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The UK Referendum 22-28 June 2016 PDF Printable Version E-mail

22 to 28 June 2016: Fears for the Referendum

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​Arnhem
The Netherlands
 
22 June 2016
 
Dear friends
 
On the eve of the ill-omened referendum where the great British (and Northern Irish) public are asked to take sides in divisions within the Tory party, we had the following email from a former friend and fellow-motorhomer, Malcolm Hill. Relaxing after half a day on the magnificent cycle-paths of this most European of countries, we felt that we must concoct some sort of response, even at this late hour.

​You will find it below.
 
From: Malcolm G Hill
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 4:14 AM
Subject: Voting
 
The fundamental issue of the referendum debate is: are we, as a nation, as a people, as a country, to surrender our independence for evermore as a self-governing, sovereign nation in order to be governed by a conclave of self-appointed officials in Brussels, or continue to be governed by our own democratically elected parliament in London? ‒ nothing more, nothing less.
 
When we, you, me, all of us, are putting our mark on the ballot paper on Thursday, that stark thought should be, must be, in the forefront of everyone's mind.
 
Malcolm 
 
Our Response:
 
Arnhem
The Netherlands
 
Dear Malcolm and Malcolm's friends
 
What a lot of nonsense this is. Pure propaganda worthy of the days of the Third Reich. You, Malcolm, have travelled in a sufficient number of European countries to know that each and every one of them is very much in control of its own laws, culture, economy, language, religion, cuisine, postage stamps, public transport, energy, education system, armed forces, health service, roads, tolls, etc, etc. Often, as travellers, we wish that they had more in common! If your thesis were correct, every European country by now would have become identical, but they vary in every way possible. How do you compare Sicily with Finland, or Ireland with Croatia?
 
There is also a major difference between EU laws and regulations. Laws have to be agreed by ministers, prime ministers, presidents elected by each of the 28 countries. Sometimes requiring a majority vote, sometimes unanimity. There is also the European parliament, elected by every voter throughout the EU. There is also public opinion and the media which wield considerable influence on policy.
 
On the other hand, agreed common regulations and standards that govern commodities and trade are essential and will remain so, whatever our future relationship with the EU.
 
It is also a fantasy to think that the UK could have access to the EU's free market for the movement of goods, services and capital, without also agreeing to the continued free movement of people. Would you like to travel in mainland Europe with a 3-month Schengen Visa in your pocket, not able to return within another 3 months?
 
There is a lack of democracy throughout the EU: it is the power wielded by the massive trans-global capitalist organisations and the influence of hyper-rich gamblers in the stock-exchanges and tax-avoiding havens around the world. Can you not draw some conclusions from the recent dreadful end of BHS where the workers' pension funded was stolen to buy super-yachts and private jets? Where is the democracy in that?
 
The only body capable of bearing down on these robber barons is the EU! It would be very sad to see the British (and Northern Irish) people retreat onto their islands, with 'control taken back' by Johnson, Gove, Smith and Farage. Your future safe in their greedy hands?
 
And where is the democracy in the UK? In the 2-sided parliament? In the once in 5 years election system where most votes are wasted? In the House of Lords? In the 60-strong Royal Family (is this what you mean by 'sovereign')? In the unelected Public School Boys dominating the political, religious, legal and military life of the country? In the privatisation of health, education, prisons and probation service? In selling off all the great public utilities to foreign governments and their agents? Tell us, is this democracy?

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We cycled 45 km today in the Arnhem area with many memories (museums and Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries) of those days in 1944/45 when we and our allies, working together, were very much involved in Europe - and what a difference we made! 

When did we start thinking that 'Europe' was a different place and that we were not a part of it, historically, linguistically, culturally, genetically and in every other way?

​In the following days, as events unfolded we had interactions with a number of friends :  

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From Bill and Heather in England

I agree with every word. I would add that the UK's first past the post voting system has produced a government that has the support of only 24 per cent of those eligible to vote, yet feels empowered to destroy social housing and privatise the state education system. In addition it is flogging off the NHS bit by bit. There is a growing feeling here that the vote has swung back to staying in the EU. Fingers crossed.  How apt your message should come from Arnhem. Between 1999 and 2008 I went to all of the then 15 EU nations (including plucky little Luxembourg) in the course of my work.  Although we were deeply involved in the two world wars, we were not invaded and battles were not fought across our fields and in our forests. The peace dividend is of huge importance to those countries who were in the thick of it, including Germany. We are stronger and more peaceful when we work together. Hope all good with you and that we wake up on Friday as fully fledged Europeans.
 
From Jonathan in England
 
Hmm,  my older self believes Malcolm may well be a dick, the younger self reminds me not to judge  - nope, dick. Remainingly yours.
 
From Graham in England
 
Thank you for that. I just hope your many readers take note and if they have it in mind to vote out, change their mind. The general feeling from my local friends and acquaintances is, Out. I hope I'm wrong but there has been so much mis-information, half truths, downright lies & appealing to Britishness , the question of immigration et al, that I suspect tomorrow will result in an Out vote. That would be so sad. Pity I did not have your letter to quote earlier as I'm sure it would at the least make people think twice.
 
Incidentally, my son who lives in Switzerland, gave me an excellent letter detailing answers to the Brexit group and I have distributed it and also used quotes from it as much as possible.
 
I suppose, if all goes wrong, I can join him in Switzerland.
 
From Christine in England
 
Wow! Awesome reply!
 
From Dave in England
 
I'm very anxious about the neo-liberals who think voting out is somehow not politically correct. Maybe you want to support an organisation that decimated the democratically elected left wing Greek govt. and oversees huge youth unemployment in Portugal, Spain, Italy etc at 30% plus. Plus, its accounts have never been fully approved by even its own court of auditors. It's not a simplistic left/right issue. I despise most of the prominent politicians in the Leave campaign, but the left wing case for Brexit hasn't been heard. If the UK ever voted in Jeremy Corbyn (some chance), you can bet the EU would have a negative impact. It's basically an undemocratic club for corporate capitalism, with political aspirations.
 
I don't like your 'put downs', “what a lot of nonsense”, “Third Reich”??? This is bordering on bullying and not very illuminating. Grow up and don't descend to the soundbites we have suffered every day of the campaign.
 
23 June 2016
 
From Brian in England
 
Thanks very much for this email - you sum up the position beautifully.
 
From David in Indonesia
 
The vote is important but in saying that it depends on many things which relate to age, circumstances and identity. We (the UK) are a much divided country and therefore those with intelligence will be able to see this argument from the many sides of the coin. I am a world traveler and now 25 years in Indonesia but you will not find a more passionate Brit than me. I don't qualify to vote but if I did it would be to get out of the EU. I know what's wrong with democracy in the UK, and I know how and why immigration has spiraled out of control, and as best I can I've looked at the economy and our trading arrangements, analyzed the NHS and social services, researched NATO, and done an in-depth study of the demographics of many of the UK towns and cities. It seems clear to me that one of the main problems is the lack of controls on immigration and that is something we need to address.

We all have our own views on multiculturalism which to me has clearly failed and it is sad that many people look upon this as a racist issue whereas it is more about the British identity.  Even that is viewed differently such that my England is not the same as the one seen by many of our youngsters. My main concern is Islam and its growing influence in the UK but of course that is a subject we are not encouraged to talk about. There are plus and minus and the unforeseen on both sides of the coin but I don't accept our voting out will indicate we are isolating ourselves. A true Brit as I am, I don't want the word 'great' in front of Britain which was a part of Cameron's Conservative speech along with his so-called conservative values. The Ukip vote clearly illustrated the flaws in our democracy but when will we see the necessary changes. To end, I have never considered myself to be European and remember only too well the French reluctance to our joining this trading organization. Unfortunately we are living in a time of 'reversed colonialism' and if people read our history from the Industrial Revolution up to the present day, our folly and adventurism around the globe has become the thorn in our side – big time. This subject has produced a lot of bad feeling, but at least the debates have been many which prove we are a democratic nation that allows free speech. At the end of the day it will boil down to self-interest and nationalistic sentiments, so join me please in a rousing rendering of Land of Hope and Glory.  

Incidentally, does anybody remember just after the Yalta Conference when Churchill said "Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong about Stalin." ….. and pray tell me what the outcome of that?  Irrespective of the polls, I think the remain will edge it, but no matter the outcome there will be no winners as our divides will still remain, but as the Irish and the Scots don't want to be governed by Westminster, is that any different to the UK not wanting to be answerable to Brussels?  
 
From Peter in Scotland
 
Thanks for your message. It is good to know that there are older folks like us who are not duped by the lies and inaccuracies of the Leave campaign. I agree with every word you say.
 
My son and his friends are terrified by what Britain might become if Britain leaves the EU. The future of all our young people is at stake.
 
Will Johnson be elected by the Tories as the new leader of the Tories, and subsequently become our unelected Prime Minister? How democratic is that?
 
Will UKIP be disbanded as it has no further purpose, and Farage appear in an appointed Cabinet post? Yes, very democratic.
 
Speculation yes, but with these people who would bet against that happening.
It is going to be a nervous night. I know how Scotland will vote but I am worried about the “Little Englanders”.
 
I have to have faith in the ordinary people in the UK. Here's hoping I am not mistaken.
 
From Ian in England
 
Great to hear from you and a great reply – good that you don't let these things pass you by.
 
I am very worried by this referendum, regardless of the outcome. I am worried that we have a Government prepared to pass decisions on something so crucial to people who know so little about it. I am worried that the biggest selling newspaper in the UK is The Sun and the influence it has on small-minded people. I am worried these people are making decisions based on bigotry, lethargy, xenophobia and fear. I'm worried that they are basing an 'out' decision on the NHS, education, benefits and housing. All of these are Governmental issues and need to be addressed, it's nothing to do with our EU membership it's to do with funding
 
I am also worried about the message it sends to our European partners and to all those foreign people living on our island who now feel we like them less than they thought we did. I'm worried for the impact on other member states who may also now be forced to enter into their own referendum folly.
 
I worry about the impact on business, trade and forward planning and mostly I'm worried that the whole process will leave around 50% of the voting public feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned, creating further discontent in our nation.
 
My feeling is that there are massive benefits to remaining in the EU and that there is some detrimental impact too – mostly financial and impacting our 'services'. So look to the super-rich. Look to the heads of industry who take huge dividends and pay little in tax. Look to choose a Government that is prepared to stand up, set the right level of taxation to enable them to fund the services our nation needs so badly in order to remain truly committed to great service of its public and only then will we really have a Great Britain.
 
From Kaye in England
 
Voting Day is here and I am still not convinced where my cross will go this evening.
 
I should very much like UK to take control of decisions about UK. But when you look at the leaders in Westminster I do not know who would take a firm hand. With the division of opinion within our traditional parties will they have solidarity whatever the result of the referendum.
 
The problem is no-one side can give a definitive of what WILL happen. Both sides use scare tactics - Remain more so.
 
David Cameron is fighting for his political life. Jeremy Corbyn is a confusion. Who is up and coming to replace them?
 
Who will control the influx of migrants? Who will have the determination to spend money on the services needed?
 
Who will make sure that benefits go to the deserving and return the country to an ethos of working for things rather than having them handed on a plate.
 
24 June 2016
 
From Yves in England
 
Thanks Barry for your timely mail. But as you know , the British people have decided and this is democracy - can catastrophe theory explain this outcome? Maybe but I look to divine  providence for the future - the only certainty .
 
From Ruth in Scotland
 
I've thought of you several times today. I was devastated when I was woken up by my alarm just before 06.00 this morning to hear the news that the majority of the British public had voted to leave the EU. My dear father would have been so upset. And of course there's now the looming possibility of Scotland voting to be independent from England - AGAIN - and Northern Ireland doing the same.....  The huge divisions that clearly exist in the UK are very worrying.  And it would seem too that even the long-term future of the EU could be in doubt. ALL VERY SAD. I imagine your feelings about this are similar.
 
From Barry and Margaret in the Netherlands
 
We are very grateful for the time and thought that have been put into replies to yesterday's email on the subject of 'Taking Back Control?' We shall try to write appropriate personal answers once the shockwaves subside.
 
In a few short hours during almost the shortest night of the year we have just watched our income steadily fall off a cliff:

​The pound fell down against the euro by 8% in 5 hours! And this is called 'taking back control!'.
 
It was with some relief that we learned that control was being taken back elsewhere: that Thomas Cook was running out of euros for holiday makers, that UK ATMs had been stuffed with money in case there was a run on the banks and that the Bank of England had 250 billion pounds in hand ready to prop up banks if needed. Scotland and Northern Ireland are already thinking of leaving the UK, Gibraltar is under threat again, the EU can't wait to act while the Tory party sorts out its leadership, and Cameron's deal with the EU to limit benefits for migrants has now been cancelled. Add to that the prospect of 150,000 members of the Tory party electing Johnson or Gove as the next prime minister, leading a party in power with less than 25% of eligible votes. Our democracy taking back control?

What explains this catastrophic result? Obviously it's the nature of the electorate that voted to leave: largely older, white, working class people with little education beyond the age of 16 and living in areas of the Midlands and Northern England devastated by Thatcherite de-industrialisation. Perhaps even they may be surprised by the devastation they are causing worldwide – and it's just the first day! Greece's neofascist party, Golden Dawn, sends its congratulations and wishes it could do as well.
 
http://www.ekathimerini.com/209867/article/ekathimerini/news/golden-dawn-welcomes-brave-decision-of-british-people
 
After 50 years of feeling at home throughout the Continent of Europe, we are already feeling a little out of place among our fellow-campers. We need a T-shirt with the words 'It wasn't us' in several languages! What other excuse can we give?​
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A Greek Perspective on Brexit

 
25 June 2016
 
From Mike in England
 
Lots of thanks for your lucid and accurate summary of the 'Brexit' issue. It chimes very neatly with our own thoughts on the matter. The Tory party has been busting apart on this issue for decades and now it's totally fragmented the people of this country, this sceptic Isle. For also what it's worth there were 3 areas in the S West that voted 'Remain': Isles of Scilly, Exeter and the South Hams - where we live. A lot of effort was put into getting our message across locally and we are gutted, as indeed must be half the country plus yourselves and fellow travellers.
 
From Bob in the USA
 
My condolences to both of you.  The results of the referendum display absolute stupidity on the part of the 'electorate'.  It does go to reinforce the old saying “don't ask a question unless you know the answer”.  Am sure they will live to regret it, but will blame someone else.  Hope this does not curtail your travels, and your missives about them.
 
From John and Judy in Australia
 
Don't forget the colonial cousins. $50 Billion wiped off our stock market which has flowed on to us. We will be on baked beans and stale bread for some time to come.
 
Having great difficulty in trying to fathom how this has happened to Britain.
 
From Martin and Kate in Bulgaria
 
We share your disbelief in the outcome and like you would like 'it wasn't us' tee shirts. I must say though the outcome wasn't a surprise, almost all our friends in middle England were staunch leave supporters and we had to find someone who we could trust to be our proxy, not easy. The Bulgarians think we are stupid to be leaving the EU of course and incredibly but not surprisingly even some of the British who live over here were for leaving. I read in this morning's news that there is a feeling amongst the leavers that they were fed false information and would like another referendum.
 
What a complete mess!
 
Hope you are both well albeit slightly poorer.
 
From David in Indonesia
 
Sutton Borough in southwest London voted to leave the EU, and coincidentally this borough has the highest rate in London of pupils achieving 5 'A' level GCSEs. I wonder what the education level is in Tower Hamlets where they overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU? This event will soon pass and I very much doubt if it will seriously affect our relationships with Europe. I feel a wee bit sorry for Cameron as he was a good PM and at least had the balls to stand by his beliefs despite the constant flak. But he opened the door that allows every vote to count and must have known that the donkey jackets outnumber the tweeds. However, a fine example of democracy but now we have the witch of the north (Nickerless Sturgeon) swooping around on her broomstick and waving her spurtal at Westminster even though nearly 40% of Scots voted to get out of the EU. Many people feel that Europe is developing into a war zone that will eventually tear it apart, and who is to say they are not right. Take care.
 
From Peter and Julie in England
 
Yes it's not a good situation and I very much agree with your views and response. I think it mainly comes down to two things: immigration and a feeling of loss of control by many working class older people. This country does feel very full these days and there is a lot of fear that people can get in easily and take full advantage of benefits. Both these things were summed up on the radio today by a Sheffield MP who said one of her constituents applied for a job and was rejected because he could not speak Polish. There is a lot of small town mentality about, particularly in this area. Even so it's a good message to the politicians that they haven't a clue what the majority of the population thinks.
 
Anyway we can only wait and see what happens over the next couple of years.
 
From Dan in Scotland
 
Bit of a surprise, yes........but not as bad as you make out. Thought the markets handled it pretty well. Euro down 1 cent from April 12th when I left Sicily.
 
And you can still retain your European status when we regain our independence (almost a certainty).
 
From Kathy in the USA
 
I truly appreciate being included.  The view from America seems to be "EU?  Who?  What do they do, actually?”  Exaggeration, but not unheard.  Your comments include many statements which are too involved for me to grasp, but it doesn't matter.  I get your message, and concur with your sentiments.   
 
Interestingly, we are buried deep in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, sitting in a forest composing responses to emails that arrived the last time we were able to get on line.  By the time I send this, and by the time you receive it, we all will know what the future of Europe will be.  Rick and I are keeping our fingers crossed.
 
Later from Kathy in the USA
 
“Control is taken aback” indeed.  Out of touch for the last couple of days, and your message is the first that came through.  What a stupid, stupid decision.  Seems so short-sighted to us.  But we have relatives in the Midlands, and I've not even bothered to ask them their opinion on the subject.  He was whining about the immigration issues when we last visited, over a year ago.  I wouldn't discuss it then.  A nice, if misguided person.
 
Now we'll all sit back and watch what happens next.  Ms Merkel seems to be trying to soft-pedal the show; some Brits are demanding a second referendum; Scotland and N Ireland may vote to dissolve their ties with England.  And all we have to do is pray Trump doesn't get ahold of our country.
 
Not yet the “curse of living in interesting times” but getting there.
 
26 June 2016
 
Ian Manzie in France
 
Many thanks for your recent emails much of which I agree with (and some that I vehemently disagree with!!).
 
However I feel that you in common with most UK media have failed to recognise the other issues that are bubbling along at this time and are as important:

  1. Spanish Elections this w/e: if the left wins (likely) Catalonia will push for separation
  2. New Roman mayor –a five star cracker (yes that's sexist!!).
  3. The rise of the Fronte Nationale and Marine la Pen and the moribund state of French politics and economy.
  4. Greece – still teetering on the brink.
  5. Netherlands - pressure for a referendum.
  6. Sweden likewise.
  7. General disaffection in the former communist countries.
  8. Growth of disaffection in Germany. Note Merkel's row with Junker over his comments/visit to Moscow. Average German is some €2500 worse off over the past 6 years thanks to ECB monetary policies.
 
Against all of this, Brussels just comes out with business as usual. Until the boil of the Euro is lanced I do not feel Europe will or can progress. Culturally and in so many other ways Germany and France are utterly different.
 
The result seems to point also to England and Wales becoming a little island next to a unified Ireland and a resurgent Caledonia –both in Europe.
 
Sadly western democracy has lost its way: it has become (becoming more) polarized meaning that a significant majority feel excluded. I do not know what the answer is.
 
I would remind you that your income has 'fallen off a cliff' before – sterling is still well above the point is reached not too long ago of near parity with the euro. We oldies still have much more to be thankful for than the young: I am angry for them.
 
This is an interesting observation:
 
http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/people-are-really-really-hoping-this-theory-about-david-cameron-and-brexit-is-true--bJhqBql0VZ
 
From Barry and Margaret in the Netherlands
 
Attracted by their comprehensive and well-illustrated coverage of 'Brexit', we bought three newspapers yesterday from a small shop in the village of Otterlo, in the forest about 20 miles northwest of Arnhem. Below are a few photographs copied from these papers and there are more on our website at:
 
http://www.magbazpictures.com/netherlands--brexit.html
 
Where necessary, we added captions translating the Dutch headlines.
 
The newspapers are really struggling to understand the vote for Brexit, using humour, anecdote, history, serious comment and images. In microcosm, the photographs give a fascinating glimpse of mainland Europe's reaction to the referendum. This is echoed for us on Dutch television, thanks to Dick Lane Motorhomes of Bradford for our new TV aerial.

​Coincidentally the village has a memorial to the 17 Canadian and 6 British soldiers who died here in April 1945, liberating the area from what the memorial calls 'five years of the horror of Nazi occupation, bringing once again the light and joy of freedom'. In scrambling and competing for merely material advantage, have the people of England and Wales forgotten that there were and still are other values worth fighting for?
 
From John in Ireland
 
As you may imagine I am very disappointed about the result of the referendum.  I am saddened.  The near tie and the bigoted bluster from both camps really emphasised the disunity, envy and enmity of and for each other of the peoples of the country into which I was born.  Of course I had recognised all of this many years ago; it was, to some extent, germane to my leaving the UK.
 
I doubt that leaving the EU will have much direct effect on me personally, as usual it is less fortunate folk who will pay the price.  The cost to me will be indirect, I would be happier to live amongst happy, prosperous folk than amongst miserable, world weary people struggling to keep their heads above water.
 
Only time will tell how 'exit' will affect the principal players, England in particular.  A wealth of pertinent and reasoned comment is being generated.  I especially have enjoyed reading Fintan O'Toole in the Irish Times.  Here is a link to his piece today; food for thought indeed!
 
http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-brexit-fantasy-is-about-to-come-crashing-down-1.2698974#.V2_wVjX7_ts.facebook
 
My own fears are of the EU dismantling to leave Germany to return to her roots to re-run the 1930s - a chilling prospect indeed.
 
Enjoy whatever is left while you can.
 
From Mike in England
 
This forwarded email from Tim Davies has a link to an HM Govt petition website. If you complete it (you need a UK postcode) and click the 'buttons' you get a message saying you need to click a link on the website - but it's actually a link contained in a 2nd email they send later.
 
Apparently the signature count is in the millions already and the 'rules' say that if a petition gets over 10,000 they have to respond. An EU regulation says that if a 'leave' petition gets less than 60% of a total turnout vote of below 75% a 2nd referendum should be held.
 
We're not dead yet!
 
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131215
 
From Joe in Scotland
 
A sad hello to you both from the madness that is Britain.
 
A highly prescient piece by Nick Clegg last week:
 
https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/will-wake-vote-leave/
 
From Eric in England
 
We will have to wait and see what happens re Brexit. I note in the papers it's saying that under EU rules (of course) they can ignore the result of the referendum!!
 
That wouldn't surprise me in the least but the downside is there will be riots in the street, of that I'm certain.
 
From Peter in Scotland
 
My son sent me this last night. I think it kinda sums it all up. 
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​From David in Indonesia
 
The votes have been cast and the result is irreversible and so we need to move on. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to have known why the 'leave' supporters won the day as the words “discontent” and “immigration” were painted on many walls, and that with much justification. Likely of the two, immigration would have been the more dominant factor and I am sure that many people in Europe would go along with that. Whereas a lot of people think about the economy (and for very good reasons), this took a back seat in people's minds as it was severely trumped by nationalistic sentiments. Politicians now have to realize that irrespective of their own opinions they represent a constituency, and many of those voted to leave the EU.  As for the comments made by leading Europeans and indeed world leaders, we need to remember that what they say publically is not necessarily what they privately think, as to be honest is not a wise avenue to go down. I have respect for Cameron who never flinched in his belief that staying in the EU was best for the UK, but Corbyn who limply supported 'remain' had no real commitment and thus suffered the humiliation of his Labourites voting to get out. Tony Blair helped to drive the nail in the 'remain' coffin, and who cares what Bob Geldof thinks. The Scots with a 62/38 vote to remain were not over convincing, and to be honest, a Scottish vote is relatively insignificant in an all UK vote.
 
My own feeling is that too many people were not willing to view this whole event through the eyes of others (this applies to both sides) and in doing so accept that the opposite view could well have much justification. Personal circumstances, age, location, occupation, and other factors cover a wide range of people, all of which have the right to say what they think and vote accordingly.  This we call democracy, and although our interpretation of it is far from perfect, it's a damn sight better than living in Baghdad.
 
With a little luck this Brexit move may well do Europe a good turn, as certainly the block is showing clear signs of falling apart. Many Europeans will look in envy at the UK as they look at a nation that listens to its people, be that reluctantly. In an underground vault in Government House is a large box that contains best part of 8 million Ukip votes and apparently someone has just opened it up.
 
From Alan in England
 
What with the referendum result and the England-Iceland result it seems that things are on a permanent downward spiral. Certainly in this area (one of the few in the north to vote remain) the general opinion seems to be that both results are disasters. The conclusion in our (Asian) newsagents this morning was that it is a toss-up which will be put right first, the referendum result or the football result. Typical comment from local decorator - "Too many idiots given the vote and too many in the England team!"
 
I do fear our MP and Lib-Dem leader is missing an opportunity here. Instead of simply lambasting Cameron and Corbyn (admittedly two easy targets) for the result, he could be offering some input into the negotiations on Brexit. There are Lib-Dem politicians (Nick Clegg and Vince Cable spring to mind) with the experience and Euro-friendly credentials to get more out of the EU than Boris or Nigel. It would also give the Lib-Dems a much-needed boost to their profile, which is why the government would probably reject it, but at least he would get some credit for trying.
 
As for the impact on the rest of the EU, we live in interesting times!
 
From Kaye in England
 
Whether anyone voted Remain or Leave, now is the time to pull together and for Politicians to lead Brexit in the best way they can. I have heard so many tales of the vote splitting families and friends - do not let that happen to us.
 
From Barry and Margaret in the Netherlands
 
Sadly, Kaye, we don't think it's that simple. It's only 3 working days since the world learned of the result of the referendum, and already there is large scale confusion and uncertainty. Many things have changed already and long held arrangements are in doubt (ranging from Northern Ireland's borders to insurance and roaming charges in the EU, from trillions wiped off stock market values to currency prices falling). The change in atmosphere out here in the Netherlands is palpable.
 
The stock exchange in Greece fell by 40% – did they need that?
 
Someone has to take responsibility for all this mess and much more to come. Sadly, the profile of the 'Leavers' was biased towards the elderly, white working class in the Midlands and North of England, who had no education after the age of 16. Should we just accept that it's OK for them to have been selfish and irresponsible, looking only to their own petty interests? Or would it have been better not to have asked them?
 
With the further failure of the English political system, and in particular the breakdown of organised opposition by the Labour Party, perhaps we now look forward to civil unrest and protest as recession and economic contraction proceeds.
 
We both feel disgusted, embarrassed and angry at the outcome, an unhappy mix of emotions!
 
From Brian in England
 
Thanks for your recent emails and I echo your thought about wearing a t-shirt saying 'we voted stay in'. Last night I watched the news at ten and they were showing Nigel Farage boasting at the European parliament and  a senior person from the parliament said your country voted to leave so why are you here, which received rapturous applause. It is obvious that we are no longer welcome in Europe and the exit procedure needs to take place quickly. I have signed an on line petition asking for a second referendum.  I have been shocked by the implications of this vote and I hope the people who voted us out now realise what they have caused.
 
From Barry and Margaret in the Netherlands
 
As for us, we are on the receiving end of condolences from the Dutch people we meet. They love England in its many aspects and still remember and mark their liberation by us in 1944/5. They feel now that they are marking the death of a relationship, an end, and express sadness. We think and certainly hope that a way will be found to overturn the absurd referendum result, given how it was achieved by duplicity and fraud, and given that chaos and uncertainty is all it can achieve. The 'leavers' have no plan and no idea even how to begin.
 
Parliament could intervene and exert its authority, given that the referendum was only advisory. Parliament is supposed to be sovereign and should vote to confirm the referendum result – or otherwise. Parliament should also decide when, if at all, negotiations begin with the EU. It can agree or disagree every stage of the negotiations as they occur. One thing is clear: there is no membership of the EU single market without free movement of people and labour.
 
All this makes it even more disgusting that the Labour Party is collapsing at this critical time, when they have an open goal in front of them.
 
The speed with which Cameron resigned, leaving the field open to Johnson and Go, indicates that he was, after all, in favour of Brexit but not willing to lead it. A friend sent us this interesting link to a piece in the Independent.

1 July 2016

From the Guardian
 
A Warning to Gove and Johnson - We won't Forget what you Did
 
Jonathan Freedland
 
It's gripping, of course. Game of Thrones meets House of Cards, played out at the tempo of a binge-viewed box-set. Who could resist watching former allies wrestling for the crown, betraying each other, lying, cheating and dissembling, each new twist coming within hours of the last? And this show matters, too. Whoever wins will determine Britain's relationship with Europe.

And yet it can feel like displacement activity, this story of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Theresa May – a distraction diverting us from the betrayal larger than any inflicted by one Tory bigwig on another. Now that the news cycle is measured in seconds, there's a risk that 23 June might come to feel like history, that we might move on too soon. But there can be no moving on until we have reckoned with what exactly was done to the people of these islands – and by whom.

This week's antics of Gove and Johnson are a useful reminder. For the way one has treated the other is the way both have treated the country. Some may be tempted to turn Johnson into an object of sympathy – poor Boris, knifed by his pal – but he deserves none. In seven days he has been exposed as an egomaniac whose vanity and ambition was so great he was prepared to lead his country on a path he knew led to disaster, so long as it fed his own appetite for status.

He didn't believe a word of his own rhetoric, we know that now. His face last Friday morning, ashen with the terror of victory, proved it. That hot mess of a column he served up on Monday confirmed it again: he was trying to back out of the very decision he'd persuaded the country to make. And let's not be coy:persuade it, he did. Imagine the Leave campaign without him. Gove, Nigel Farage and Gisela Stuart: they couldn't have done it without the star power of Boris.

He knew it was best for Britain to remain in the EU. But it served his ambition to argue otherwise. We just weren't meant to fall for it. Once we had, he panicked, vanishing during a weekend of national crisis before hiding from parliament. He lit the spark then ran away – petrified at the blaze he started.

He has left us to look on his works and despair. The outlook for the economy is so bleak, the governor of the Bank of England talks of “economic post-traumatic stress disorder.” The Economist Intelligence Unit projects a 6% contraction by 2020, an 8% decline in investment, rising unemployment, falling tax revenues and public debt to reach 100% of our national output. No wonder George Osborne casually announced that the central aim of his fiscal policy since 2010 – eradicating the deficit – has now been indefinitely postponed, thereby breaking what had been the defining commitment of the Tories' manifesto at the last election, back in the Paleolithic era known as 2015.

​Perhaps headlines about Britain losing its AAA credit ratings don't cut through. Maybe it's easier to think in terms of the contracts cancelled, the planned investments scrapped, the existing jobs that will be lost and the future jobs that will never happen. Or the British scientific and medical research that relied on EU funding and European cooperation and that will now be set back “decades”,according to those at the sharp end.

And what was it all for? For Johnson, it was gross ambition. Gove's motive was superficially more admirable. He, along with Daniel Hannan and others, was driven by intellectual fervour, a burning belief in abstract nouns such as “sovereignty” and “freedom”. Those ideas are noble in themselves, of course they are. But not when they are peeled away from the rough texture of the real world. For when doctrine is kept distilled, pure and fervently uncontaminated by reality, it turns into zealotry.

​So we have the appalling sight of Gove on Friday, proclaiming himself a proud believer in the UK even though it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that a leave vote would propel Scotland towards saying yes in a second independence referendum. The more honest leavers admit – as Melanie Phillips did when the two of us appeared on Newsnight this week – that they believe the break-up of the union is a price worth paying for the prize of sovereignty. But what kind of patriotism is this, that believes in an undiluted British sovereignty so precious it's worth the sacrifice of Britain itself?

Just look at what this act of vandalism has wrought. There has been a 500% increase in the number of hate crimes reported, as migrants are taunted on the street, told to pack their bags and get out – as if 23 June were a permission slip to every racist and bigot in the land. And for what? So Boris could get a job and so Gove, Hannan and the rest could make Britain more closely resemble the pristine constitutional models of the nation-state found in 17th-century tracts of political philosophy, rather than one that might fit into the interdependent, complex 21st-century world and our blood-drenched European corner of it.

They did it with lies, whether the false promise that we could both halt immigration and enjoy full access to the single market or that deceitful £350m figure, still defended by Gove, which tricked millions into believing a leave vote would bring a cash windfall to the NHS. They did it with no plan, as clueless about post-Brexit Britain as Bush and Blair were about post-invasion Iraq. They did it with no care for the chaos they would unleash.

Senior civil servants say Brexit will consume their energies for years to come, as they seek to disentangle 40 years of agreements. It will be the central focus of our politics and our government, a massive collective effort demanding ingenuity and creativity. Just think of what could have been achieved if all those resources had been directed elsewhere. Into addressing, for instance, the desperate, decades-long needs – for jobs, for housing, for a future – of those towns that have been left behind by the last 30 years of change, those towns whose people voted leave the way a passenger on a doomed train pulls the emergency cord. Instead, all this work will be devoted to constructing a set-up with the EU which, if everything goes our way, might be only a little bit worse than what we already had in our hands on 22 June.

This week of shock will settle, eventually. Events will begin to move at a slower pace. We will realise that we have to be patient, that we need to wait till France and Germany get their elections out of the way, and hope that a new future can be negotiated – one that implements the democratic verdict delivered in the referendum, but which does not maim this country in the process. But even as we grow calmer, we should not let our anger cool. We should hold on to our fury, against those who for the sake of their career or a pet dogma, were prepared to wreck everything. On this day when we mourn what horror the Europe before theEuropean Union was capable of, we should say loud and clear of those that did this: we will not forget them.