After the EU Referendum



This morning I opened an e-mail from a dear friend in California (asking about my reaction to the Referendum result) and learned for the first time about the wildfires in the south of the state. So utterly has the EU Referendum debate dominated our news broadcasts that we’d heard nothing about those wildfires. This seems like an allegory: a majority of my compatriots have decided we ought to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. I’m among the many people on this side of the pond who are less than happy about the decision.
We knew this result was possible but we didn’t believe it would happen. Among all my friends (writers, storytellers, musicians, etc.), family and neighbours, I know of only one who voted “Leave”, and she did so for a very particular reason. She’s an ardent Scottish Nationalist who wishes for an independent Scotland, and knowing Scotland would be sure to vote “Remain” (which indeed Scotland did, by a 62-38 percentage majority), she wanted to help clock up as many “Leave” votes as possible in order to precipitate a new Scottish Independence Referendum. Such a Referendum now seems very much on the cards.

In the blog I posted a few weeks ago in which I set out my reasons for and against contininuing EU membership and decided on balance in favour of “Remain”. Many of my aforementioned friends etc. followed rather similar paths of reasoning – to the same conclusion. But the high-profile campaigning on both sides of the debate was lamentable: negativity, mud-slinging, abuse, exaggerated scare stories… The only significant British political figure to offer balanced and positive arguments was the Labour Party leader, the gentle and courteous Jeremy Corbyn, but because he set out the issues in a non-contentious way his voice was drowned under the cacophony of playground name-calling, so few people heard him.

In the end, the crass public debate was in effect reduced to two issues: (1) if we leave the EU our economy will suffer, with negative consequences for jobs, prices, standards of living, etc.; (2) if we stay in the EU we’ll be inundated by ever-increasing floods of migrants from across Europe, crippling our social services and infrastructure. I’m ashamed to say that more British people have voted on the basis of fear of immigrants than worries about economic prospects. I don’t want my country to be tarnished by accusations of racism and xenophobia, but such accusations are now inevitable. As for the effects on the economy, we won’t have to wait long for those to hit us. Within months, possibly weeks, many of those happy “Leave” voters will discover they can no longer afford the lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed. Indeed, they might no longer have jobs.

The outcome of the UK’s Referendum on continuing EU membership has been a perfect demonstration of how to lose friends and stop influencing people. The main “Leave” proponents bleated about “Making Great Britain great again”. Sorry, chaps. You’ve succeeded only in making the country small and insignificant. I don’t think it’s an achievement of which we can be proud.

7 Comments

  • Security (physical or financial) vs. freedom…

    It’s unfortunate. We claim ourselves to be an advanced civilization because of our technology, and we call it a global community because of our communications — but with nations and confederations and alliances breaking apart more than coming together… I don’t know. I think part of being an advanced society would include getting along better going forward rather than creating new divisions.

    (That’s my innately naive and unrealistic opinion anyway…) Such bodes not well, methinks, for our already complex and overly ego-driven world.

    • Mark Henderson

      I’m with you on this, Mishka. One concern in the aftermath of this Referendum result is that a domino effect could ensue, with nation after nation seceding from the larger assembly… Witness the demands (not yet widespread, but loud) for Holland and Denmark to leave the EU, and of course the now considerable likelihood of a second Scottish Independence Referendum.

      To add fury to our sorrow, substantial numbers of people have now come out saying “Oh dear, I wouldn’t have voted ‘Leave’ if I’d known were were going to end up leaving”. One of my friends described them as “brainless ******* *******s”, but I felt he was being a little over-generous.

  • P.S. HA!! I just read there’s now a movement for Texas to secede from the US…

    (Although in this case — home state of George W. Bush? Good riddance!)

    • Mark Henderson

      To be fair, not all Texans have the character of your four-letter former president – but this threat of fragmentation (however tongue-in-cheek) typifies the prospective domino effect I mentioned in my previous response.

  • Welcome to my world. Here in the U.S., we’ve been listening to “negativity, mud-slinging, abuse, exaggerated scare stories” and the “cacophony of playground name-calling” for nearly a year, in our absurdly long Presidential campaigns. It’s disheartening, as people I once considered reasonable are lining up behind the “Make America Great Again” slogan, as they rush out to buy a firearm. Racism, xenophobia, mysogyny. . . . and chauvinistic nationalism. . . . the future looks bleak.

    • Mark Henderson

      The fact that this kind of verbal bilge-pouring transcends national boundaries is scarcely comforting, is it, Mary? Of course our understanding of the Presidential campaigns in the UK is limited by the selective (and not necessarily unbiased) effect of our news media; but as I said to Mari in a recent e-mail, if I were an American voter I’d feel caught between Scylla and Charybdis. Our impression is that Mr Trump is a bombastic clown who thinks he can run a great country by appealing to the lowest prejudices of the lowest common denominator in the population, and Mrs Clinton – though far superior in terms of political experience and know-how – is not entirely honest or trustworthy. It’s hard to vote when you have a dilemma rather than a choice.

  • I suppose, to any people in any time, society has seemed on the brink of disaster — but it just keeps muddling through…

    But does that mean we’re forever stuck in the pattern of one step forward, two (or three or four or five!) steps back? Or that one of these times we’ll due to go over the brink?

    Either way, for any people in any time, it is endlessly frustrating. If we could achieve more than mere muddling… we’d probably just grow complacent with our improved lot in life, and screw it all up anyway.

    So there’s my slice of Sunday morning optimism! :-)

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