52% of British voters have done the unthinkable and given our EU friends a major slap in the face, and there now begins a long period of uncertainty for all of us. The Conservative party has a great deal to answer for. The referendum campaign was badly fought on both sides so the electorate voted according to their own often blinkered and ignorant view blaming all our woes on the EU.
Immigration, widely misunderstood and whipped up by the gutter press, is what probably sealed the Remain camp’s fate. One of the central EU tenets is the free movement of people, and if a member state’s economy is less healthy, its citizens can go elsewhere to find work, and pay taxes. The British economy is healthy and has naturally attracted people, but the British are at equal liberty to work in Europe in similar circumstances. However Britain’s “Island Race” mentality often doesn’t get it.
But not all of Britain wanted to leave the EU. Northern Ireland and Scotland have always embraced its ideals and voted strongly to remain, as did London. I am from Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, which is home to some 30,000 Spaniards, among other EU nationalities who have always been welcome and contributed much to the city and its cosmopolitan atmosphere, but now they are worried that they are suddenly no longer welcome, and that is an uncomfortable feeling. The Scottish Government, which has clearly stated that they are welcome, has already started talks to do all it can to remain in the EU, which may require an independence vote. That would break up the UK, the last thing the Conservative party wants, but you reap what you sow.
To misquote Monty Python, “What has the EU done for us?” A lot, actually. Europe has provided decades of peace, nearly 60% of our trade, huge infrastructure investment, security, food and drink standards, trade, workplace and environmental protection and much, much more. It has fostered a more global outlook and friendship, cultural exchange and trust among member states and their people. But it is not perfect, realistically it can’t be; there is an inevitably large bureaucracy and much reform is needed, but the good outweighs the bad, and the only way it can be reformed is from within.
I fervently hope that an independent Scotland can somehow remain, sharing and contributing to the European ideal with our friends on the continent, and continuing to ship Sherry without any new English taxes.