This is the Life: Voting in ‘Brexit’ was a generational thing

Web Lead

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

If I had been able to vote in the now enormously controversial referendum in the United Kingdom last week I suspect I would have voted in favour of leaving the European Union. And, like many who actually did vote for “Brexit”, I might have been regretting that choice shortly afterward.

As a traveller, I have enjoyed the easy movement between European countries. It is so much more pleasant than passing back and forth to the US. But I have also heard and read about the negatives of the union. In Italy, we heard of dramatic rises in prices when the euro was adopted, and obviously some countries have thrived while others haven’t. And tales of endless regulation and bureaucracy in attempts to create equal access to goods and services have often been stunning. It isn’t hard to appreciate why so many have not found the European Union (EU) experience a positive one.

On the other hand, though, the joining of so many independent states under a single umbrella has certainly avoided conflicts leading to war, which was a big selling point among those who remembered, or learned from, previous world wars. I think that most citizens of countries like the U.K., France and Belgium have long ceased to see Germany and Italy as enemies.

My own concerns about the EU are pretty much the same as those who campaigned for Britain to leave it. International trade agreements, including Canada’s own participation in NAFTA, have eroded and even devastated some economic sectors, including our own manufacturing base. Really, who doesn’t share a concern that we have been complicit in giving away jobs to other countries where larger numbers will work for less and in poorer conditions? All you have to do is watch the steady stream of transport trucks hauling raw logs and live cattle south through Rykerts and Kingsgate to get a glimpse of how willingly we have given away Canadian jobs under trade agreements. For every person who benefits there are likely several who have taken a beating.

In the United Kingdom, with recent governments having bought into austerity measures promoted by Germany and the International Monetary Fund, there has been growing dissatisfaction that decisions being made are not necessarily in the best interests of the country’s own citizens. Of even more concern has been the loss of control over immigration. The freedom of movement guaranteed throughout the EU’s 28 member countries has resulted in large numbers of refugees swarming into countries where they aren’t necessarily a good fit.

The fear of even more competition for jobs coming from immigrants who might not have the same financial expectations is legitimate. And it is simply too easy to dismiss as racism or bigotry, always a temptation when concerns about immigration are voiced.

An editorial in the Economist caught my attention this week as it tried to analyze what might come out of the largely unanticipated vote to leave the EU (keep in mind that the referendum has no legal standing, although any government that might want to ignore it would be playing with fire). The Economist’s general view is evident in column’s headline: “A Tragic Split”. The subhead reads “How to Minimize the Damage of Britain’s Senseless, Self-inflicted Blow.”

“The leave side promised supporters both a thriving economy and control over immigration,” it says. “But Britons cannot have that outcome just by voting for it. If they want access to the EU’s single market and to enjoy the wealth it brings, they will have to accept free movement of people. If Britain rejects free movement, it will have to pay the price of being excluded from the single market. The country must pick between curbing migration and maximizing wealth.”

The magazine chastises the naivety of a voting public that wants to eat its cake and have it too. And it points out a concerning fact, that the votes cast by the younger and older generations show a dramatic split in their desires. Voters 18-24 years of age want to stay in the EU in almost identical proportion to the plus-60s who want to leave.

It’s that last disparity that would have me ruing my leave vote. A young Brit commented in the New York Times on the weekend that the same generation that has run up spectacular debt rates and taken Britain into the EU has now voted to leave the union, which would threaten to take away young people’s present option to look for work in 27 nearby countries. The comment was cogent and bitter.

As a senior (by many definitions) I sense that my generation errs in not acknowledging the needs of younger generations. We have sold out their job opportunities in our enthusiasm for cheaper imported goods, and now in Britain my generation has voted to further restrict their opportunities. Shame on us.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

Just Posted

First meeting for Fire Hall Technical Building Advisory Committee

The full-day orientation will provide an overview of the previous process and seek input on opportunities to move forward.

Police get hot tip on cold case

Creston RCMP received 50 calls for assistance.

New maternity care clinic opens at hospital

The Maple Maternity Clinic expects to see approximately 50 clients per year.

Yellow Vest Rally held in Creston

“United we stand divided we fall.”

LETTER: Unist’ot’en protest camp about-face

Dear Editor: The Unist’ot’en protesters went from a hard stand of “no… Continue reading

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

Most Read