by Josh Wilson
For all those who voted and campaigned to leave the European Union I would like say congratulations, we may have had a difference of opinion but that shouldn’t leave any animosity between us. For all of those that voted and campaigned to remain within the EU, like myself, it is okay to cry. It is okay to feel upset, angry and disappointed. It is not easy to let go of something you believed in so passionately. The future is scary; it is uncertain what direction the country will now head in, whether we will enter into another period of recession and who our next Prime Minister will be now David Cameron has said he will resign. But this is exactly why we must come to terms with the fact that Brexit is going to happen, and the fight has only just begun.
The referendum was largely fought between different sides of the right-wing of British politics, but the opportunity now lies with the Left. I truly believe everyone on the Left, whatever your party affiliation and which ever way you voted must unite and galvanise around a campaign for a progressive exit from the EU. This view was recently aired by Paul Mason in the Guardian, although in fear of being a hipster, I thought of this before it was ‘cool’ (You can read Paul’s more eloquent article here). In this article I want to cover another angle and lay out some of the biggest battles that are going to be thrown our way in the very near future.
The UK is a country of migrants that has major fears of migration. UKIP and the right-wing of the Conservative Party are going to use this referendum as an opportunity to close the borders to a great number of people hoping to live and work in the UK. Firstly, we must ensure there is no attempt to deport people who are currently residing in the UK. They are our friends, family, partners and colleagues and we must do everything in our power to ensure they never face the threat of being forcibly removed from Britain.
The second and much greater challenge is ensuring the new policy that will be drawn up on immigration is as progressive as possible. The main argument is for an Australian points-based system, but we should not forget that Australia has one of the most racist immigration policies in the world and imitating them should not be seen as a goal. We need a system that allows the UK to fulfil its responsibilities in regards to refugees. We need a system that doesn’t discriminate based on the country of origin. And I believe we need a system that moves us towards the ultimate long-term goal of the eradication of border controls all together, although I realise this view is contentious.
We will now need to start constructing new trade agreements with countries around the world. The Right are likely to attempt to move this towards lowering trade barriers and signing free trade agreements similar to TTIP (which you can read more about here). Increasing the power of Multi-National Companies and decreasing the power of democratically elected governments having an influence over the economy. This must be resisted, of course we need trade deals but we have to ensure they are fair, reasonable and openly debated.
One of the key benefits of the EU was its environmental protections and the ability to confront the global issue of climate change more cohesively. We need to ensure our government sticks to air pollution targets, does not allow over fishing, and continues our fight against fracking along with a whole host of other policy areas that were previously partly regulated by the EU. These are big issues but we need to make sure that we still tackle environmental problems in collaboration with our European neighbours and other countries around the world.
The European Commission on Human Rights is separate from the EU, but it is highly likely this vote will be used to push forward with the agenda of replacing this with a British Bill of Rights. Which is likely to withhold some rights which we enjoy under the European system. We have to be ready for this and fight to stay a part of the ECHR.
So what happens next?
A big constitutional change such as this leads to alterations in many policy areas. Some of us may be hurting right now but this is exactly the time to join together and ensure the decisions made in the coming months are not made solely by the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign and the Leave.EU campaign but by the whole country including those who voted Remain and those who campaigned for a Left Exit or Lexit.
I know most people won’t listen to little old me, but I truly believe the Left has to seize this opportunity and form a broad coalition led by Labour and including the SNP, Plaid, and the Greens. We also need a wider grass roots movement to keep up the pressure on the government. I’ve outlined some of the key debates that are to come but there will be more and we need strategies and policy alternatives to all of these arguments. I know for some it is difficult to picture right now, but out of this referendum we can start to build a more progressive United Kingdom, we just have to be ready for the fight of our lives.
Featured illustration © Sebastien Thibault