Bill Carmichael: We must work together to face future

David and Samantha Cameron cast their votes in a referendum which has divided the country and left Britain, and Europe, facing huge challenges - irrespective of the outcome.
David and Samantha Cameron cast their votes in a referendum which has divided the country and left Britain, and Europe, facing huge challenges - irrespective of the outcome.
Have your say

READERS of this column have the advantage of me, as you know the result of the EU referendum, whereas at the time of writing I am entirely in the dark.

Although I support Leave, I suspect the Remain camp will prevail – the bookies rarely get it as wrong as the opinion polls do – but what I have to say here stands regardless of the result.

This has been a tempestuous – and sometimes brutal debate – and a lot of harsh things have been said on either side.

That is entirely as things should be in a robust and vibrant democracy. People should be free to express themselves in passionate ways on matters of importance – even if this offends the delicate snowflakes who get upset if anyone disagrees with them.

Such debates are an essential plank of our liberties and long may they continue.

But once the votes are counted and the people’s will is known, everyone has a duty to accept the result and come together in a spirit of reconciliation to make it work.

The winners should show magnanimity in victory and the losers have to accept defeat with good grace.

There will, of course, be some residual bitterness and the temptation amongst the losers is to hope everything goes wrong so they have the satisfaction of saying: “I told you so.”

This would be a big mistake. I suspect we are in for some volatile times – and that applies whether we are in the EU or out – and we are going to have to work together to solve the mess.

That’s because the fundamental problems crippling the Eurozone have not changed, and first and foremost the biggest concern is the economy.

Take Greece for example. The austerity policies imposed by Berlin and Brussels are not working – debt continues to rise while output shrinks.

Either there needs to be a massive programme of debt relief involving a huge transfer of funds from the richer north, or Greece has to leave the euro and devalue its currency.

Until that, happens Greece will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, and there is always the danger of a complete collapse that will cause further misery and destabilise the entire region.

But even the problems of Greece are dwarfed by issues elsewhere in the Eurozone. In Italy for example, the banks are holed below the waterline and are rapidly sinking under the weight of toxic debts.

If Italy – the EU’s fourth largest economy – starts to unravel then even vast bailouts will prove to be inadequate, and it will make the Greek crisis look tame by comparison.

One thing we should be clear about is that the idea of a “reformed EU”, desired by everyone from David Cameron to Jeremy Corbyn, is little more than a fantasy. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker made it absolutely clear this week that any further reforms will simply not be contemplated.

Instead a British Remain vote will embolden Brussels and accelerate centralisation, with ever more decisions on tax and spending being taken by the unelected Commission.

Neither will there be any changes to freedom of movement rules – unless the entire system collapses in chaos, which is a distinct possibility.

And yes – despite Cameron’s protestations to the contrary – Turkey and its desperately poor 80 million population will be fast-tracked to EU membership.

The result is that net inflows of migrants into the UK of 300,000 and more a year will become the norm, and a Remain vote means there is nothing we can do about it.

This will place enormous pressures on our public services. The one standout feature of the Referendum campaign has been the visceral anger of working class people on the doorstep over the perceived unfairness in the competition for jobs, housing, health care and school places.

We ignore this fury at our peril – as the Labour party is finally beginning to realise – and it will need to be addressed by all parties working together if our social cohesion is not to split asunder and extremists of left and right gain ground.

The notion, peddled by both Remain and Leave, that a vote for them would solve all our problems, was always a chimera.

Now the result has been declared we must put aside our differences and work together to make the best of what will always be an imperfect world.