LLCC profesor speaks on brexit

Paul Watson, Lamp staff

Chris McDonald spoke to about 60 people at University of Illinois at Springfield concerning the origins of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, the referendum campaign, election results, issues with separation strategies and potential outcomes.

The Lincoln Land Community College political science professor presented as part of the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois’ lecture series, Oct. 16 at Brookens Auditorium.

McDonald said that people in Britain felt a loss of sovereignty and control. He explained that integration and immigration were issues because once inside the EU, people had freedom of movement. This contained a subtext of race and difference that came to the surface in the Brexit vote.

During the campaign to get people to vote for Brexit, the people voting to leave the EU thought there would not be a cost. In reality, McDonald said, Britain has agreed to pay the EU 42 billion pounds (about $54 billion).

The Brexit referendum resulted in 52 percent voting to leave the EU. England and Wales voted to leave, while Scotland and North Ireland voted to stay. By major parties, the Conservative Party voted to leave, while the Labor Party and the Liberal Democratic Party voted to stay.

Additional demographic voting patterns, McDonald said, have parallels with U.S. voting patterns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Voters who were 50 and older voted to leave. Voters who had a high school diploma and some college voted to leave. Those who lived in the country voted to leave. Those who feared their status or economic situation challenged voted to leave.

The demographic that voted for Brexit was similar to the one that voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

“What you see with the Brexit campaign is something similar in the sense that it is harking back to a sort of picture postcard 1950’s idea,” McDonald said.

“It’s mythical this idea of Britain as the great global power,” he said. “It’s something that’s gone. An image of a largely white Britain and a largely male Britain, which … simply does not exist anymore. It is unlikely to be recaptured in any way.”

McDonald said one of the outcomes could be a vote of no confidence in the government, which would lead to new elections. He said nobody wins if there is no Brexit deal with the EU.

“I want to say that there will be a last-minute deal,” he said. “I hope that that is the case.”

“I was especially impressed,” Gordon Davis said, “with the manner in which he took an unsettled and highly volatile situation, assessed how this moment in history came to be, and brought forth a nuanced and informative analysis.”

Davis attended the lecture to see his former professor speak. Davis graduated last spring from LLCC with an Associate of Arts in political science with high honors. He is attending UIS, pursuing a bachelor’s in political science with an international studies minor.

Art Meyer, vice president of programming for WACCI and part-time economics instructor at LLCC, said, “I thought that Prof. McDonald gave a very nuanced explanation of Brexit. He described the current situation, the politics, the problems with the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and what may happen if there is a collapse of May’s government.”

Theresa May is the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Meyer suggested McDonald as a speaker when the WACCI programming committee indicated their members would be interested in a presentation on Brexit. He also said members have heard McDonald speak before, plus he was brought up in England and has written extensively about the European Union.

While attending UIS, Davis is employed as a case manager for permanent support housing for helping hands of Springfield.

While students are concentrating on studies far from international borders, they probably rarely think of world affairs.  McDonald, though, thinks they should.

“Quite simply,” he said, “because they are entering a world and a workforce and a humanity which is far more interconnected now than it has ever been.”

McDonald added: “Our graduates need to compete in global job markets and their lives are deeply affected by events thousands of miles away.”

He said these events could be a new contagious disease, threats to energy resources, outsourcing of jobs, the next 9/11 plan, or elected leaders taking short-term gains that have long-term consequences.

“All of these are crucial,” he said.

There is another element to consider.  Travel and study abroad, McDonald said, provides global awareness, perspective, and possibly humility.

“The world is a big complicated place,” he said, “and finding our place in it, and thriving in that place is dependent on recognizing this and that our futures are interdependent with those of millions of others.”

Paul Watson can be reached at [email protected].