Having just returned from England to celebrate mum and dad’s golden wedding anniversary (love your work!) I thought it’d be a good opportunity to reflect on another relationship that that’s also been going on for the better part of 50 years but is currently undergoing a messy divorce.
Britain entered negotiations to join the European Union (or its early version – the European Economic Community) 49 years ago. I know we hear a lot about it on the news in Australia but the last couple of times I’ve been back it’s still surprised me how divisive it is over there.
For full disclosure, had I been able to vote I would have voted to stay in, but this isn’t about my views, this is purely an article focusing on the reasons dad voted to leave.
Let me set the scene:
Where – Southport
Southport is a lovely Victorian seaside town of about 90,000 on the Northwest coast of England. Lord Street, the elegant tree-lined shopping street was once the home of Napoleon III for a time and was supposedly the inspiration for the wide boulevards of Paris. Southport has the second longest pier in the country, the largest independent flower show and is home to the ‘internationally famous’ British Lawnmower museum. Red Rum, the greatest ever horse, was a proud Sandgrounder.
The town sits in the borough of Sefton, who voted to remain with a 3% majority. But for the purposes of this insight, let’s ignore that and focus on my old man’s views and that of his likeminded friends who helped sway the vote in favour of leaving.
Who – dad
Trevor Briggs, 71 years old, married to mum for 50 years and lived in Southport for the last 44 of those. Is interested in world affairs, reads an awful lot and states that his views are ‘fair and balanced’ – which coincidentally is one of the mottos for Fox News in the US. I should also point out that he’s the best dad in the world.
Over the years he has switched allegiances between parties, so you could make the argument he doesn’t have a political ideology. You could also make the argument that he has followed the well-worn path of a more idealistic left-wing view as a younger man to a more centrist view through middle age to ‘somewhat’ right wing by 70.
In summary, educated, knowledgeable, a good life in a nice town and right of centre – almost the perfect definition of a ‘Middle-Englander’. So why would someone that has enjoyed the benefits from being part of the European Union for almost his entire married life vote to leave?
Let’s find out in an (almost) unedited Q & A below:
SB: Why did you vote Brexit?
TB: Firstly, let me say that there were many reasons why I voted to get out of the crazy club that is the European Union – many reasons!
Image – The Economist
To name but a few:
- The EU Club is becoming more and more undemocratic and unaccountable and I wanted Britain to regain control of its future. If I believed in strengthening democracy how could I vote to remain?
- It may seem counter- intuitive but I don’t want Britain to be isolationist; I want it to be a thriving member of a ‘world union’ and not belong to a club that is becoming increasingly dictated to by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels.
- I do believe in immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration which is beyond common sense. Without control of your border you have no country and will eventually just merge into one large region with a mish mash of culture and conflict, with one culture calling the shots and come to be known as Greater Germany in all but name.
- I voted to join the EU, but I voted for an economic common market, not a political union or Federal State dictated to by a European elite, many of whom are totally out of touch with the realities facing the people of Europe. It makes me smile when people refer to the EU as a political and economic utopia when the reality is somewhat different – ask the people of Spain, Italy or Greece how the utopia is working for them.
In summary, I think Brexit was an eruption of a long building resentment at being bossed around by so called ‘people-in-the-know’.
SB: Hard or soft Brexit?
TB: I hope the outcome will be mutually beneficial to both sides. However, Britain should not rollover – better to have no deal than a bad deal, though I acknowledge the impact will be profound for both sides. The EU can’t simply let a member leave without push back as a deterrent to others who may look to leave, and a number of other countries are showing signs of wanting to do this. The problem is that the European negotiators seem prepared to sacrifice the future of millions across Europe for some ideological project they call the EU. History has proved others have tried this approach to disastrous effect. So for me it is not a question of hard or soft Brexit but ideally a balanced Brexit to mutual benefit.
SB: Should there be another referendum under any circumstances?
TB: No. The people have spoken and that is democracy. You can’t go back on it because you don’t like the answer.
SB: Who should be Prime Minister to see us through this mess? (May, Johnson, Rees-Mogg or Corbyn)
TB: I feel sorry for Theresa May as she was handed a poisoned chalice. But regrettably, she was a ‘Remainer’ and Brexit should be led someone who voted to leave. Out of the four you’ve mentioned I’d probably go for Rees-Mogg, though it may just be the best of a bad bunch. What I would say is that as it’s May who’s leading then everyone should get behind her as the sniping within the party serves no-one.
SB: What do you think will happen to the EU?
TB: I don’t believe you can harmonize the cultures of 27 different countries into one. Eventually it will implode or break up. I do believe, in due course, this will happen, and it will be better to be out of the room when it does. First the Euro will go as it’s unsustainable in its current form – the only country to really benefit from the single currency has been Germany due to its massive export market. It’s fortunate that we retained the pound.
SB: Will it be successful and what is success?
TB: I wouldn’t have voted to leave if I didn’t think it would be successful. It wasn’t a knee-jerk vote and I didn’t vote from a position of ignorance which many in the left-wing press make out of those who voted to leave. I would point out that I may not be alive to see the success, but I voted for long-term benefit of the country, not a short-term fix.
I’m confident of the ability of the British people to make it a success. I believe it will re-energise democracy in the country. Above all, I believe we can go forward with confidence and continue to engage with our European friends but reconnect in a positive way with the wider world without restrictions in doing so.
I hope success shows us to be a country that takes pride in itself, is international in its outlook, treats people fairly and can share its success with countries less fortunate. A truly international country rather than a European country, which never really seemed to sit right.
‘We will ultimately defeat the Jerries’, he didn’t add.
So there we go. A little insight into the mind of a leave voter.
I know dad vehemently denies it was a ‘nostalgia vote’ but when speaking to others part of me still thinks many leave voters yearn for a time when all of England was “a green and pleasant land” and everyone was polite and friendly – or as I like to call it…Tasmania.
Keep Wealth Partners Pty Ltd (AFSL 494858). This information is of a general nature only and may not (actually does not) reflect our views.