On Thursday, which I think the EU requires the Brits to call quartidi, the subjects of England vote on whether or not to remain in Europe. The vote to leave, in theory, will compel the British government to negotiate an exit from the EU and paddle the island further into the Atlantic. The timing of the exit and the terms of the deal are not contemplated in the text of the referendum. There may be something in British law that determines these things, but I can find nothing to support that claim.
That is not an unimportant bit in this discussion. It is no secret that the ruling class of England not only wants to remain in the EU, but they dream of a day when Britain is just another administrative zone of Europe, sort of like how the Romans treated Britannia. It is not just that the idea of separate countries has become a heresy. The ruling elite seems to think the time has come to exterminate the British people entirely, at least as an identifiable tribe. As former Lord Chancellor Jack Straw put it, “the English as a race is not worth saving.”
Looking at the polling, the way to bet is that Brexit falls short. There has been a surge in support for leaving and English nationalism bubbling under the surface often goes unnoticed in polls. On the other hand, vote fixing and browbeating do not always show up in the polls either. There is also the fact that people perceive the status quo as the safe choice. Humans are funny that way. Any change meets some natural resistance, even when there is no logic to resistance. Roll it all up and Remain most likely carries the day.
Let us assume, by some miracle, that Brexit wins, what then?
In theory, the British government will begin negotiations with the EU on the formal withdraw of Britain from the EU. In reality, there has to be some political theater first. David Cameron will come under pressure to resign by members of his own party. He staked his reputation on this referendum so a failure to deliver would damage his standing. Plus, the people that really run things may want a scalp to send a message. As the saying goes, kill the chicken to scare the monkeys.
Of course, ousting a Prime Minister is no small thing and it could lead to all sorts of turmoil in the ruling party. Usually when this happens there is a group within the party that has coalesced around a new leader, they are ready to install, once they have deposed the old leader. But that is not always the case and all hell could break loose once the Cameron is gone. Britain could end up having early elections, which would put things on hold until after the election. In effect, Britain would have a do-over referendum on Brexit.
If we assume that the political fallout is limited to the theatrical, the next step is the process of implementing the intent of the referendum. That will most likely take years as neither side will be in much of a hurry to get on with it. Parliament will surely pass some legislation as a stop gap to keep the current arrangements in place until a deal is done. The EU will set off on a long drawn out process of forming a committee to study the process of forming a committee to appoint a board to review Britain’s exit request.
The hope for all concerned is that the English people, having blown off some steam in the referendum, will go back to their affairs and forget all about it. From time to time the public will be notified that negotiations have taken place in the south of France during the winter or in the Alps during August, but otherwise nothing much will happen. There will no doubt be tales told to the British press about the long hours required to address the millions of details involved in actually leaving the EU.
Polling outfits will be surreptitiously dispatched to keep measuring public sentiment regarding the EU and the referendum. The hope being that opinion will swing the other way and Parliament can then pass an act overturning the referendum. The pressure to reverse the results of the referendum will slowly build over time until either the opposition is worn down or some crisis allows the rulers to act. A recession will be blamed on Brexit and it will be quickly “fixed” by overriding the referendum.
This probably seems like cynicism. After all, Britain is a liberal democracy where the will of the people, as expressed at the ballot box, is respected by the politicians. Our rulers invest a lot of time telling us this and then spend even more time getting us to come out and vote. Then there is the bizarre obsession with getting foreigners to vote in their own lands and come to our lands so they can vote in our elections. You can be forgiven for thinking that voting is important and respected by our rulers.
That has not been the pattern in Europe, or anywhere else in the West, over the last few decades. The voters vote and the political class does whatever it likes, coincidentally in line with the will of their donors and sponsors. The French people voted against the EU Constitution and the rulers promptly ignored them. Other EU countries then cancelled their referenda. The Greeks kept voting for change, only to get more of the same after each election. Despite the rhetoric, voting counts for little.
The reason for this is that what we keep calling liberal democracy is actually corporate democracy. The political class serves the function of the management group in a corporation. The buccaneering billionaires of the global elite are the board of directors, who hire and fire the politicians, based on their performance. The voters are just the minor shareholders who are mustered every once in a while, to endorse the actions of the board as represented by management. The vote is never binding.
Whenever there is shareholder revolt, the board takes it out on management. In theory, the shareholders could overthrow the board as well as management, but this always requires leadership from a large shareholder who is, in most cases, on the board. It may feel like the shareholders are taking control, but in reality, the board is always in control. It is just that the individuals members of the board may make war on one another.
In the case of Britain remaining a sovereign state, the board is of one mind, regardless of what the minor shareholders do tomorrow.