UKMA did not takes sides in the EU referendum campaign – the UK would have to do business with a world that is predominantly metric whatever the outcome. However, one of our regular contributors, Ronnie Cohen, detects a theme of isolationism in pronouncements by both Trump and Vote Leave. Here is his personal viewpoint.
A common theme supported by the winning sides in the US presidential election and the EU membership referendum is an isolationist world view. It is a mindset of a “them and us”. You only have to look at the policies of Donald Trump and the Vote Leave to see that.
For example, Donald Trump’s declared policies during US Presidential election campaign included:
- Reducing the USA’s contribution to NATO.
- Withdrawing from international trade agreements.
- Abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which have not yet been ratified.
- Building a wall along the Mexican border.
- Leaving the World Trade Organisation.
- Imposing tariffs of 45% on imports from China and 35% on Mexico.
- Withdrawal or disengagement from non-proliferation policy on nuclear weapons in Iran and Asia.
- Cancelling the Paris Climate Agreement and reversing the climate change regulations introduced by President Obama.
- Making America energy independent. This appeared under the heading, “An America First energy plan” on Trump’s website.
- Redirecting government spending on American infrastructure and away from global commitments.
- Giving preference to American steel on US infrastructure projects.
Brexiteers generally support the following measures, many of which were promoted by the Leave campaigners in the referendum:
- Ditching EU regulations.
- “Taking back control of our borders”. It remains to be seen whether it will be necessary to build a wall on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
- Implement other measures hinted by the slogan “Take back control”.
- Attempt to make our own trade deals rather than have the EU negotiate them on our behalf as part of a bloc of 28 countries.
- Avoidance of common EU obligations while trying to keep all the benefits of membership (e.g. reduced financial contribution*, no euro, no Schengen, social chapter opt-out, David Cameron’s renegotiation, etc.). This includes EU measurement directives.
There is now a debate within Government of the desirability of “soft Brexit” versus “hard Brexit” (i.e. pull out of the European single market and customs union, remove requirement to observe EU laws and regulations, end to EU membership contributions and end free movement of people).
It remains to be seen how many of these promises, made by Trump and Leave campaigners, will be put into practice. However, one common theme is isolation – disengaging from the modern world in one case and the EU in the other. While the issue of metrication was hardly mentioned in the US presidential election or the EU membership referendum, it can be assumed that some hostility to the full adoption of the world measurement system (i.e. the metric system) will continue.
There is a perhaps an attitude among some of those that supported Trump or the Vote Leave campaign that the metric system is strange and foreign, imposed by others, not invented or belonging here, and so on. The old or customary measurement units, on the other hand, are seen as part of a cultural heritage, traditional, timeless, immutable and something of ours. It would seem that many in the UK are ignorant about the foreign origins of most of these units. They are, of course, a mixture of Roman, continental European and Anglo-Saxon units. Americans, one suspects, are also quite happy to forget that their customary measurement units originate from a colonial past.
* This is taken from a leaflet issued by the official Leave campaign:
‘Our money, our priorities. We send over £350 million to the EU every week – enough to build a modern hospital every week of the year. If we vote to remain in the EU we will keep sending this money to Brussels each week. If we vote leave, we can spend our money on our priorities like the NHS, schools and housing.”