All anyone wants to talk about is Brexit.
I have an opinion (of course I have an opinion) but I also feel unqualified to weigh in on the internal politics of a country I’ve never visited… You know that won’t stop me though.
What will be interesting/horrifying to watch will be what happens to the UK now. The demographic split is striking – with most younger people voting to stay, but the majority of over-50s voting to go (this is what you get with an aging demographic). The value of the Pound has plummeted. Scotland and Northern Ireland are seriously talking about breaking away. Who knows how many large corporate enterprises (who currently use London as their European headquarters) are also looking at breaking camp and moving away. In the short term at least, the UK has been plunged overnight into a state of political and economic crisis.
I’m reminded of my earlier reflections on the Hillsborough Disaster (parts 1, 2, and 3) and the fact that it can be very difficult to recognise historical movements when you’re inside them. In some ways, the vote could be seen as a late-term rejection of Thatcherism and all the pain it wrought – which may explain the generational split. For while Margaret Thatcher was fist-thumpingly British, she was also a proponent of the European Common Market and helped facilitate Britain’s movement away from empire and towards Europe. However, while the money markets have now rolled the value of the Pound back to 1985, nothing else will roll back quite so easily.
I say this as a person sitting on the tattered edges of the old British Empire. Our stock exchange has (so far) hardly been dented. You know why? Because for many years we’ve been selling most of our milk powder to China and their money is still worth something. The empire no longer needs Britain. And Britain might find that not many other people do either. There is no prosperity to be found in this course of action – just a lot of hard work for a moderate economy to reestablish itself in a hostile world.
At the end of the day though (and as much as British politicians seemed to want to ignore this simple fact) the anger that drove this vote is partly based in racism. Immigration into the UK had risen to a flood, and people felt powerless to stop it. The push back from the working classes against waves of immigrants is a tale as old as time. The Irish hit that wall (rather brutally, and with much bloodshed) when coming to America in the 1840s. 20 years later, it was that same Irish working class (now embedded) who rioted against the waves of freed slaves flooding into the Northern states of America. As South Park once said:
Perhaps more foreboding is the tendency for sensible politicians to ignore the problems of racism and immigration. It’s not a dog whistle that they can hear (their job is unlikely to be turned over to someone who works cheaper), so they tend to forget that it exists. But it’s an exploitable fear, and a deep vein of votes that some people are more than willing to tap. That doesn’t mean that every politician should jump on the Closed-Border Bandwagon, but they are foolish if they don’t address what is a very genuine fear in the populous.
Gawd. American is up next.