domingo, 31 de julho de 2016
Betrayal of the local Brexit voter
Betrayal of the local Brexit voter
Leave supporters thought they were voting against globalization. But in Theresa May’s Britain, they’ll likely get more.
7/31/16, 7:17 AM CET
When Britain voted last month by a narrow but decisive margin to leave the European Union, it was, in essence, a popular protest against globalization.
Voters who felt left behind by globalization and under pressure from immigration expressed a desperate desire for protection from the buffeting forces of economic liberalism. Sadly, in the United Kingdom’s current political and economic climate, their cry for help is likely to go unaddressed.
The principle that there can be no superior lawmaking body to Westminster is deeply entrenched in British history. When Britain became a member of the European Economic Community in 1973, the idea of a supranational legal entity — with the power to supersede parliament — struck a discordant note among the country’s citizenry.
Concerns over sovereignty came to a dramatic head in the aughts, when a massive wave of migration — amounting to over 2 million people — followed the admission of ex-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe to the EU in 2004.
This migration might have been successfully absorbed had it not been for the credit crunch of 2008, a crisis that fundamentally altered the politics both of Britain and the Continent.
The Conservative government is likely to encourage enterprise by lowering corporation tax, and perhaps personal taxation as well.
Up until then, politics had been largely dominated by economics, and by arguments about the role of the state in economic affairs. Post-2008, however, questions of identity came to the fore.
Ed Miliband, former leader of the U.K. Labour Party, had hoped that 2008 would prove a social democratic moment, that resentment over the role of bankers and financiers in the crisis would help the moderate left gain political traction. But, in Britain, as on the Continent, it proved a nationalist moment.
Indeed, the only two parties to make significant gains in the 2015 general election in Britain were UKIP, dedicated to taking Britain out of the EU, and the Scottish National Party, dedicated to taking Scotland out of the U.K.
Both emphasize issues of identity over economics. They don’t complain that their political opponents are insufficiently left-wing or right-wing, but that they are insufficiently British or Scottish.
Concerns about identity are felt most strongly by the disadvantaged and insecure — victims of social and economic change who feel alienated from a banking and financial establishment that appears to have weathered the crisis with far less difficulty.
Fifty years ago, most school-leavers could move immediately into a job. For many, that is no longer the case. Communities who suffered from the manufacturing industry’s decline are neither socially nor geographically mobile; 60 percent of the British population live within 20 miles of where they grew up. They do not share the multicultural perspective of Londoners, who welcome immigration and favor the EU.
Britain’s elite, by contrast, is internationalist. It is more comfortable in Brussels than in Blackpool or Burnley.
It is the elite that has primarily benefited from immigration. The appeal was less obvious for those struggling to make ends meet. The social effects of immigration hit them hardest, and they watched with growing dread as their communities were transformed beyond their control.
The referendum vote was in essence a cry of rage by the victims of globalization. In voting Leave, they sought protection against market forces which, so they believed, were costing them their jobs and holding down their wages. They wanted, above all, restrictions on immigration from the EU.
Once again, however, they are unlikely to get what they want. Most Brexit campaign leaders outside UKIP were Conservatives with an entirely different agenda.
They sought Brexit for Thatcherite reasons, to ensure a more effective version of the market economy, freed from the restrictions of Jacques Delors’ Social Europe. They oppose not globalization, but social protection.
Far from gaining shelter from world economic forces, average Brexit voters will find themselves even more exposed.
This economically liberal view is likely to prevail in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Britain — not the populist view of those who voted for Brexit. Indeed, it must, if Britain is to survive economically.
Surviving will require becoming more competitive, opening up markets and embracing free trade. It will mean a radical shrinking of the state, something that is likely to disadvantage those same voters who believed Brexit would protect them from the excesses of globalization.
The Conservative government is likely to encourage enterprise by lowering corporation tax, and perhaps personal taxation as well. This will have to be financed by reducing public spending, and will put further pressure on social and welfare expenditure, already reeling from six years of austerity.
Far from gaining shelter from world economic forces, average Brexit voters will find themselves even more exposed. They will have no choice but to sink or swim in a far harsher economic climate.
Vernon Bogdanor is professor of government at King’s College, London.