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Our friends ‘up north’

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For us in the Caribbean, June ushers in the hurricane season, a six-month period when we can expect to be battered by storms of the tropical variety. We have been fortunate thus far in 2016, but some friends of ours “up north”, have not been so lucky during this period. Storms of a very different nature have been battering the traditional political foundations of the democracies on both sides of the Atlantic, with grave financial and economic implications not only for them, but for us as well.{{more}}

The United Kingdom has for some time now been racked with internal problems, both in its assumed foundation of the Kingdom and in its relationship with the European Union, to which it still belongs. The internal row forced a referendum in Scotland, where nationalist tendencies were calling for secession. In what was a warning of things to come, a dirty scare -mongering campaign, led by the governing Conservative Party under then Prime Minister Dave Cameron, managed to frighten the Scottish electorate into voting to keep the “Queen”, just as Vincentians did in November 2009.

But the Scottish nationalists had differed not only on membership of the UK. They were against the isolationist tendencies in Britain, which on the basis of a racist anti-immigrant platform, and in the spirit of the old “Rule Britannia” (Britons will never be slaves again), were pushing with success for Britain’s “liberation” from the EU.

Cameron, faced with internal threats from the right wing of his party and the racist UK Independence party, made a gamble by basing his 2015 re-election campaign on the promise of a referendum on EU membership, if he won. So he did and was forced to call the June referendum, hoping that, as in Scotland, he would pull off another spectacular victory.

His gamble backfired and in another bruising and dirty campaign, the LEAVE EU side won, ushering in what is referred to as BREXIT. From what has been transpiring thus far, it may be more appropriate to recall a very popular calypso from the sixties, “ARCHIE BRUK DEM UP”. For the victory of the LEAVE campaign had had significant casualties and brought about heightened contradictions.

The chief casualty has been Cameron himself, forced to resign, honourably and pave way for a successor. (Whatever its failings, one cannot help but compliment the British political system for the smooth transition). But the “out goes U” did not apply to Cameron alone. Traditionally the Opposition Labour Party should have led and won the EU integration battle, but unsettled and indecisive leadership led to significant sections of its working class base voting to “keep British jobs”. So, new party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced a rebellion from his parliamentary colleagues, who massively passed a “no-confidence motion” against him. He must now face a party leadership challenge. Even the racist UK Independence party leader Nigel Farage, though elated with the referendum outcome, has resigned too.

The BREXIT result throws up many uncertainties for the Caribbean, especially in regard to trade and investment, but in many other areas as well. It is an issue which not only must be closely watched, but which requires more proactive leadership and enlightened discussion. On this, one cannot help but be disappointed at the communiqué from the recent CARICOM Heads of Government Summit, where there seemed to be no clear direction how to proceed. But that is for another day.

Back to the BREXIT. Cameron has been quickly succeeded by one of his leading Cabinet colleagues, Theresa May, the British ruling class so alarmed at the possible financial repercussions given market uncertainties, that it moved decisively to fill the leadership vacuum. Ironically, Cameron resigned because he said that as a REMAIN EU man, he had no moral authority to lead the BREXIT negotiations. But Ms May belonged to that camp as well; so, where is her moral authority? Amusingly, how does one square up a headline like “MAY BECOMES NEW UK PM”, with standard English, which teaches “may become”?

However, it is said that it is an “ill wind which blows nobody good”, and, “out of evil comes good”. Britain now not only has its second female PM, both Conservatives, as Cameron reminded Labour in his parting shot, but there is now a possibility of Labour electing a female leader, unprecedented in British politics, moreso, when the leader of the Scottish nationalists, the third major force in UK politics is also female.

Additionally, on the other side of the Atlantic, another woman is challenging to make history to become the first female president of the USA. So, out of all the confusion, at least women are coming to the fore. But to accomplish this in the USA, Hillary Clinton must overcome “Hurricane Donald” and all the storm clouds which threaten black lives and now, grudgingly admitted, “all lives” as well.

Next week, we will continue to sail through the north Atlantic storms.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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