In my wanderings in the Middle East I may have visited a district east of Jordon where the episode of the Gadarene swine is said to have taken place. As recounted in the New Testament, Jesus was accosted by a madman. Jesus freed him from his ‘devils’ which entered the swine grazing nearby (presumably there for the non-Jewish populations of nearby towns) and they ran madly over the cliff into the Sea of Galilee to be drowned. (They are on the top of the cliff at the back of the picture.)
This week will something similar happen? Prime Minister Theresa May is to evoke clause 50 of the Treaty of Rome to start Britain’s exit from the EU, terms as yet unknown. Brexiters don’t say what will happen to 44% of the UK’s current exports which go to the 27 free trade EU members, a market of 500 million. Vague mention is made of ‘global opportunities’, presuming that other countries will rush to make trade agreements (requiring much red tape to ensure conditions are fair) with a country of 64 million. Normally such agreements take years. As promised on the Leave campaign bus in June 2016, the £360 million pounds sent weekly to the EU will be transferred to the National Health, an understandably popular promise to voters, could it happen. The unmentioned fact is that much money comes back to the UK from the EU – to help farmers, to depressed areas, to our universities and especially science where the EU thought our institutions were the leading ones in Europe, and much else.
A snippit of history. Though the least poor of all the countries in Europe after WWII in 1945 b ecause we had not been invaded, by the 1970s we were ‘the poor man of Europe’. More than 40 years after joining the EU, the UK is doing relatively well in world terms while still in the EU, but only until the end of this week when a whole nation will jump over the cliff into an uncharted future.
What is the view from man left on the cliff contemplating the fate of the swine? Conventional wisdom is to follow the herd or, that much repeated phrase after the June 2016 Referendum: ‘The People have spoken’. The herd is necessarily right and all who disagree should pipe down and stop ‘remoaning’. The herd or majority (albeit a small one) may or may not be off course to a better future, but the doubting observer is automatically assumed to be wrong from the point of view of the herd majority. It is important not to make the mistake of assuming that, because the herd is in the majority, that it is necessarily right.
Many have pointed out that this is the problem of democracy. But we elect representatives, not delegates, to represent us in the way they, though their expertise, consider to be in the best interest of those who elect them. Former leaders from all parties – Tony Blair, John Major, Lord Heseltine, Paddy Ashdown – predict, from their experience, an economic disaster if we leave the EU. The irony is that cross-party majorities in the House of Lords and the House of Commons fear Brexit will be disastrous. But popular feeling resents a loss of sovereignty, though the European Court of Justice (not the European Court of Human Rights) deals only with trade concerns to ensure a level playing field, not our courts of law. It resents immigrants who prop up our National Health Service and pick our fruit and vegetables. When they leave will British workers take their jobs in hospitals and fields? We’ll see.