The Fears that led UK to leave EU

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Thursday June 30, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The "Brexit" vote in the United Kingdom (UK) has come and gone and certainly left many surprised by its results. Whether one was for or against the UK leaving the European Union (EU) the results of the vote as well as the demographics of that vote are going to be discussed, dissected, and hashed over and over again in the coming months.

Who profited and who lost will only come out in time.

Certainly, in the Brexit vote, one salient element that has hit the news is both how Scotland voted and how that vote fits with Scotland's previous referendum on leaving the UK.

When Scotland held a referendum on whether to remain in the UK or not, the Scots voted to remain but their vote was hastened by the knowledge that if Scotland voted to leave the UK, then Scotland could not partake of the benefits that the UK received from being in the EU.

With the recent EU vote, new complications are present for Scotland. In the Brexit vote, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. However, since the final result of the majority UK vote was to leave the EU, Scotland finds that this is not the UK that it had earlier chosen to remain a part of.

What Scotland will do, remains to be seen. However, for Taiwanese there are lessons to be gained in addition to watching the effects, if any, that the Brexit decision might or might not have on the nation's stock market.

With this Brexit vote and any free vote, there comes the responsibility of the importance of knowing a nation's history and identity and plotting the future one wants for the nation. It is a responsibility embedded in the valuable freedom of choice that Taiwan has earned.

The reinforcement of this importance of having the freedom to choose is the first lesson for Taiwan. Taiwanese are already conscious of their freedom to vote since they have elected their president by direct vote in the past six elections. They have chosen the direction that they want their country to go in; and they have reversed the direction of their choices direction by alternatingly favoring one party and then the next.

Along with the choice in voting goes the responsibility of living with the results. Put another way, the people must lie in the bed that they make.

How the UK voters will live with their choice is a key item that all will be watching; especially with the wide variance of demographics in the voting. Already there are calls for a "new" vote by some.

In this, UK voters could benefit by looking to Taiwan where the people have not only learned to live with their fears and choices, but also progressively continued to fine-tune their voting.

What definitely inspires Taiwanese to be more conscious of responsibly using their freedom to vote is that they not only have been in a one-party state but they can look across the Taiwan Strait as well as look with dismay at Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is no closer to even voting to select its own chief executive than 19 years ago when it was promised it could do so by the one-party state government of the People's Republic of China (PRC). If anything, Hong Kong is moving farther away from having that promised vote for it is also losing its right to freedom of information.

In Hong Kong, not only is there a decreasing access to information but the information that is already there is being more and more restricted. Hong Kongers are asked to accept that the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee will give them a choice between three pre-selected candidates and that it will limit their access to information about them--and anything else.

In this is the insulting implication that the people of Hong Kong are not smart or wise enough to know what is for their own good. They should blindly trust the "parental guidance" of a supposedly benevolent government that does not allow transparency.

Freedom of information is a crucial ingredient of responsible voting, and the relationship between availability and access to information is key to maintaining that freedom of choice.

Britons cannot claim that they did not have access to information; their problem was more that certain demographics let fears override their access to full information. It already appears that many voted not knowing what the EU gave them--they did not realize all that they were walking away from until it was too late. Hence there are cries for a re-vote.

Since Taiwan recently emerged from a one-party state system, Taiwanese are more conscious of not being swayed by "proposed fears" as some voters in the UK seem to have been. They have learned the hard way, those whom they can trust and those that they cannot. If in doubt, they even only need to look at the people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

The ultimate irony is that there are still those in Taiwan who champion Taiwan being under the suppression of a new one-party state. Those people now continue to tell others to forget their hard won freedoms, and return to this new one-party state in which they can once again be "freely imprisoned" in its historic myth.

Fortunately instead, on the docket in the Legislative Yuan there are now ways to extend Taiwan's freedom and eliminate the birdcage referendum that still binds and limits Taiwan's ability to fully choose and determine its future.

However, here Brexit can also still prove to be a great learning experience for Taiwan about the fact that even people in a democracy must be constantly vigilant and informed. They must examine fears and keep a flow of information coming.

Taiwanese can watch as the UK voters now seem to be finding out the meaning of the lyrics to an old song that say, "Don't it always seem, you don't know what you got, till its gone."

Brexit is not over.