I am something of an outsider to the Brexit question, but I feel its ramifications acutely. I am an outsider in that I am a US citizen, born in Philadelphia, living in New York City. But my father was born in Ireland and because Ireland grants citizenship to children and grandchildren of those born there: I am also a citizen of Ireland and because Ireland is part of the European Union, I am also a European citizen.
I am a writer in English, but I have co-translated works by major European writers: the poems of Pier Paolo Pasolini; the letters, in two volumes, of Jean-Paul Sartre (edited by Simone de Beauvoir); and the first complete modern edition of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. These three were writers with big funerals, who grappled with the meaning of the world. I have also translated the legendary long-lost Heroines by the French Jewish lesbian surrealist photographer Claude Cahun who lived on the Isle of Jersey.
My family names are Scots, German, Irish, English, and French, so I embody the tensions that exist in Europe this year.
After World War II ended, with Europe in rubble, the people of that continent had worked toward a united Europe that could not war against itself.
In 1975, the United Kingdom voted to remain in the Common Market, and the European Community. So, the former adversaries in two world wars, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and others, would become part of a union as a bulwark against a Third World War.
Why Brexit? Well, as so much else, we might say, it began in large part in 1968. That year, in the US, the gap between the earnings of the average head of a business and the salary of the average worker in that business was 40 to 1. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy and during the presidencies of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the Bushes, the gap grew to 400 to 1. On the BBC recently, Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz uses figures likely for the developed world, 300 to 1: "CEOs today get pay that's roughly 300 times that of ordinary workers---it used to be 20 or 30 times. No increase in productivity justifies this change in relative compensation."
In our century, the ratio resolved into 1 percent wealthiest versus the rest of us, the 99 percent. In the EU, two nations embody the two sides: Greece the 99 percent, Germany the 1 percent.
Through the 1980s, of Margaret Thatcher and Reagan, the EU increasingly favored the rich and powerful. The British working class fell through the cracks. Austeritarianism took over. Only with the Obama administration did austeritarianism ease up in the US. But it held on in Europe.
Up to 2009, Wall Street was the center of world financial capital, but when the Obama administration cracked down on some abuses by Wall Street, the world capital of finance moved to David Cameron's London. With the Brexit vote, world finance is looking for a new capital.
What is wrong with the EU? I will make a more detailed list with the help of Huffington Post readers. Think of food: what happens in Brussels, the EU capital, ends up on EU plates: it is a bureaucracy with good regulations such as anti-GMO; and bad: it considers unsanitary and bans ancient-method cave-aged cheeses.
My identity as a writer in English is intertwined with the England of the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Shaw, Pinter, and Iris Murdoch, not to forget the cinema language of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. I now have a language, literature, and artistic identity crisis because of Brexit.
How much will London shrink post-Brexit? A museum, a former world capital, with the arts and sciences starved.
I am trying here to write my way out of the Brexit funk. And as an American I am also a Mr. Fixit.
The UK government can decide when (if ever) to invoke Article 50, the EU exit procedure.
Why should Britain not have a second referendum? Brexit lost in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It lost in London. It won in the depressed Rust Belt of England. Fixit.
During the campaign leading to the vote, the Brexit camp lied that the UK was losing 350 million pounds a week to the EU. Keep that 350 million to give to the National Health Service, they said. Now, everyone knows they lied, that the 350 million pounds were coming back to the UK in benefits, goods, and services, but the lie was big enough to convince 52 % to vote LEAVE. Many who voted LEAVE did so as a protest to their immediate dire straits, thinking that REMAIN would win. Fixit.
An education campaign on what Brexit would entail, the costs and disadvantages to the UK, over a period of many months, a real debate, nationally and internationally, would surely turn the tide toward REMAIN in a second referendum. Fixit.
The Parliament has to ratify the break. It can choose to reject. It would be almost infinitely easier to reverse Brexit than to extricate the UK from the EU. Fixit.
The EU reacted with harsh bitterness to the Brexit vote. "Get out now!" they said, reflecting ancient national hostilities. They reacted that way to prevent copycat countries leaving.
If the UK postponed leaving, as it intends, it would have leverage with the EU in presenting ways that the EU could be improved for all members, and if such improvements were made, then the Parliament could reject Brexit, and the PM would call for a new Remain/Leave referendum.
I just reread Iris Murdoch's final novel, her 26th, Jackson's Dilemma, written shortly before she entered her final years of Alzheimer's. In early life, into her 60s, she was a Marxist and a Catholic. During the years when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister (1979-1990), she became a Thatcherite. Once Alzheimer's set in, the great philosopher-novelist, who had carried on the tradition of Voltaire, Rousseau, Sartre, and Aldous Huxley, became glued to the tube watching the Teletubbies.
England was cracking up. John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron succeeded Thatcher, and none reversed her privatizations of the common wealth, instead further undoing the postwar welfare state of Clement Attlee, which had made for a more equal, healthier, better-educated society. The 1% triumphed. The bottom rungs kept losing nearly everything. And they were the ones who gave the victory to Brexit.
Through the mutual benefits of the Common Market, the European Union, the European Community, the hope was that a Third World War would be avoided because the major European powers---France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, etc.---would form a more perfect union. What are the real causes of war?
I am not an expert in these matters. What are your thoughts on all of this?