By William J. Furney
There’s less than a year to go before the United Kingdom crashes spectacularly out of the European Union, the flawed yet progressive organisation that has been striving to bring about more peace and prosperity in an often fractious region of turmoil and economic collapse (let’s not forget where both world wars started). The euro, the currency of 19 nations, is surely its crowning achievement to date — and the newly enforced General Data Protection Regulation to protect EU citizens against the hoovering might of internet companies is the first in the world.
Britain was one of the founding members of the EU, joining way back in 1973, and the bloc went on to expand to 28 member states encompassing more than 508 million people and a collective economy worth around €15.3 trillion, making it the second-largest in the world after the United States. Turkey, part of which is physically in Europe, has been knocking on Brussels’ door for some time, but thankfully it remains firmly shut due to President Erdogan’s ongoing and widescale crackdown on freedoms and basic rights. (Note to Ankara: That is not the way we do things in liberal, democratic Europe.) And now, after the shock Brexit vote two years ago, the UK is waving goodbye to all that and going its own way.
Organisations, institutions, businesses and more are bidding their own farewells to Britain as they increasingly leave what was once their home and place of trading and set up shop in EU-friendlier places, such as Dublin, Paris, Frankfurt and other European cities benefiting from the Brexit fright. The UK, meanwhile, adopts its fallback “Keep Calm and Carry On” mantra borrowed from Hitler’s blitz of London and hopes it will all, somehow, work out.
A Check-Up Is Required
No part of Britain has escaped the seismic ravages of Brexit. The four-country nation’s most treasured institution, the National Health Service, is reeling like never before. Whereas those pushing for an EU exit — most notably Boris Johnson, the bumbling and current foreign secretary who has a perennial and feverish eye on the top job, a desire that’s not all that surprising given the oscillating and unpopular Mrs May — vowed that the “£350 million” that Britain sends to the EU in membership fees every week would instead go to the cash-strapped health service, actually it’s teetering on the edge and not even that hefty sum might save it. According to two new analyses, the NHS is so overwhelmed — by the demands of an ageing society as well as one that’s not all that healthy (most obese country in western Europe) — that it will soon need extra cash amounting to £2,000 per household per year.
Many who voted for Brexit are those who cherish the NHS for its free medical services, because they’re generally older, or elderly, and suffering from conditions or illnesses that require regular care and medication. Many of this segment of the British voting public expressed a desire to “take Britain back”, which can be translated as keeping immigrants out and returning the country to the predominantly white population it was before decades of seemingly uncontrolled immigration rapidly hued the pale-faced peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What they failed to realise, however, is that people from all around Europe work — or worked — for the NHS, as doctors, nurses, surgeons, administrative staff and in many more critical roles. Now many are packing up, saying goodbye to their NHS jobs — and Britain for good. They don’t want to hang around in a country that may not want them, where their residency might one day be in doubt, and where there’s rising racism and hate crimes on the streets of Britain at the hands of newly emboldened nationalistic elements who couldn’t care less if they’re branded xenophobic. And so, amid its gargantuan financial woes, the NHS is also in the midst of a severe staffing dilemma: 30,000 nurses are leaving it each year and there’s been a 96% fall in EU nurses registering to work in the UK. Who’s going to look after you now, elderly Brexiteers? With the strike of a pen, you surely scored the biggest own-goal of your lives.
Empire of the Setting Sun
How everything has changed since Britain ruled the waves, and the world. Now, the UK is fast becoming a pariah, excluded state that many, including its own people, are rushing to leave (Brits are applying for foreign passports in record numbers). The deluded “Rule Britannia” crowd — egged on by scandalously self-serving political operatives, including MEP Nigel Farage, desperate to wrest back control from an EU imposing rules on everything from curvy cucumbers to bendy bananas — who wanted a return to the long-faded glory days of yesterday, have done their country no favour at all.
Now, the great British youth complain that their future has been sabotaged by those who won’t be around all that much longer. They may need visas to travel to neighbouring countries; they might well have difficulties getting work, or work permits, in European nations of their choice; the already high cost of living in the UK might become crippling due to new trade and other tariffs. In the UK today, an air of disquiet and doubt lingers and won’t be blown away for years, if at all.
The upshot of Brexit is that Britain will mostly keep calm and try to carry on, however weakened it may be. Look for a Brentry in the years to come.