The old folks blew it. Sorry, there’s no other way to say it. The Brexit vote to divorce the E.U. was won by those with little to lose – older, secure, firm in their determination to have the cherished Kingdom of old that didn’t join other countries to prosper. It also wasn’t particularly warm to immigration.
Instead the old Kingdom fought other nations, took their wealth, imposed rule and in doing so, became a dominant force in the world. The England of old was something to be dealt with, that’s for sure. But that was then. Leadership today embraces the world and forges relationships with other countries for one main reason – to benefit economically. Somehow, enough Brexit voters missed that point.
Ask Walmart, or McDonalds or Apple, or any corporation. As much as you may hate them for their focus on the bottom line, that focus includes a wide-angle lens on world markets and it provides jobs. Yes, some of those jobs are in Asia and some of those jobs are simply not the jobs most people would want. But a great deal of this international corporate wealth and power is operating in the U.K. It’s a money and jobs hub.
The financial center role is as powerful as the Britannia of old. There is no need to take over African countries and islands anymore. You do money deals instead. It’s much less bloody. At least three dozen giant corporations have revenues well in excess of most countries. Corporations are power. If you don’t welcome corporate power and provide access to markets, you have no power as a nation. The modern U.K is a civilized place with very reasonable tax breaks and it works for corporate America. While it’s clear there’s inequity in distibution of that wealth, the bottom line is, there is a share of the wealth to be had.
If you are a young person in the U.K., you may detest the salaries paid to corporate CEOs, but you are very likely to consider a job within a corporation. You may also be very happy that you can consider working in many corporate operations throughout Europe because you are part of the E.U. But now the door to Europe has been closed, and the international corporations are re-examining whether they even want to have large operations based in London.
So when the older folks in the U.K. voted to divorce their trading partners, they really screwed over young people and their access to E.U. jobs. The irony is, younger folks don’t generally trust corportations. But show me any young person who wants to live in poverty. They need jobs and their job market has been stolen away by the satisfied older generation.
The sad thing is, it was starting to look so much better. In 2013, over a million young people in the U.K. aged 16-24 were unemployed. Corporate investment and recovery from recession brought that number down to 621,000. Quite a feat. Now, there is a good chance the U.K. will be plunged into recession again. Jobs will disappear, and it will be the younger, poorer generation that feels the pain the most.
They will be stuck on an island that has shut out so many opportunities for bright and talented young people. Those young folks may have been slightly wrong about corporations, but they were right about the elitist ruling class, the ones who decided to plunder futures in the name of isolationist thinking.