The millennials British generations grew to be less insular and more European. Indeed, the psychological and evolutionary leap from nationalism to internationalism has rooted firmly. The 2015 EU referendum result clerly demonstrate this. The BREXIT result is primarily a knee-jerk reaction from an older ENGLISH generation with an identity crisis unable to adapt to the realities of globalisation. The die-hard Englanders feel threatened and recoiled at the prospect of a unified multi-cultural society. They would rather scupper the ship of the United Kingdom and live in the good old days - We are British!
A postwar shift in economic power from manufacturing to services (currently at 78% of GDP) and the 2007 Financial Crisis with its ensuing austerity measures that cut deep in public services; degrading health care and social services have contributed to a lack of economic opportunities for the working class man. To add insult to injury, the UK economy is doing well but only for the better off; the rich are getting richer; executives of big industries are knighted and awarding themselves massive salaries and bonuses. Business is buoyant with an explosion of insecure part-time jobs, "zero-hours contracts" and fewer rights (estimated to be three million people in insecure jobs for 2016). How about the untouchable multi-nationals like Google, Amazons, siphoning big profits from across the world and, not paying due taxes due to their host countries, i.e. the United Kingdom.
Poverty in the UK is relative (as opposed to crippling poverty in less affluent countries). Overall, British people considered as living in poverty have the basics such as an "adequate diet" (albeit junk food - obesity is a social class issue) and, a roof over their heads even if it is in over-crowded and ageing council estates. But with no adequate income allowing them to participate fully in society, they are thus known as socially excluded. With their traditional manufacturing industries decimated and, not being qualified to move to the service industry in big towns, the working class has no economic opportunities. A report, (source: The Guardian), shows that 12 million adults in the UK are incapable of completing five basic online tasks. And so, over the decades the economic and social divisions deepened with simmering resentment waiting for an excuse to boil over.
Another important factor to take into account is that
the UK is increasingly becoming an ageing nation. Most developed countries now has sub-replacement fertility levels and depends largely on immigration for economic growth - the UK is no exception.
The Immigration factor was dominant and controversial during the Brexit campaign, (just as it is in Europre, America, Australia and virtually a problem across many countries - 64 millions migrants worldwide!). Disillusionment with the EU has risen in the UK because membership has become synonymous in many voters’ minds with uncontrolled immigration. Net immigration into the UK has picked up strongly over the last couple of years as the country’s economic recovery has gained momentum and sucked in workers from elsewhere. But contrary to much of the British press coverage, net immigration into the UK over the last 15 years has not been exceptional in an EU context. In fact, a higher proportion of immigrants living in the UK come from non-EU countries than in any other EU member-state. With unemployment at a record low in the UK and with a shortage of native skilled workers therefore British employers have not much choice than to employ qualified foreign people and, they are an important net contributors to the UK’s public finances. However for the ordinary working man (mostly in England) it is a case of "migrants DO take our jobs - Britons losing out to foreign workers..." (as splashed out on front page of UK pro-Brexit tabloids).
Patterns in the referendum result show areas of Britain (such as the North-East of England and South Wales) with the strongest support for Brexit were those that has been socially excluded for a long time. Demographically, low-informed and high-informed voters have different perspectives and preferences on political decisions. For instance, low-informed voters tends to favor protectionism and oppose immigration, while high-informed voters tend to favor free trade and reduced restrictions on immigration. Given the widening economic and social divisions in the country, to decide the EU Referendum in such a climate of dissent and resentment, was a bad idea. Thus, the referendum has given people from these historically deprived areas an opportunity to make their frustrations and disillusionment heard to politicians. The EU Membership and immigration were the vehicles to vent their frustrations (stoked and fed by a vociferous and biased anti-EU tabloids and, a muted and unimaginative response by the Remain camp).
By Dr Oliver Daddow (Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Nottingham Trent University)On the Europe issue the public has been fed by many quarters of the press a solid diet of anti-EU reporting, centering on an undemocratic "Brussels" machine subverting Britain’s governing institutions, British liberty and its way of life. These scare stories (akin to a twenty year-long Project Fear of the press’s making) have covered the full range, from the inflammatory to the mythical and the plain wrong, as the Leveson Inquiry pointed out (a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal). The divorce between fact and reality has done nothing to lessen the appeal of EU-bashing in Britain because there has been such little pushback on these stories from a political class unwilling to put the positive case for British achievements at EU level. The British public has been given a limited knowledge of EU history, politics and policy-making from politicians, the press and through the general educational system, which has amply fed Eurosceptical narratives of Britain’s past, present and future outside the EU. Britain’s uneasy status as an "outsider" within the EU makes the referendum outcome seem less of a shock when the structuring effects of Eurosceptic media coverage, combined with the abdication of political leadership on the question until it was too late, are taken into account.
Britain has contributed significantly to the evolution of the world from philosophy, social and cultural, scientific, medical and technology. A slow process spanning a number of centuries beginning when the British Isles arguably began to coalesce into a coherent nation under William the Conqueror (...continental Europe!) leading to the United Kingdom of today. TIME - 55 centuries or so, TIME to adapt, TIME to change and evolve. However, the pace of change and evolution of the last 200 years to the present day, has been and, still is in supersonic mode - over two to three generations only! It's one heck of an evolutionary leap to absorb, digest and adapt in only a few generations. Therefore, is it a surprise that the collective mind of older generations has great psychological difficulty in coming to grips with a globalised, multicultural environment thrust upon them. "Taking Back Control! Sovereignty! Border Control!", populist outcry from an insular and ageing generation still conditioned and imbued in an empire mindset.
"The European Union is facing an existential crisis" - the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in his 2016 annual state of the union address. But, it is doubtful that the Union will totally collapse. More likely a necessary but turbulent readjustment and realignment will emerge somehow. Like it or not, willingly or unwillingly, the British isles WILL eventually be part of a greater Europe in one form or another and, that will happen much sooner rather than much later (given the hectic pace of our globalisation process). Being British (more specifically English) does not mean being apart from a NATURAL continental evolution. Nations' much cherished "Sovereignty or Nationalism" in the 21st century are already noisy lame ducks. As Janan Ganesh (political columnist for the FT) wrote: The gravitational force of a united Europe on a shrinking medium-size nation is too strong." The real question is whether the United Kingdom (still UNITED in two to three year's time?), will integrate with a solid guiding voice in Europe or, will it get marginalised and subjected to the whims of a near future and functioning United Europe ...Confederacy, perhaps.