Today, U.K. citizens will make their most important national decision since the Second World War, much more important than even a general election. The British will decide by referendum whether the U.K. stays part of the European Union.
Whenever I hear from family and friends in the United Kingdom, the talk is all about whether Britain should exit the EU — commonly known as "Brexit," being supported by the "Leave" movement. Tensions are running very high on this subject. Most U.K. establishment politicians, bankers and CEOs of large companies are campaigning furiously to keep Britain in the EU, commonly known as the "Remain" camp. They are supported by just about every European politician and banker and industrialist.
And even President Obama got heavily involved earlier this year when he visited England and made a very forceful speech about the fact that the United States would much prefer it if the U.K. stayed in Europe. Obama even went so far as to declare that the U.K. would receive better trading terms from the U.S. if it voted to remain as part of the large European trading bloc of 28 member nations.
It looks to me like the net effect of all this has been to annoy and, judging from a number of newspapers, insult much of the British electorate. The Leave advocates argue that staying in the EU will result in a loss of national sovereignty, subsume British interests to the larger countries of Europe, and hand control of immigration, legislation and national identity over to a bunch of bureaucrats who do not care about British interests.
The big vote takes place today, and at press time the Leave supporters appeared to be narrowly in the lead. So what would this mean for the land of my birth?
To understand this, we need to look back into history. The idea of a unified European union began after the end of the World War II in 1945, when the damaged and fractured European nations needed rebuilding — assisted of course by the American Marshall Plan.
The European Economic Community was established in 1958, and was informally known as the Common Market. The EEC migrated in 1967 into what is effectively today’s EU Its aim was economic union of its member nations, ultimately leading to political union. In 1972, the U.K. voted to become part of the EU, in effect making U.K. domestic law subservient to European law.
Over the years, more and more countries joined the EU Several of them, such as Greece, are facing dire economic situations as they failed to hit the economic commitments they made when they joined, and there have been a number of very expensive bailouts, funded of course by the more affluent European nations.
The Remain camp is full of dire warnings about the cost to business if the U.K. leaves the EU. On the other hand, many in Britain feel burdened by the need to adhere to the vast number of EU rules on health and safety, provenance, labor conditions and, of course, the key issue of open borders.
Parts of the EU are now starting to suffer under the strain of mass migration, reflecting a relatively lax EU immigration policy as millions from North Africa and Eastern Europe come into the EU. This, combined with a number of scandals surrounding EU governing bodies, has led to an interesting and spirited debate — to say the least.
As I read and hear about the biggest political decision facing Great Britain in my lifetime, it does make me once again marvel at how the USA has become a huge unified county with necessary autonomy in the laws and traditions of the 50 different states, but a common love of America and patriotism for this great nation.
Finally, here is a recent quote about Britain’s membership in the EU from Boris Johnson, ex-mayor of London and charismatic leader of the "Leave" movement: "We are passengers locked in the back of a mini-cab with a wonky sat nav, driven by a driver who doesn’t have perfect command of English, and is going in a direction, frankly, we don’t want to go."
God bless America!