Where to even start? There’s so much to analyse and comment on in relation to the EU Referendum, so much to say. It’s also a struggle to set one’s own emotions aside as someone whose business, friends, parents and others are going to be massively negatively affected. That’s why I’m not doing this as a video. In writing I can keep a bit more distance and the level head I like to think that I aspire to have.
Respecting the Vote
There’s a quote that appears in various forms attributed to a number of different people, including (of course) Churchill, which runs something like this: “Democracy is the only form of government that gives the people what they deserve.” Obviously I am tremendously unhappy about the result (taking some solace in the fact it was so narrow) but I believe that the vote should be respected and followed. It’s the wrong decision, but you have to allow for wrong decisions to be made and then you have to cope with the fallout.
This whole affair has laid bare the extreme divisions in British society along multiple fault lines. You can see where Britain is broken by examining the demography of the polls and results, the regions that voted in and voted out.
Class: The lower classes and much of the middle classes were in favour of Leave while much of the middle class precariat – along with the upper and political classes appears to have trended remain. This is not necessarily what one would expect as the EU has protected worker’s rights and its regulations have helped secure safer and better working conditions and hours. This is not to damn the working or middle classes but rather to acknowledge that their concerns have not been addressed, have been dismissed, or have been used as a club to beat them with. If the lower and middle classes did not get a share of the benefits of the EU, or had more pressing concerns, how could they be expected to vote for it?
Wealth: In general, the wealthier someone is, the more likely they have been to vote remain while people who were poorer have been more likely to support leave. This is something of a surprise given the EU support for workers mentioned above, and its financial support for underprivileged areas. Again, I think, this relates to the unaddressed concerns of the poor as well as the successful demonisation of immigrants and the shift of the blame onto the EU. A society is only as liberal – and forward thinking – as it can afford to be and the huge wealth gap in the UK means few people can afford either. A stark example of this is Cornwall. Cornwall voted out, even though it benefits hugely from EU membership in terms of investment (to the tune of 60 million, if memory serves). The county is now cap-in-hand asking for their funding to be guaranteed in the future.
Metropolitan/Urban/Rural: Our metropolitan, multicultural populations have tended to vote to remain, while our industrial towns and rural areas have tended to vote leave. This, again, is not necessarily what one would expect as it has formed a rare show of unity between the traditionally right wing rural areas and the traditionally left wing urban areas. It is only the cities wherein multiculturalism and a greater sense – perhaps – of class solidarity over race has taken place where we have seen a (much bigger) support for leave. It appears that the experience of the ‘other’ softens people and lessens the effects of demonisation. In London in particular it is obvious that we are an international country, elsewhere, particularly outside metropolitan areas, this is more deniable. London is, in many ways, its own country.
Educated/Uneducated: There has been a big divide in opinion between the educated and the uneducated. Again, this is not to judge those of lower educational standard, it is simply to point this out. This relates to the wealth/class points above. Graduates are far more likely to visibly benefit from the EU in terms of being able to migrate, work and see the world. It also relates to the age issue below. Again, it comes down to those who benefit, and those who visibly benefit versus those whose benefits are less, not apparent, or non-existent.
Young/Old: Another sharp divide is between the young and the old. Amongst the younger voters (18-24) as much as 75% were in favour of the EU while amongst older voters (65+) only 39% were in favour (YouGov). This, I think, ties into a lot of the earlier divisions that have been mentioned. Younger people are not only used to the idea of the EU but are also experienced with the digital world and the gigging economy where borders seem an archaic inconvenience.
The debate has been fucking atrocious on all sides. Particularly the pro-leave camp but the remain camp has been just as horrible in many regards.
Facts have played virtually no role in this debate and when employed they were almost completely ineffective compared to jingoism and outright lies on one hand and half-hearted scaremongering on the other.
There has been a total failure for a very long time in this country to address the concerns of the working class and the underclass. A near total failure to spread the wealth and make the advantages of being in the EU visible. We have completely abdicated the discussion on immigration and Islam allowing the far right and racist xenophobes to hoover up people with legitimate concerns about both – and they are legitimate.
The idea that the EU is undemocratic is pure bunk, but had a great deal of purchase over people. The same was true – to a degree – on the immigration issue but these pernicious myths had far more sway over people than the facts.
On the one hand the leave campaign exploited the worst characteristics of Little England. The xenophobia, the racism, the ignorance of many. On the other hand the remain campaign blew these up and applied them to all of the leave campaign and – shockingly – scolding people with legitimate concerns as racists backfired. The smug condescension of the Guardianistas and their judgement, rather than attempts to explain and sell ideas to people was just as horrific. On the one hand we have (some) racism, on the other we’ve had endemic classism.
It’s been immensely polarising and the last time the UK was this divided my ancestors beheaded a King.
Things are going to get incredibly messy.
The UK economy is going to be utterly fucked in the immediate and short term. Some of that will recover, but it’s going to remain knocked for some time. The UK is likely to be in a very weak economic position for some time and likely have a second recession. The European bloc is likely going to punish us (if we do leave, Parliamentary Sovereignty still being a thing and Parliament being much more pro-EU than the public).
Scotland is likely to leave the UK now.
Northern Ireland is likely to slip back into violence.
Classism and racism is likely to get worse.
The Tory party is likely to sharply shift even further right, likely with Bojo as Prime Minister. The hard right has just been handed a gift and its not going to be immigrants that feel that heat first. It’ll be the poor, the unemployed and the sick. It’ll also likely mean the gutting – or even end – of the NHS and the repeal of human rights legislation and worker protections.
The Labour Party is likely to replace Corbyn who, for all his faults, was a much needed return to the left for the party. Whether they’ll replace him with a Blairite or a compromise candidate remains to be seen but they’re in a poor position to exploit the Tory civil war since they’re fighting their own. They’re also unlikely to return to championing the working classes if they do reject Corbyn, but are likely to retain the worst, but more Champagne Socialist acceptable aspects of the ‘Social Justice Warrior’ agenda.
The finance sector, upon whom our economy has relied, are already upping sticks and moving to the continent. Trickle down never worked, but what little of it did trickle down is likely to vanish.
Many of our best and brightest are likely to brain-drain to Ireland, Europe and (speculatively) Scotland over the next couple of years as well.
Its a much smaller, more precarious and – in all honesty – a LESS democratic and LESS free world we’re likely to see. The outcome is almost certain to be a much more vicious, nasty, less fair and more corporatist Britain.
Who knows really? We still may not leave. Parliament may still express its sovereignty and vote against the people. This is unlikely, but it has taken leadership in the past on issues where the people were against it – such as capital punishment. It’s also possible that the EU will offer more concessions – though this seems unlikely at the moment. That could, perhaps, trigger another referendum if its sufficient. It’s also possible that the huge hit to the economy could prompt such a disaster that there’s demand for a re-vote.
Once the formal process to pull out is invoked it can’t be stopped and we’re likely to have a much worse deal, to have to go along with aspects of EU rules but to no longer have a say in them.
We’re going to have a tumultuous few years as a much smaller, more insular nation and the genies of nationalism and racism are unlikely to be easily put back into the bottle. The only way we’ll be able to move forward is with a total reconstruction of both the right and left wings of UK politics and I can’t see the right softening or the left being willing to address the concerns of the working class any time soon.
I have little or no hope in the future of my country, or in politics in general now.
This was the last nail in the coffin of my optimism.