple cart if I think there is good enough reason to do so, and in the case of the UK’s exit from the UK, I absolutely am convinced we can weather the ensuing storms of temporary economic upsets that will certainly beset us for some time. I don’t think however that we will be able to continue coping with the economic burden caused as well by untrammeled immigration, if we don’t get this particular act in check over the coming years and decades. I utterly reject the notion that without the EU, the UK cannot succeed as a sovereign nation forging its way in the world like many other successfully independent nations; in a manner better targeted at addressing the complex socioeconomic needs of this great country. Following the Brexit win, those misguided few who choose to engage in opportunistic hate crimes and slurs should where apprehended face the full wrath of the law (and some), because encouraging racist and other petty attitudes is not what Brexit represents and should not be seen as such. It is an utter disgrace that criminally minded people try to make sick capital of whatever positives that we should be looking forward to from the Brexit outcome. Anyone who imagines that a vote for Brexit was not going to have immediate knee-jerk and adverse impacts for a while to come has probably not grasped the magnitude and scale of what exiting the EU means for the UK. Perhaps they need to go sign up for an online petition currently being circulated, asking for a 2nd referendum to be held. They want to smother us with referendums until the vote goes their way. So, much for democracy or should I call it democracy by dictatorship. Another analogy; the fact that a boil hasn’t burst does not mean that it should not be lanced in order to rid the body of accumulated toxins and pus, in order to give the body a proper chance to heal. I see the EU as a boil the UK needs to lance once and for all and however painful the process. If it takes us years to heal then so be it, but one way or the other, if the boil is lanced the body will surely heal. If we don’t lance the boil, we surrender ourselves to its uncontrolled poisoning. Yet another simplistic analogy, but that’s the analogy I trust to make my decisions rather than listening to gobbledygook politicians and their equally gobbledygook spin. Not everyone may share my views or concerns but these concerns are representative should not be derided.

I am not against immigration or immigrants. I am against uncontrolled immigration when in the face of systemic public service cuts and under-investment, the government knows very well that they have little capacity to invest sufficiently in the long term needs of these immigrants in order to provide the necessary incentives to help them to genuinely advance beyond the social poverty bracket. Already the recriminations, the backlash, the knee-jerk as well as witch-hunt reactions have commenced and our typically staid and predictable UK political scene has suddenly become an exciting spectacle of intrigue and mystique! I love the combustible political atmosphere happening at the moment. It is exciting, it is certainly encouraging debate and attack, and people are sitting up! Many are even regretting casting their vote for Brexit. Hilarious! Did these spongy Brexit voters not realize that a vote for Brexit would at least in the short term have reactions of seismic proportions? In the lead up to the referendum, every catastrophic financial prediction that could be thrown at this debate was thrown. We were told financial Armageddon would happen if Brexit won. So, what on earth did they expect to happen when Brexit won? Did they seriously expect calm? Eventually maybe, but certainly not before the massive storm of market and political reactions right across the board, spilling over onto the international circuit. Where were these people then? Did they have their ears blocked with cotton wool? Where they led blindfolded to the voting booths? Did they think they could vote Brexit and then roll over in their beds and not expect economic reactions of tumultuous proportions? Well, there is much more to come and many are already jittery. I can’t stand weak-kneed people who vacillate from one opinion to another. There were three choices during this referendum; to vote in, to vote out or to not vote. People need to know what they want and stand by it if they are convinced. To have voted without a sense of conviction about the crucial issues at stake. I have little patience for those who less than 48 hours into the market fallout from a Brexit win, were already looking for who to blame and for how to change their vote! Purleeze! At this rate we won’t find anyone with the gumption to actually proceed with invoking the EU’s Article 50. Everyone is now quaking at the knees. Why bother to call a referendum or give us a choice to vote and promise to abide by its results and all the hassle that came with it, if leaders are going to start buckling. While we buckle at the knees, EU leaders have started to show the stuff of which friendship is made by demanding we get on with it and get out! So much for loyalties. At least they could have waited a full week before the daggers were out! No doubt that the UK is in for a period of economic downturns and adverse conditions for what I hope won’t be a protracted period. There is no reason to believe that the UK cannot weather the storm of economic unpredictability and emerge from it well positioned to do itself better justice than that which was served us within the EU.

Market conditions will regularize and our astute economists shall continue to take appropriate economic measures to stabilize the economy for the longer term gain. If the UK in its days of empire glory when it colonized vast sections of the globe, could grant these same colonies their independence; allowing them to embark on their own journey of self-governance and independence, I don’t see why the same UK cannot successfully forge its own destiny, independent from the EU. I appreciate that we are speaking of a different time and era, but the principle remains the same. Choosing to go it alone rather than remaining paired up to a complex alliance, too mammoth-like to manage effectively, is not an isolationist move. But even if it is, it is not the end of the world for the UK, or for its chances to prosper. There is talk of the Brexit win being a Pyrrhic victory and one that could cost the UK far more than the trouble to secure the victory was worth. That may well be so though I don’t think so for all the reasons I’ve outlined earlier. I would say the same for the Remain campaign that had it won that would be in every sense have been a Pyrrhic victory. But the truth is that whatever side of the argument divide you happen to be on, everyone (apart from our enemies) wishes the UK the very best in her future direction and in the many choices and decisions left yet to make as this unprecedented situation continues to unfold.

From my heart to yours, always,

Kobi Emmanuella-King

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