I was in England during the recent Brexit vote and it was rife with political commentary. Signs were everywhere urging you to “remain” or “leave”. TV news prior to the referendum was filled with debaters explaining the pros and cons of both sides.
As someone who still holds British citizenship I was eligible to vote, however I declined to register. Having spent nearly all my adult life in Canada I didn’t feel it right for me to vote on what was essentially a foreign issue. And besides I wouldn’t have known which way to vote anyhow.
Most of my family there chose to vote to leave, however even they weren’t so sure of the right way to go. Leave voters were quick to be labelled racists, or economy killers. But there’s far more to it than that. Britain does have a racism problem, but staying or leaving will probably have little effect on that.
It was explained to me another way, in that Britain was essentially stripping itself of a layer of government. The European parliament.
Our Canadian parliamentary system is based on the British one. A triumvate of a lower house, the Commons, an upper house, the Senate for us or what the British call their House of Lords and the monarchy. However in Britain just like here the monarch never gets involved in political issues.
The Queen has never even been in the House of Commons. Even though she opens most sessions of parliament she does it from the upper house. She doesn’t go into the Commons because she’s barred.
There’s never been a reigning monarch in the Commons since Charles I. And on that occasion he kidnapped five MP’s. They were eventually released unharmed, however it was Charles’ opposition to parliament that ultimately cost him his head.
If the British will chop off a King’s head they’ll not bat an eyelid at ejecting a government. But imagine an additional level of government over and above all that. That would be the European parliament. And it often has the final say on a lot of things.
Canadians often complain about our senate, chiefly that they are unelected, overpaid and do little more than rubber stamp legislation from the Commons.
It’s the same with Euro MEP’s, unelected and overpaid, however instead of merely approving legislation from British parliament they quite often veto it, or worse still impose their rules on all member states.
Some of those rules can be good, like enhanced health and safety requirements for the workplace, but others can have quite restrictive effects on farming or stifle industrial expansion.
And it’s no good complaining to your MP, they just represent a lower government.
It had become to a large extent government by faceless bureaucrats in a foreign country. Eurocrats, an Orwellian nightmare that became a reality of life.
What started off as a trading bloc, a common market, slowly evolved into an unstoppable juggernaut of nonsensical legislation. But no more. The British have chosen to reclaim their self-government.
In the process however they have come close to destroying it. The Prime Minister resigned, his heir apparent and main “leave” campaigner declined to enter the race to succeed him. The other chief architect of the ‘leave” side decided to leave politics entirely stating that he has achieved his goal. Chaos. And the leader of the opposition is facing a revolt within his own party.
Looks like they’ve gone from too much government to none at all. It would never happen in Canada. I hope.
Despite joining several trading blocs, NAFTA almost three decades ago and the TPP more recently, neither of them has imposed restrictive legislation processes like the European parliament.
And we don’t have the immigration problem that Britain has. London may be a truly cosmopolitan city but many northern and midland towns tend to harbour ghettos which occasionally explode with racial tension.
Maybe it’s because we are a nation of immigrants that we tend to encourage cultural differences and revel in the many different ethnic festivals.
A marked and refreshing contrast from our American neighbours and their melting pot approach. A system that seemed to be working well for them until a presidential candidate comes along that wants to kick them all out.
And that may well be the issue that we Canadians should be watching. It’s not government upheaval in one of our founding nations but what will happen after our southern neighbours elect their new president.