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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

It dangles by a thread

Populism is a sordid game which weakens every politician that plays it and has devastating effects on the country and its people

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
22 June 2016, 9:14am
If David Cameron wanted to re-negotiate key issues with the EU he should have specifically sought to do so – without taking the risk of calling for a referendum on EU membership
If David Cameron wanted to re-negotiate key issues with the EU he should have specifically sought to do so – without taking the risk of calling for a referendum on EU membership
One question is going round Europe: Will Britain leave the EU? Prime Minister David Cameron is a desperate man trying to convince his electorate that Brexit would spell an economic disaster for their country. But this is a mess of his making. 

Shamefully populist Cameron wanted to secure a victory at the polls – fully aware that the track record of his first legislature wasn’t convincing enough to pull it off. Aware of the growing discontent with the European Union amongst his electorate, and within his party, and scared that Nigel Farage of the UKIP would ruin his chances of making it to Downing Street again, he promised a referendum on EU membership if returned to power. He was warned by many of the danger of his populist move – but he marched on, determined to have it his way – the populist way. 

It was a ploy which worked wonders for Cameron – in the short term; now it’s back to haunt him. Cameron now has the worst of all worlds. Soon, there would be no one and nothing to rally around him. It couldn’t be more of a mess. If Britain votes to stay, Cameron would probably face a revolt within his party and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn would take credit for leading the ‘In’ campaign. If it opts for a Brexit, the hard right of the Conservative party, namely Boris Johnson – who’s at the forefront of the Leave campaign – would probably take over. That too would have devastating effects on Britain post Brexit but the implications of a Brexit are far reaching – beyond the internal workings of the Conservative Party. 

A Brexit would have devastating effects on the British economy and would probably spell the end of Great Britain as Scotland would likely opt to part ways with England. I’m not saying that the EU is faultless. Of course not. Despite its remarkable achievements since its inception, it has increasingly become the cause of a growing sense of discontent amongst its citizens. The gap between the rich and the poor in the EU is growing, whilst the EU has failed miserably in the war on terror – very often the cause of radicalization, the result of inequality and discrimination within its borders.

If David Cameron wanted to re-negotiate key issues with the EU he should have specifically sought to do so – without taking the irresponsible and dangerous risk of calling for a referendum on EU membership. But instead of stepping up and leading, he opted to flatter the public with a referendum. In the run up to the general election, desperate to retain his seat in Downing Street, he put party politics and his political career above the future of his country.

Last month, the UK Treasury warned that the economic shock from Brexit would plunge Britain into a year-long recession and contract the economy by between 3.6 per cent and 6.0 per cent, depending on the deal the UK reached. Unemployment would rise between 1.6 and 2.4 per cent, and real wages would also fall by as much as 4 per cent over the next two years, the analysis said. Should Britain vote ‘leave’, David Cameron would have only himself to blame.

Now it’s up to the ‘In’ campaign, sustained in no small measure by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, to convince the electorate to vote to stay in the EU – but to push for reform. Recently Jeremy Corbyn stated that: “The threat to the British people is not the European Union – it is the Conservative government here in Britain, seeking to undermine the good things we have achieved in Europe and resisting changes that would benefit the ordinary people of Britain”.

The sad truth however is that this referendum can only be won if it is a vote about the big picture – the bleak outlook for the UK economy, and the devastating effects it would have on the rest of the EU’s economy – not least ours; together with Britain’s standing in Europe and beyond should it vote to leave. If it is a referendum on local issues we’re probably looking at a Brexit. 

Whatever the failings of David Cameron, the last thing needed now is for Britain to pull out of the EU; and the last thing the EU needs is this referendum as it would set a dangerous precedent. That the EU should examine its soul is undisputed, but allowing its members to consider their membership as a switch-on switch-off effect sets a bad precedent. 

When historians come to discuss the UK’s EU referendum, whatever the outcome – David Cameron shall be remembered as the man who put his political survival before the greater good of Britain and its people. Britain’s credibility and the future of the EU dangle on a thread, because a few years back, the Prime Minister of Great Britain wanted to save his political skin. 

Populism is a sordid game which weakens every politician that plays it and has devastating effects on the country and its people. In the run up to the UK’s EU referendum, the anxiety in Britain and the rest of Europe spreads. The 23rd of June could be a terrible day for Britain and the EU; and David Cameron worked hard to see it dawn.

Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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