The Brexit butterfly

The two mavericks
Or Donald Trump’s Clinton’s cards

The saying goes: a butterfly flaps its wings in New Mexico and there is a hurricane in China. Well, a butterfly flapped its wings in the UK in June and sent a mild breeze across the Atlantic that could well rebound this way.

So what has this got to do with Rye?  Just possibly, quite a lot.

In one of his campaign speeches, the now president-elect Donald Trump described a possible victory as being “Brexit plus, plus, plus”. In other words, he was acknowledging that the 100/1 outsider had managed to grab the imagination of an electorate disillusioned with their existing politicians and who saw in him the opportunity to get back at a system that many clearly thought had ignored them for too long and this was a chance to make their protest.

Much the same thought process, we were told after the Brexit vote, went through the minds of many voters here in the UK, thus producing a result none of the political establishment (and probably most of the rest of us as well) thought would happen. So we have given a presidential candidate an example for him to encourage his own country’s voters to follow – and they did.

Now – and this is where we have to start to think of the effect on us – there are elections coming up in Europe next year and, encouraged first by the Brexit vote and now by the US result, various anti-EU parties around the continent are starting to flex their muscles and gain support. It is not surprising that this country is hardly flavour of the month with Brussels’ hierarchy at the moment: France has an unpopular president who is soon going to have to fight for his existence against Marine Le Pen and her far-right Front National. A few years ago her party was seen as no more than a noisy fringe movement, but now it must be considered no longer inconceivable that she could be the next occupant of the Elysée Palace. Angela Merkel in Germany has a not dissimilar problem with right-wing anti-EU parties gaining support and an election imminent. The Netherlands is another country with a growing movement wanting to follow Britain’s example (Nexit?). And even some of the new East European members have elements that are becoming disillusioned.

So is the EU in imminent danger of disintegrating? Right now, almost certainly not. The establishment is strong, there is too much for everybody to lose and the Euro has also defied gravity and shown a strong survival instinct. But if a week in politics is a long time, then the next year or so is a very long time and so much can change.

In Rye, we are only a few miles from the continent and any possible breakdown of the EU must have an immediate effect on us here. We are a town that depends very largely on the tourist trade and much of that comes from Europe. We need stability for them to want to continue to spend their euros here.

Until a week or so ago there were several thousand migrants desperate to get over here by any means they could. It was, to a great extent, our own Border Force in Calais that helped prevent this. At the moment that control is still there, but would it be able to remain without the EU? We know that already there is at least one French presidential hopeful who would like to see it returned to Dover. And if not, would that encourage a “migrant highway” through France to our shores and potentially to our town? Then there is the fishing fleet. It may not be that large these days and it may not like all the restrictions currently imposed on it, but with all those rules lifted and possibly fierce competition from abroad, how would our fishermen fare?

Recently a Dutch company has been primarily responsible for the construction of new sea defences at Camber (the Dutch, of course, are the experts at keeping water off land that, by rights, should be sea bed) and there is more coastal work planned. How would this and other projects requiring the co-operation of more than one country be affected?

The success of a fringe politician in this country in his fight against Europe gave hope and encouragement to a US outsider in the presidential race and this in turn has given encouragement to forces in Europe itself, that could, in the end, have a profound effect on our lives here in this small part of Sussex.

The moral, especially for those who voted for Brexit, has to be: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

Photo: Getty


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