Together with the editor of Pressenza in London, Tony Robinson, we are getting closer to the reality of the United Kingdom, both in the political-social field, and in the way Brexit is dealt with, the exit of these countries from the European Union and the effects that the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s way of doing politics could have.
English transcription of the interview on Radio Pichincha, Ecuador
We invite Tony Robinson to explain to us a little bit what is going on, what this means that “at any price they are going to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union”.
To put it in context, leaving the European Union is like a big divorce, imagine that you are married for 15 years, that you have done everything together with someone else, that you have made agreements, resolved conflicts, that you have worked on a common project. Then you want to divorce, they have to undo, or divide everything they have done together, domain, bank accounts, friends. It is chaotic and complicated and brings many confusing emotions, from the joy of good times, to anger and resentment of bad times. Only in this Brexit case we are not talking about a 15-year marriage, it is an international legal framework of almost 50 years, almost everything the UK has done in the last 50 years has been part of the European Union and now we are trying to separate all this and it is very complicated, in general all relationships, not just with the UK and its colleagues in the European Union, but here in the UK where the result of the referendum was 52% to 48%, so we literally have friends here in this country and families who have become enemies because of this but the worst thing is that Johnson has sold the country the myth that we can leave without any deal and everything will be fine, we will have fantastic trade agreements, we will have more money for public services and we will be a strong international voice in world affairs.
This is all a lie because in reality if we leave the European Union without any agreement, everything we do today in relation to other countries in the Union will be invalidated on 1 November, all our trade with the European Union is now done without bureaucracy because of the Union, goods can go in and out without a check, without paperwork, we can do trade without taxes and we can use public services anywhere. And all this in the context of Ireland, for example, leaving the European Union is very dangerous, probably many people do not know but the United Kingdom was in civil war over the issue of Northern Ireland, which is part of the island of Ireland which is still part of the occupied territories of the United Kingdom and many people in that territory would like to unite with the Republic of Ireland in the south.
About 71 thousand people died in that civil war and we could finally resolve that conflict in 98 last century because we were part of the European Union, because we could simply erase the physical walls of the barbed wire and the military checkpoints that marked the border. So returning to a physical border with customs checks and inspections is a prospect that is currently filling people living in Northern Ireland with horror, they remember living in fear and it is very real to them. So, for people like Johnson it’s a long way off, he’s probably rarely been to Northern Ireland and he thinks that people must adjust to this new reality, without understanding the roots of the conflict that were before the war.
Then it could have quite disastrous consequences that of separating without any agreement.
It is very dangerous.
Just a couple of months ago, the United Nations released a report on extreme poverty and human rights, which noted that in the UK “Austerity policies are directly responsible for the presence of 14 million people living in poverty, record levels of hunger, homelessness, declining life expectancy for some groups”, there are many people who are going through rather bad times and all this chaos of Brexit I don’t think it helps either. How are people in the UK living this moment?
The big problem we have in this country is the bad distribution of wealth, that is, nothing new in this world, we are suffering all over the world, but that masterstroke that has done the 1% that has the wealth is to divide the country. It is almost an issue that has nothing to do with the current situation of the country, this situation, this concentration of wealth is getting worse every day and people are in an increasingly precarious situation and they have lost faith in everything, they are in a struggle to survive, they have no way out of this situation.
Politicians do not have, especially the politicians that Johnson represents, they have no interest in making life easier for these people. There are many who say that Boris Johnson is a little bit like the British Trump because he represents the most extremist wing of the conservatives, this is being noticed in politics in this first week of government, something is changing, something is getting worse.
What we see is a hardening of positions with Johnson, in 2016 when people voted the referendum to leave the European Union there was no definition of what that meant, so when Theresa May came to power, she decided that Brexit meant that we had to end the free movement of European Union migrants in this country, break the customs union so that the UK could make its own trade agreements, but at the same time maintain a close relationship with the Union’s partners. Among many other issues, there was a two-year negotiation to reach an agreement that the country’s parliament rejected several times, such was her failure that she had to resign, but her party voted for a replacement: Johnson, who represents the extreme right of the party, the side of the party that still believes in the British Empire.
This part of the party that is a small minority in this country is now in control of the whole country and these people will not suffer any circumstances and they think they can do what they want, and they will do it, and the common people on the street are going to be the people who suffer in this whole process and Johnson and his friends don’t care. They are leading the vast majority of this country into disaster, it is very difficult, it is hopeless. I see that it is a hardening, Johnson has no intention of renegotiating with the European Union, they want to leave and no matter the cost.
Finally, Tony, I’m going to ask you, in the face of this, how is the reaction of the social movements, of civil society, what is the state of health of the possible opposition to all this?
The only sign of protest that we have in this country today, has to do with the environment, are people of the rebellion against extinction, the people who make the most shocking protests in this country. But the central struggle of the world, 1% against 99% is almost not seen, everything, absolutely everything, in politics is Brexit and in the face of this situation, people are tired of paying attention to this, they want it to be finished, they want us to talk about other issues again and they don’t mobilise because they are in such a precarious situation that perhaps they don’t have the plus to go out and protest.