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Understanding the Brexit vote

UNionFlagWhat’s the big deal about the vote by Brits to leave the European Union (EU)? That’s across the pond and has nothing to do with us in the U.S., right?

Not quite true. Global capitalism has us all connected – for better or for worse. And while the complexities of the exit implementation (which may take years) are still being figured out, there are some simple take-ways.

Brexit, the shortened slang for British Exit of the EU, was a referendum to determine whether the UK would stay or leave the Union. The election saw the country’s highest voter turnout in nearly 25 years – 72 per cent.

Who were the voters and what did their vote really represent? Here’s what we know:

Most rural voters said yes to leaving the EU. Most city dwellers were in favor of staying. The baby boomers trounced the millennials with their majority yes votes to leave. The more educated voters favored staying, while the less educated demanded out. Racial groups like Caribbeans, Africans, Chinese and Pakistani voted to stay put while those who claimed English heritage said hell-to-the-no. Those who called themselves Christian told the EU to hit the road, but the majority of those who described themselves as Muslims voted to stay put.

The only grouping that saw no significant gap was the vote between men and women.

Is the scenario starting to sound familiar? If not, let me bring it on home with a quote from U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on the referendum. Trump was in the U.K. at the time of the big vote promoting his new golf course in Scotland.

“I really do see a parallel between what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening here,” Trump told reporters. He pompously declared the people of the United Kingdom are angry and have “taken their country back” from people “pouring into their country and taking over.”

This column is not about the virtues or vices of the European Union. Globalism has created discontent and uprisings all over the world. The vast majority of the world’s people is experiencing corporate greed and suffering under the austere policies passed by politicians to maintain the obscene profits of the rich.

The Brexit vote plunged the value of English currency (the pound). Stock markets from Tokyo to New York tumbled. The referendum set in motion a turbulent ripple in the global economy. and economists are unable to predict the full impact.

The parallel that Trump gloats about is the white supremacy that fuels the racial scapegoating in both countries. Not fully understanding the financial consequences of Brexit, the racial prejudices and fears of white voters were stoked by conservative forces to win a victory. The same divide-and-conquer tactic is used here.

The immigration issue has been over-simplified to claim that immigrants are taking over said countries. The generalization is void of an objective critique of the economic policies and military actions that create de-stabilization of countries and the subsequent flow of refugees looking for safety and security wherever they can find them.

This is a situation worth watching for several good reasons. We may not know where the financial meltdown ends or whether the EU is heading for total dismantlement. We do know that the exit vote exposed a huge racial, class, religious and cultural divide – just the way the global capitalists like it.


Published St. Louis American, June 27, 2016


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