MORE to folly
From top President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker blocks UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP yesterday; Dan Boyle
Last week’s Brexit vote, which the author signalled, was a triumph of hate over responsibility.
Dan Boyle writes:
No surprise but one hell of a mess.
Some voted against the over bearing arrogance of the European Commission. Some recognised the continuing democratic deficit within the EU, although a country with an unelected head of State, second chamber, and without a written constitution is hardly best placed to be flag bearers for democracy.
As with most referenda many voted to get at the government. A government, whoever its new head is to be, that will now have free rein thanks to those who voted with their spleen.
Others spoke about getting rid of red tape. This was code for less consumer entitlements, less workers rights, less environmental standards.
However the phrase that worked, that stuck, was ‘taking our country back’. No code here. For those living in the neglected, discarded communities of Northern England and South Wales the easiest of answers were provided for their continuing plight.
For them it was made all too clear that all their problems were the fault of ‘Johnny Foreigner’.
My recent eight months on John Bull’s first island showed me how ugly public discourse had become there. The louder Nigel Farage and his ilk became the greater the licence given to those whose racist tendencies could now be given full flowering.
It will be difficult to put this genie back in the bottle. A genie, being an utterly inappropriate analogy, not being sufficiently British enough.
It could be that after two years of taking their country back there could be a realisation as to how deep a hole the country has dug itself into. By that stage an independent Scotland will be well on the way to being established, and the newly formed islet of Norn Iron will be nursed into being.
The likelihood is that another referendum will take place, not necessarily to overturn the decision now made, but to offer the alternative to EU membership that will have been agreed.
By that time the Sun will have finally set on the Empire. It may or may not change mindsets. The only certainty is that a terrible ugliness has been reborn. It is a triumph of hate over responsibility.
In Ireland we can’t afford to be too smug about these things. Scratch the surface in many of our discarded communities and we may see similar forces being unleashed.
Maybe the preoccupation with issues of lesser importance that have over involved us recently, have been something of a safety valve.
While I prefer an obsession over water than renewed racism at any time, in both our countries we continue to sideline the more important issues that are further marginalising those communities affected.
We should cry for all our beloved countries.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Top pic: AP
From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012
It is time for us now to re-examine the EU project, to question its direction and to remind it of its founding purpose and to forego the lap-dog like personas our leaders assume when they go to Europe.
Anne Marie McNally writes:
What a week it has been. It was a mass exodus. Britain exited Europe. David Cameron exited office. The Labour shadow cabinet exited in their droves and we exited the Euros followed swiftly by Iceland forcing England to say goodbye to all things European for the second time in a week…the drama.
Online and off the debate has raged following the seismic Brexit result. Those on the leave side both here and in Great Britain declared it a ‘working-class revolt’ and pointed to people who had voted leave as a direct rejection of the undemocratic nature of the EU project and the effects of the austerity the institutions have imposed on working and middle-class communities across Britain and Ireland.
Those on the Remain side argued that Britain had made the single biggest mistake in its European history; that leave voters had now opened the door to anti-immigrant rhetoric (or worse) and had essentially facilitated both racism and recession to take hold across Great Britain.
Both sides of the argument are not without merit and the realities we now find ourselves in are entirely uncharted waters with neither side being entirely sure how to sail through what are undoubtedly choppy currents.
The arguments on the Remain side cannot be underestimated. There is no way of avoiding the reality that jobs have been and will continue to be lost, the economy has and will suffer and sterling has and will continue to weaken.
Many on the leave side will say ‘great, the financial big-wigs in the City will suffer’ and that’s true (we’ve already seen the million/billionaires having share wealth decimated) but it’s worth remembering that vast amounts of inclusion projects, community development projects and youth services are funded directly via EU initiatives. These will cease.
Vulnerable communities will notice their absence in a far greater way than Michael O’Leary will notice a few million gone from his personal stash.
In addition to the pulling of direct EU funding from community initiatives, UK Government funding is also likely to reduce as a result of economic hardship – either real or imagined because make no mistake, when there is a plausible excuse to cut such initiatives they do.
We’ve seen it here – our community sector suffered disproportionate cuts at the first sign of recession back in 2008 and it hasn’t recovered since.
Those on the margins of society and those suffering in working class communities are the ones who bear the brunt of these cuts. I worry about a nose being cut off to spite a face in the Brexit result.
On the flip side there are the arguments, the non-racist or ignorant ones, for Leave.
The reality that the EU has ceased to be a democratic project and that the notion of solidarity – one of the pillars upon which the EU was established – has long since been abandoned.
People have watched as unelected technocrats have assumed dictator-like positions of power and have sat on high issuing instructions for the whipping of the ‘little people’ in their kingdoms.
Citizens of every EU country watched as the Greek crisis unfolded, and whether you agreed with the Greek’s handling of their own economy or not – you had to be a least slightly concerned by the lengths the EU institutions were prepared to go to smash democracy into the ground in that country and if the citizens had to go with it then so be it, it seemed.
Likewise with the current refugee crisis – only the Trump supporters among us will look at images of families being water cannoned or lined up behind barbed fences or fished from the seas without feeling utterly aghast at the lack of human solidarity on display from the EU institutions who should be leading by example.
There is a massive disconnect between citizens and the EU and never has that been more clearly stated than in the Leave result.
It is time for us now to re-examine the EU project, to question its direction and to remind it of its founding purpose, to forgo the lap-dog like personas our leaders assume when they go to Europe and to begin challenging the undemocratic processes that have created a Game of Thrones style hierarchy of countries – us wildlings are getting angry and the self-appointed leaders will pay the price of that anger.
But I fear we may suffer huge hardship to our ranks before those on high hear the message.
Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally
From top: Euro coin; Michael Taft
A Europe that descends towards disintegration and far-right ascendency, mainstream paralysis and progressive atrophy will wash over our shores and no amount of corporate tax appeasement will prove an adequate flood defence.
Michael Taft writes:
Does the Brexit vote, with all its contradictions and incongruities, represent an anti-establishment vote?
The Brexit campaign was a struggle between two wings of the Tory party (including its breakaway, UKIP). Boris Johnston, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage on one side – representing small and nativist capital; David Cameron representing large and finance capital.
In essence, it was two establishments warring against each other as the chronically obstreperous alliance within the Tories broke down into a fight over ascendency and personalities. These two ‘establishments’ set the choice and the parameters of the debate.
Ultimately, the Johnston/UKIP wing was successful as it proved adept at exploiting many people’s intolerable economic circumstances and profound experience of powerlessness, projecting these on to the EU (not to mention outright appeals to an ultra-nationalism and anti-immigrant prejudice described London Mayor Sadiq Khan as ‘Project Hate’).
This was a remarkable feat given that the Johnston/Gove/Farage troika were the chief cheerleaders of home-grown British austerity and the neo-liberalism that dominates EU policy.
The proportion of the Brexit vote that was a legitimate vote against austerity and powerlessness was effectively co-opted by right-wing elitist forces.
So, yes, the Brexit vote can be interpreted as two-fingers to the establishment. But only if it is remembered that those two fingers are attached to the hand of forces that Paul Mason rightly claims want to turn Britain into a ‘Thatcherite free-market wasteland’.
So how do we read this? As Thomas Fricke points out, the overwhelming majority of blue-collar workers supported the far-right Freedom Party in the recent Austria presidential campaign.
Does this constitute a vote for far-right values? Or it is a vote for the only outlet left to express opposition against alienation, loss of power, loss of identity – a vote which represents the powerlessness that working people experience throughout Europe and not just Britain.
In any event, what was the argument for Remain? To stay in an undemocratic and, at times, anti-democratic EU (witness the attack on elected Governments in Italy and Greece)? An EU which demands adherence to irrational fiscal rules that impoverishes huge swathes of Europe? An EU which has botched a common immigration policy?
An EU based on a flawed currency design overseen by a flawed central bank. Distant, centralised and bureaucratic – as one leading German insider put it – a bloodless technocracy: very difficult to mount an argument for that.
Cameron – and his wing of the Tory party – was even more compromised; having made a virtue for years of attacking the EU, detaching the UK at every opportunity; all in the name of maintaining ascendency over the nativist Troika, or at least an uneasy truce.
When this broke down, when battle commenced, arguing for Remain was a circle too big to be squared. Labour and progressives were reduced to either highlighting the dangers of Brexit (‘it’s bad now, but it could get worse’ – hardly a positive message), or producing abstractions such as ‘remain and reform’, without detailing what those reforms might be or if they were even possible. In truth, progressives were never going to win a battle that was being fought out between the two wings of the Tory establishment.
Ultimately, the anti-establishment vote merely ended up reinforcing an establishment which is seeking more ‘freedom’ from EU restraints, to exploit labour (Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘bonfire of workers rights’), to degrade social and environmental rights.
The Brexit victory risks giving even more oxygen to forces that are not just intent on undermining the EU; they are intent on returning to borders and currencies and narrow nationalist ideologies.
These forces are the greatest threat to European cohesion and cooperation. It was not the progressive parties who welcomed the Brexit result. It was Marine Le Pen. It was Geert Wilders. It was Donal Trump.
A friend of mine said she wished there was another vote she could cast – neither Remain nor Leave. This sums up the progressive dilemma which struggled to find some traction, some positioning in the referendum – struggled because there wasn’t a progressive option.
In the Irish Republic we are a little more fortunate as it is highly unlikely we will be faced with this choice. Support for the EU is very high. A recent poll showed 90 percent support for remaining in the EU and even after years of recession, austerity and bail-out economics, and 87 percent believe the EU has done more good than harm.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be sanguine. We are not an island afar off. A Europe that descends towards disintegration and far-right ascendency, mainstream paralysis and progressive atrophy will wash over our shores and no amount of corporate tax appeasement will prove an adequate flood defence.
The EU orthodoxy has no prescription. Its knee-jerk reaction to the Brexit result has been to call for greater integration. This ignores the swelling of disenchantment across Europe over the direction of the EU.
While the UK (and Greece) may be at the more extreme end, there is a plurality in each of the countries polled for greater national powers.
This is not some narrow nationalist demand; it is a legitimate demand for more democracy, more popular participation and control in decision-making which, in current circumstances, can only be achieved at national level.
However, this is the conundrum: monetary unions, without fiscal and political union, do not survive for very long. A central bank needs a central government. If the Euro is to survive, greater integration is needed.
Yet greater integration is becoming more and more politically problematic. How can this circle be squared? Can it? What are the options? Or do we get mired in a ‘business-as-usual’ mode, clasping a copy of the Five President’s report, oblivious to everything outside the bubble?
Only the European Left is capable of confronting this issue.
Despite the complicity of many progressive sections with austerity and the neo-liberalism of the EU, its ideological roots put it in opposition – or at least in contra-distinction – to current economic and social policies which result from the current institutional configuration.
Only the Left is capable of taking on the nationalism of the Far Right and the centrifugal forces that would return us to borders, through the promotion of an ever deepening democracy.
However, the European Left has to be honest itself.
It is divided, politically exposed, and intellectually inert. If there is a way out of this, it will have to do two things: first, end the division – between social democracy, the communist and allied tradition, progressive greens and the popular anti-austerity movements. Progressive unity is vital.
And this should lead to the second task – to engage in a revitalised discourse together, connecting with the working class and progressive constituencies, to re-imagine Europe and our relationship with each other; all pointing to new European re-foundation.
In this way we can move beyond a leave/remain divide determined by conservative elites and towards a more authentic divide: between more or less democracy.
It’s either that or expect the Brexit vote to be the first step down a road that will have an unhappy destination for all Europeans.
Michael Taft is Research Officer with Unite the Union. His column appears here every Tuesday. He is author of the political economy blog, Unite’s Notes on the Front. Follow Michael on Twitter: @notesonthefront
From top: Sinn Féin Remain poster in Northern ireland earlier this month; Derek Mooney
We have not spent decades of painstaking negotiation to break down barriers for them to be risen higher by a battle for the leadership of the Tory party.
Derek Mooney writes:
For as long as I can recall it has been a central tenet of Unionism that the status of Northern Ireland should not change without the political consent of the majority of the people living there.
Yet, that it precisely what is set to happen over the coming years, with senior members of the DUP cheering it on
Despite the fact that a clear majority – some 56% – of the people of Northern Ireland who voted, including large numbers from both traditions, stated that they wanted to remain in the EU, their wishes are about to be ignored.
It seems that a majority in the North is only a majority when the DUP is a part of it.
Thursday’s referendum result has changed things dramatically for the North and for the whole island. There will be the immediate implications, including many of the ones for which the Government has prepared, as set out in its contingency plans published last Friday.
But there are others, two of which I would like to set out briefly here.
First, is the integration of the economic interests of communities across this whole island. As the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said:
“…there can be no return to a physical border across this island. There must remain freedom of movement for people, goods and services across Ireland… we must ensure that any border is only operational around the island of Ireland, not across it.”
This last point is vitally important. Though the Brexiteers, including the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Teresa Villiers, dismissed any suggestion of implications for the border during the campaign, it is clear that there will.
If and when the UK eventually leaves the EU that border would potentially become a frontier between an EU State and non-EU State.
This is ominous as the EU is already looking at ways of increasing security at its external boundaries, as evidenced last week by the European Parliament’s LIBE committee vote to “systematically check all EU citizens entering or leaving the EU”
There is an overwhelming economic, social and political case against resuscitating the 499km border between the two parts of this island as an international boundary.
We have not spent decades of painstaking negotiation to break down barriers for them to be risen higher by a battle for the leadership of the Tory party.
The EU has been an important, though unheralded, part of the peace building process. Between 1995 and 2013 the EU spent €2 billion on promoting reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties.
But it has done more than that. It has provided a supra-national cross border framework and support that has avoided any major policy cleavages across this island.
Rather than having the EU border across this island, let it run around the island with the customs and border controls sensibly located at ports and airports.
But we need to go further. We need to recognise that despite differences in identity, that Northern Ireland has and will continue to have a great deal of economic and social common interest with the Republic.
To give expression to this common interest the Irish Government to needs to fashion an all-island EU strategy and use its seat at the Council of the European Union to champion the interests of Northern Ireland, particularly the border regions, along with the interests of the 26 counties.
The government should start reaching out now to civic society across the North to become its connection to the EU and should formalise these relationships, perhaps initially through re-establishing the Forum on Europe on an all island basis.
Second, is the loss of the UK as a valuable EU ally. In two or three years’ time we will no longer have the UK to help us act on a brake on EU measures of which we disapprove.
Given our similar structure and similar outlooks, in the area of social dialogue for example, our two governments have – regardless of political hue – worked together. During the recent discussions on the introduction of an EU wide system of Data Protection, Ireland and the UK worked together to make significant and sensible changes.
But the UK has opted to go and so we need to look for new allies. We need to look to the smaller EU states who would share our concern at the excessive influence of the larger states, but also to the other like-minded nations on these islands.
To this end an Taoiseach should be reaching out to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the coming weeks to see how Ireland and Scotland could work together in our mutual benefit as the fate of the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU unfolds.
Enda may have no choice but to start talking with Nicola Sturgeon, as she seems to be the only leader on the neighbouring island with anything even approaching a plan for the future..
Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney
From top: RTÉ documentary The Guards; Frankie Gaffney’s book Dublin Seven
The uncompromising reticence to discuss the matter of Garda corruption is incredibly sinister.
Frankie Gaffney writes:
A recent RTÉ fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Guards, was advertised with an emotive montage of individual Gardaí speaking to camera, intimately relating various bad experiences they’d endured during duty: “I’ve been called names”, “I’ve been headbutted”, “I’ve been kicked”, and so on.
I can identify with their trauma. Living in the inner-city, I’ve been verbally abused, threatened, punched, kicked, had my home smashed up, and had money and personal belongings stolen from me.
But I didn’t feel safe calling the police. Why? Because all these actions were carried out by members of An Garda Síochána on operational duty. And it all happened before I was eighteen.
I was six years old the first time I was strip-searched.
Our national broadcaster chose to air this documentary at the height of a policing crisis. The programme provided a lengthy forum for Gardaí to boast unchallenged of the prowess their new initiatives. “New” intiatives which include a continuation and escalation of their futile war on drugs.
As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, it is not actually a war on drugs, or on people who take drugs, it is instead a war only against poor people who take drugs.
If ever a policy was designed to inflict misery on the weak and vulnerable it is this idiotic and evil folly.
It would have more useful, if instead of this programme, sympathetic to our newly discredited police force to the point of sycophancy, we had a documentary about the assaults Gardaí perpetrate on working-class young people and vulnerable addicts.
Or perhaps an investigation into some of the suspicious deaths of those under arrest. Deaths like that of 20-year-old Terence Wheelock, a young man with no history of self-harm who police assert hung himself in custody.
Or Brian Rossiter who was only 14 years of age when he died from brain injuries in a police cell. His parents were told by Gardaí that disciplinary proceedings arising from incident were “none of their business”.
As Fr Peter McVerry put it, speaking of how young people in the inner-city relate to the police, “neither group has any respect for each other, but it is up to the Gardaí to show some respect for the people they have power over”.
It is the Gardaí, remember, who, acting freely as adults, swear an oath, don a uniform, and are paid money to uphold the law. In my experience, this means nothing to them.
RTÉ’s The Guards continues a long tradition throughout Ireland’s media of unquestioningly accepting any narrative offered by Gardaí, and relating stories from only their perspective.
Our media is beholden to An Garda Síochana, not least because members of the force continue to feed journalists stories at their individual discretion, without anything approaching due process. The most obvious exemplar of this is the country’s highest profile (and highest-paid) crime correspondent, Paul Williams.
In perhaps the most egregious example of the power Williams wields, he went on the Late Late Show one week before the election, and explicitly warned viewers not to vote for Sinn Féin – because a vote for them would endanger lives.
He contended his antipathy for this political party was due to their intention, if elected, to abolish the Special Criminal Court. This is a proposal backed by both the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International.
The Special Criminal Court was established in 1972, purely to deal with the escalation of IRA violence at the time. The court was always intended as a temporary measure, to be abolished when the Troubles ended. There is no jury.
According to Williams it’s only the gangsters and drug-dealers “smirking on Francis St” (did he see this?) that want this extraordinarily draconian “Star-Chamber” style court abolished. Yet ironically, the court has used its full set of powers to prosecute anti-drug activists in the past (with convicted heroin dealers appearing as witnesses for the State).
Williams, who also receives 24-hour protection from the police (paid for by the taxpayer), has little or nothing to say on the subject of Garda corruption other than to deny its existence. Throughout his career, he has backed up An Garda Síochána to the hilt.
The fanciful depiction of the Gardaí as the perpetual good-guys continues into fiction. Also from RTÉ, the phenomenally succesful Love/Hate fed audiences hungry for an insight into Dublin’s underworld.
I admit to a love/hate relationship with this drama.
The writing, the directing, the acting, the storytelling as a whole – at times all were fantastic. The show displayed serious Irish talent, and made incredibly compelling viewing. It deserved its success. Like most Dubs, I was excited all week for the next episode. But the “Guards = good”, “gangsters = bad” narrative is just not real life. Not even close.
The recent epidemic of corruption in an Garda Siochana was just the tip of the iceberg. Prior cases in Donegal and ongoing revelations from Leitrim demonstrate this clearly.
Yet any concessions from the establishment that there may be the remotest hint of corruption within the force have to be bitterly fought for. The reticence to even discuss the subject, the bitter resentment and persecution displayed towards those who raise it, and the silence on the potential for deeper problems, is incredibly sinister.
For example, anyone with the remotest concern for policing standards should have been screaming from the rooftops the moment the now faithfully departed Commissioner Callinan denied (prior to any inquiry) that there was corruption in an Garda Siochana.
All organisations the size of An Garda Siochana (approaching 13,000 members) will, as a matter of course, have some corruption. Callinan was claiming nothing short of omnipotence. This disgraceful – despicable – assertion from that blustering buffoon should have seen him sacked on the spot. Yet it went largely under the radar.
This thundering disgrace masquerading as a public servant went on to refer to the courageous whistleblowers, who stood up to bullying and smear tactics in pursuit of the truth, as “disgusting”. The whole squalid episode was shameful, exposing for all to see the rotten core of this state.
Yet now, after some cosmetic changes, some optics, a few soundbites and some window dressing, the situation has been remedied in the goverment’s eyes. You may proceed.
Last month Jim McGowan was promoted to the position of chief superintendent, an appointment which came – coincidentally – just two weeks before responsibility for promotions was to be handed over to an independent authority.
Jim McGowan also happens to have been the officer in charge of a a Garda unit specifically established to prosecute (or persecute?) political activists.
The same unit that designated 20 Gardaí in Tallaght to evidence gathering duty over a single protest in Jobstown – a protest at which nobody was even injured.
The same unit that sent 10 Gardaí in three cars to bang on a family’s front-door at 7am, to arrest a 16-year-old water protestor before he went to school. This, apparently, is what makes you rise in the ranks of An Garda Síochána.
Jim McGowan also happens to be Noirin O’Sullivan’s husband.
The commissioner’s attention certainly doesn’t seem to be focused on ending nepotism, or the unhealthy influence of party political interests on policing. Or, for that matter, on tackling corruption.
Nope, business as usual.
Nobody seems to be asking what part such frivolous and petty diversions of resources (or indeed potential high-level corruption) might play in allowing the gangs to operate as smoothly and effectively as they do.
The financial crisis that was used as an excuse for a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich (and gargantuan cuts in health spending) was, in this country, brought about by recklessness, poor regulation and criminality in the banking and financial sectors.
To prevent this happening again, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) was established. It was recommended that a dedicated team of forensic accountants be set up to target “white-collar crime”.
One accountant was assigned to this task. I say “was”, because this accountant has subsequently been transferred to other duties. For the past six months no accountants have been employed in this task.
While the media have been focused on gossip and speculation about the personalities involved in a petty “gangland” feud, in Ireland today a white-collar is carte blanche to commit crime. The type of crime that crippled this economy, consigned thousands to emigration, and has led this country to a situation where 10 people every week commit suicide.
And Paul Williams proclaims it is a vote for a party that wants to end this status quo that would endanger lives?
I see muscle bound men driving SUV’s with tinted windows, wearing balaclavas, carrying automatic weapons. These are the Gardaí.
If the children of the north inner-city Dublin are scared, what are they seeing that is scaring them?
“We need to demilitarise our police departments so they don’t look and act like invading armies,” said US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Creator of The Wire, David Simon, said Baltimore police treated people the same way “an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day . . . they’re an army of occupation”.
Any of these comments could be applied to inner-city Dublin today.
Unlike our newspapers, unlike our documentaries, unlike our dramas, Simon’s magesterial American TV series The Wire did show the back-story behind their characters. It showed the reasons people fall into cycles of crime and addiction, what it is that causes poor and vulnerable people to to enter an inescapable spiral of criminality – a cycle that damages themselves as much as anyone else.
It showed how social conditions, inequality and deprivation, compel people to criminality. It also showed that corruption and profiteering from drugs and “gangland” extends right the way throughout our society, throughout our institutions, throughout the police force.
All the way to the top of the political ladder. Our writers, our journalists, our newspapers, our broadcasters, need to take note – and start telling the full story too. Anything less is a lie.
Frankie Gaffney is the author of Dublin Seven
They called it wrong again.
‘sheet poll number cruncher Shane Heneghan writes
Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I was spectacularly wrong about this. I predicted a remain vote of about 52%. The voters gave me the exact opposite result.
When the dust settles, the fact that this was the second major failure in a row of the British polling industry, a country where the polls are traditionally remarkably reliable, should be dealt with but at the moment that is way down our list of considerations.
Let’s just take a step back for a minute and look at what happened.
This situation we are in now is unprecedented and no one can seriously tell you what will happen next. Anyone who says they can is a liar and probably has a very specific agenda.
But for the sake of argument ‘ll go through some of the hypothetical models of Britain’s future that have been going through my head in the past while:
The Norwegian-Icelandic Model
This involves joining the European Economic Area and would leave the UK in a close economic relationship with the EU while giving them an emergency break on freedom of movement and removing them from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK would also lose it’s right to appoint a commissioner, elect MEPs and send ministers to the Council of the European Union and still have to pay handsomely into the EU budget while receiving little or no benefit.
The Swiss Model
Much the same as the above only in this case the relationship would be governed by a series of bi-lateral treaties. I think this is the most likely outcome as it gives the UK much more flexibility.
(It is important to note that the above two options involve membership of the Schengen passport free zone which I am assuming Britain will continue to avoid like the plague.)
The Singapore model
In short, this involves the UK being treated as if it were a third country completely detached from Europe. It implies that tariffs and customs inspections would again applied to goods traded between the rest of Europe and the UK. This is by far the most radical option and in many ways the least likely given the close nature of the vote.
There are a few other things to keep in mind in the next few days.
1) Corbyn has got to go
A man who leads his party in a referendum and fails to convince great swathes of his electoral base of his position will probably have to do the honourable thing sooner or later. A leadership election will almost certainly be triggered by the Parliamentary Labour party in the next few days. The shadow cabinet is already in disarray and the departure of Hilary Benn does not help.
2) This vote is not binding.
The British Parliament is literally the beginning and the end of UK democracy. Referendums have no legal status and if the House of Commons votes to ignore this referendum in the morning then it’s dead in the water. Of course, even if this is entirely legally plausible, it is more or less politically impossible and would probably lead to UKIP forming an armed militia within about six months.
A slightly more likely prospect would be if a new moderate Labour party leader won an election before the exit negotiations concluded on a platform of maintaining full membership. That may sound unlikely but there is a solid 48% voters that feel hard done by and a sliver of the winning side with buyers remorse who may back them and when you factor in that the Conservative party is almost certainly going to lurch towards the right after Cameron leaves them it just might make this scenario a runner.
3) A northern Irish border poll really is a non starter.
We have already seen how the Democratic Unionist Party have moved heaven and earth to stop gay marriage being introduced to Northern Ireland- imagine the effort they would mount to stop a vote on Irish unity. Sinn Féin can hardly be blamed for raising the idea- what else are they for? But the relative silence of the SDLP is also telling. This issue simply is not on the table at the moment despite the North’s difference of opinion with mainland Britain. Things may change if Scotland votes for independence.
4) Britain may drift ideologically into the Atlantic
Future right wing governments in Britain may not be bound by EU social legislation and may slash “red tape” such as maternity leave, paid holidays, anti discrimination rules and other such nonsense dreamed up by water cooler dictators in Brussels. In terms of foreign policy in general they will be even more dependant on the so called “special relationship” with the Americans- how reciprocal that relationship is anyone’s guess.
Finally, I don’t like historical hypotheticals but I can’t help but speculate that John Major should have held a referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1991.
Presumably, he could have won and used it to silence “the bastards” in his party while nipping the rising tide of Euroscepticism in the bud. This would have probably solidified his premiership more so than his eventual “Back me or sack me” leadership contest.
He didn’t and UKIP was founded in 1994.
Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter