Love it or loathe it, on the 23rd of June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union.
52% of all those who voted said that they saw better prospects for themselves outside the EU.
Economists, pundits and pollsters failed to predict it.
The financial markets went into meltdown during and after the vote, when it became clear that ‘Leave’ was going to win.
The Prime Minister has resigned. The Leader of the Opposition is now considering his position too. Politicians in Scotland and Northern Ireland have said that they want to break up the United Kingdom and have independence from Westminster so that they can ‘Remain’ or re-join the EU. Thousands of people have taken to social media to decry their 'disgust' at the backward looking 'little Englanders' who voted to leave. Many are trying to say that the vote was driven by racism and xenophobia; that the 52% are in some way inferior to those who supported the status quo of remaining in the EU.
The 48% who voted 'Remain', say that they are forward looking and are the intelligent ones. That they have economists, big businesses and the financial markets on their side when they say this vote to leave will harm the UK economy. They say that the young, who voted to remain, have been disadvantaged by the old, who voted to leave.
Today I've seen David Lammy, an MP, saying that he is trying to force through a vote in Parliament to ignore the wishes of the 52% and do what the 48% want - to stay in the EU.
In 2004, the EU was enlarged with the ascension of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungry, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. Three years later, in 2007, Romania and Bulgaria were added to this group. Whilst this was the largest addition of population of land mass the EU has seen - these countries were among the poorest in Europe.
Wages in Latvia were just ten percent of those in the UK. Free movement of populous in these countries was largely controlled by most member states until 2011, due to concerns of mass migration because of the disparity in wages. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister in 2004, decided that controls on mass migration were unnecessary for the UK. This decision making was largely driven by a report that suggested that migrants from other countries added more to British GDP.
Despite a declining fertility rate (down from 2.41 in 1971 to 1.75 in 2004) the UK population grew by over four million people between 2004 and 2014; an increase in population that is equal to cities the size of - Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol…combined.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Immigration into the UK between 2004 and 2014, was equivalent to the combined total population of the nine largest cities in the UK.
The UK Government recognised that they needed to invest heavily in new housing stock, but failed to do so. This forced up housing costs by 56% in ten years. This, the CBI calculated, stripped £4 billion of spending power from the pockets of the UK population. At the same time, the job market has struggled to add enough jobs to go round. And with plenty of cheap labour from ascension countries on offer, wage growth for the lowest earners has remained stagnant - while wage growth for the highest earners has seen rapid increases over the same period.
Economists have been trumpeting the power of the UK economy and how it is out-performing most other parts of Europe; about what great shape the country is in; what fantastic GDP figures it's showing.
Having a good GDP figure means nothing to some people. It does not actually translate into having enough money in your pocket to pay your bills for a great many people in our country.
None of it translates into additional holidays, new cars, or second homes for the vast majority of people who - through the UK Government’s short sighted policies, complete lack of investment in housing and infrastructure and jobs - are now worse off than they were ten years ago. It's Joe and Jane Public who are struggling to survive in Scunthorpe or Hull that make up the 52%.
And why should their vote be inferior or count for less than anyone elses? The likes of David Lammy want all the benefits of the EU, but they share none of the burden of the problems that it also creates. Joe and Jane Public have all of the burden and none of the benefits of the EU. They have seen their cars get older, their bank balances get smaller and their holidays to Europe fewer.
So, it was against this back drop, with soaring housing costs, stagnating wages and politicians who are getting further and further away from the real-life effects of the policies and rules that they make, that Joe and Jane Public were asked to vote for more of the same on Thursday. And the likes of David Lammy are both disgusted and surprised at the idiocy of voting out?
There is talk of Turkey and perhaps even the Ukraine being the next countries that join the EU. Maybe this won't be next year, perhaps it's ten years away? No one actually knows. But whenever it happens, this will add a huge burden to housing stocks in the UK if they do. This will further dampen wage growth for the poorest paid. Housing and transport costs will soar even further. When will that stop? When will parts of Africa and even the Middle East be added to the EU trading block?
Will there be investment in enough housing and jobs to go round when they do?
No one seems to know.
Now we are out
It is a great shame that we are no longer part of the EU. I mourn the parting of this relationship. But it wasn't racism or xenophobia that caused us to leave. It was the complete lack of recognition, by UK politicians and those in Brussels, as to the affects that our membership has on the lowest paid in our society. It was a vote against a system that has failed to invest in housing, schools, transport and hospitals to keep parity with the rising numbers of people wanting to live in the UK. A vote to say 'help, I can't keep this up much longer, I don't know if next year my house will cost too much for me to live in' by the lowest paid.
And for goodness sake, let’s not make out that 52% of the vote doesn’t count. Otherwise we are being disingenuous about seventeen million people.
17,410,742 people to be exact.
17.4 million people are upset with the EU and their policies - and our failure to negotiate a decent deal for the UK.
It's not just five 'little Englanders' from Great Yarmouth.
It's 17.4 million people.
That’s approximately the population of Greater Mumbai
Equivalent to total Football League crowds for all matches during the 2009-2010 season.
That's overseas visitors to London in 2014.
The population of East Germany in 1988.
The same number of people who were registered as body parts donors in Britain in 2010.
Or the current population of Chile.
The UK: out on its own
Blame the politicians for us leaving the EU.
Blame the disconnect between this elite and the average Joe and Jane on the street.
Just don’t blame the people trying to protect the roof over their heads.