Why bother about ‘Brexit’?

As the dust begins to settle after the British referendum, and attention moves across the Atlantic, maybe it’s now time to ask what all the fuss has been about. The voters are supposed to have made a momentous decision which will affect us all for decades to come, but is that really true? I offer a couple of examples to suggest otherwise.

The Times columnist Collins has proposed a new effort on general and technical education for those not likely to benefit from university and who feel left behind by globalisation, which includes many ‘Brexit’ supporters and, indeed, many Trump supporters in America. National governments can make a difference here on the educational side, but when it comes to decent jobs being available in the required numbers when robots are steadily climbing their way up the skills scale a global strategy involving extensive international cooperation seems essential. In the meantime, dear Mrs May has declared a personal crusade against modern slavery, not only in Britain but across the world. Contrary to what some might say, this is not just ‘motherhood and apple pie’ for two reasons. First, as Mrs May has said, stamping out slavery needs an international effort despite slavery being illegal just about everywhere nowadays, and international efforts are not easy to talk about, or make, in the current political climate. Second, a more subtle reason is that, whatever the merits or failings of David Graeber’s historical arguments about the relations between debt and slavery, it is not hard to imagine that a debt-ridden society will find slavery harder to prevent. Thus, Mrs May’s crusade faces real challenges and the spectre of the global economy leers behind both of them.

From the point of view of these and many other issues resulting precisely from the onward march of the global economy and globalisation it surely matters only marginally, if at all, whether Britain stays in the European Union or not, including for the British themselves. So, what was all the fuss about?

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