The People’s Vote demonstration in London culminated with speeches in Parliament Square.
On the second anniversary of the EU referendum and following public awareness of lies, manipulation and interference from economic and political interests via social media during the pro-Brexit campaign, not to mention the sheer incompetence shown by a chaotic Government in the negotiations, many took to the streets to demand a “meaningful vote” (just denied to Parliament by various arm twisting procedures) for the people, on the final form of Brexit. Demanding even a new referendum.
The pro-Europeans come from all parts of the political spectrum. They stress that the “Brexit dividend” for the NHS (National Health Service), is a lie wholly debunked now but recently resurrected by the Prime Minister, desperate to be seen to support the NHS after years of draconian austerity just in case a general election becomes inevitable (she promised more money but not to stop privatisations, in fact creating the possibility of more juicy contracts for private health providers, many of them from the US).
The £350 millones a week for Health, paraded on the side of the Brexit buses during the campaign, is not only inaccurate but the NHS is in fact the institution that is suffering the most, and will suffer even more in the future, due to its dependence on European doctors and nurses, now leaving in droves, unsure about their immigration status after Brexit. And this is only the start. In fact serious calculations indicate the UK is more likely to suffer economically as a result of leaving the single market. And the “hostile environment” to foreigners created by Theresa May’s Home Office is already showing how much the UK needs (and is already missing) qualified staff from abroad.
The Irish border is another dramatic example of the damage Brexit could do to the peace process that following the Good Friday Agreement has allowed the people from Northern Ireland to have a semblance of normality. And the Tory’s dependence on the Irish deeply conservative DUP for the tiniest majority in Parliament adds another layer of complexity that for the time being nobody has managed to disentangle. If Britain is out of Europe but the Irish Republic is in then a hard border will reappear and with it the risk of further violence.
The pipe dream of getting a better deal from other markets (Trump has already indicated he wants our NHS to pay more for medicines to cheapen them in the US, and everyone is threatening higher tariffs in response to his tantrums) has been repeated by the media giving space for the Brexit hard liners to whip out nationalistic irrationality in order to defeat co-operative common sense.
Not surprisingly between 100.000 and 500.000 people (according to different sources, numbers are also in the eye of the beholder!) went out today. The path back from Brexit is fraught with danger, not only for the Government but also for the Labour Party, at risk of losing support in favour of other parties with a clearer anti-Brexist stand. Jeremy Corbyn has been trying to bring the debate back to issues of inequality and proper funding of the most important institutions at the service of the people, but his views are largely missing from the Media, which tends to fall into the trap (or create it) of seeing Brexit in terms of “taking back control from the euro-bureaucrats” (and giving it to the big corporations, obviously) and the jingoistic trope par excelance: immigration.
Today’s demo may well open up a more interesting discussion about the future of the relationship between Britain and Europe. We must not lose sight of the fact that it is largely the neo-fascist movements sesurging in Europe that are intent on its dismemberment. Europe is not a perfect project, it has already lost its original meaning of creating community between peoples in order to prevent more devastating wars. It has become the Europe of the Banks, but in spite of buying into “free” market neoliberalism it has managed to maintain a number of measures in terms of environmental protection, food safety, workers rights and health/education/welfare services which have virtually disappeared from the US the Brexiteers are so keen to join.
What is clear is that the 48% who voted to remain do not feel democratically represented by the referendum result, the so called “will of the (52%) of the people”. Real Democracy is not about suppressing minorities, but rather giving all a voice.
What has been largely absent from all discussions about leaving or not the EU has been the human being, what people really need, what a more humanised Europe or Britain would look like, how to start to eliminate the violence inherent in the system. When people go to the streets this is what they are talking about. Will they be heard?