Richard Moore: Backlash signals a new era

By Richard Moore

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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron fell on his sword hours after the result became clear.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron fell on his sword hours after the result became clear.

The headline in Britain's Sun newspaper said it all - "See EU later".

Britain had voted to divorce Europe after 43 years in an uncomfortable marriage that was seen as a success by many Britons, but more thought it wasn't beneficial to them.

And, more importantly, those who voted the United Kingdom out of Europe were reportedly fed up to the back teeth with being ignored by politicians and European bureaucrats on matters important to them. They included jobs and immigration.

I lost my Friday afternoon and evening last week when I sat down with a cup of tea in front of the IdiotBox to see how the vote was going.

As my tea cooled, the action in the United Kingdom started to heat up.

It was about 4am in Britain and the Leave vote had staged a comeback to lead by a few per cent. Earlier the Remain vote was comfortably ahead after London results came in and many folk in the stay camp had gone to bed feeling confident.

What a shock they faced when they woke.

They learned 17 million Britons had voted to leave Europe, defeating the Remain brigade by 1.3 million votes.

It was 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

A colour graphic told the story.

The yellow of Remain was in Northern Ireland, Scotland and London. Those areas stood out starkly as they were overwhelmed by the rest of the country in dark blue - a protest colour rejecting what commentators said they saw as a dictatorial Brussels, HQ for the European Union.

As the sun went down here and rose over there my fifth cuppa was steaming hot as leading characters of the referendum came and went. The shock on the faces of the Remain camp supporters was plain to see.

A major miscalculation had just ushered a new era that had been unthinkable six months - even six weeks - before. And their opponents were jubilant.

The man who took the country to the referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron, fell on his sword at about 7.30 pm our time. His bid to stabilise his own leadership of the Conservative Party against so-called Eurosceptics had backfired big time. His gamble not only took the UK out of Europe, but now could see Northern Ireland and Scotland (which both voted to remain in the EU) split from England and Wales.

Cameron, who had ignored advice on not having a vote, had to go. The likelihood is that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, will also go.

What I found amazing was that the Leave voters had stuck two fingers up at Europe and their own MPs and Britain's leaders.

This was a victory of the little people over all those politicians and bureaucrats who had ignored them for decades.

They didn't want unfettered immigration flooding in to take jobs, fill schools and hospitals, and make buying homes much more difficult.

These folk from Cornwall, Lincolnshire, the Midlands and Yorkshire resented the shift of power, in recent decades, from the British Parliament to the central bureaucracy in Brussels.

The European Commission, which has effectively voted itself the role of a European government, was very on the nose of unhappy Britons who saw it as not being accountable to them or anyone else.

The Brexit referendum gave them a chance to have their say.

I reckon every politician around the globe will now be doing a bit of mirror gazing - especially if they are in charge of nations where there is a growing gap between rich and poor.

While Britain faces a tough period re-establishing itself as an independent entity, the EU needs to modify the behaviour that so many Brits found intolerable, or else it risks more exit votes.

More than 50 per cent of citizens in Italy and France want a referendum of staying in the EU and six other states - Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Spain and Hungary - have almost half their populations looking towards such a vote.

If leaders are sensible they will have noted how an ignored population rose up - peacefully - and used the ballot box to regain their sovereignty and re-establish the power of the people.

And Brussels should remember this quote from Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

"You only have power over people so long as you don't take everything away from them. But when you have robbed a man of everything, he's no longer in your power - he's free again."

- richard@richardmoore.com

- Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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