Island Voices: Brexiteers are living an illusion

Re: “Why Brexit makes a lot of sense,” comment, April 7.

Perhaps it’s significant that the commentary was written for the enlightenment of Vancouver Islanders by a visiting lawyer from Britain.

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Though I’m not a lawyer, I am a Brit, and one travelled enough through a long career in journalism, forestry and ocean sailing in the U.K., Asia and Africa — and now Canada — to recognize that the world is changing. Rapidly. And unless we all get to grips with unavoidable change — climate, wealth distribution and new industrial ideas are just a few of the headings — life is going to get much more difficult.

I’ve been glued to the internet for weeks now, following the Brexit story live in the U.K. parliament, on the streets and in the U.K. press. It’s gripping.

With all deference to Philip Hobson, I’m not too surprised that a lawyer who supports the U.K. Conservative Party would be — well — anxious to conserve the past, rather than take change on board.

Generally speaking, lawyers tell the rest of us what we can and can’t do; and as a profession they aren’t perilously near the bottom of the wealth scale, as some of their compatriots in the U.K. now are.

I’m struck, in my dozen or so years as a resident in Canada in my working “retirement,” how the U.K.’s Brexit crisis reflects current events in Canada and the United States in the Trumpian era.

As a native Cumbrian and a journalist, I’m familiar with the nearby places such as the northeast of England — once the powerhouse of shipbuilding and the steel industry — and the thousands once employed similarly on Clydebank; and the days since Britain turned out cars from Morris Minors to world-renowned Armstrong Siddeleys, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.

Many of these prestigious names are now foreign-owned. Britain has sold them off, under the feet of its industrial skills, to places such as China.

It would be interesting to see just how much of the cash from these sales was reinvested in new industries in the U.K., and how much went toward increasing wealth among private individuals.

It strikes me that Brexit is just the U.K. version of the vital social and wealth realignments that are clearly looming in President Donald Trump’s United States. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Canada, too?

What U.K. Tory party Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, etc., would prefer is for life in the British Empire to continue. Isn’t that a self-serving illusion?

The news that the British Empire and colonialism are over is apparently too much for them to take on board. If Britain is to survive and thrive, it must change. It must stop being an island. It’s a short swim across the English (English!) Channel to our European neighbours (though Brits are notoriously bad at speaking their languages).

A foreign land? Hardly. Shouting louder in English gets Brits nowhere in the new world. It’s OK for colonialists speaking to their servants — but not now.

As it is, if the thousands of immigrants from the U.K.’s ex-colonies and those under free movement from EU countries, whom Hobson apparently abhors, were to up sticks and leave after Brexit, health services and much, much more would collapse overnight. Britain once treated the outside world as a source of domestic help. It must now wipe its own floors.

Farage, pictured above the Times Colonist commentary and one of Brexit’s chief architects, would, however, still get his European Union pension as a member of the European parliament, if he chooses to take the annual 73,000 sterling (about $124,000 Cdn).

And would Wentworth Woodhouse — England’s largest private home, owned by the wife of fellow leading Conservative Brexiteer Rees-Mogg — still get the 7.6 million sterling (about $13 million Cdn) upkeep grant awarded by Conservative Chancellor Philip Hammond?

Do I hear you say private wealth has nothing to do with it?

Ian Laval has worked as a print and radio reporter for Reuters and the BBC. He lives in Brentwood Bay.

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