Honduras is seven hours behind. It meant I could keep tabs on the results. I watched as the results come in in a land far away that in recent years has become increasingly alien to me, trickling in with such a disappointing pattern: Brexit. I kept thinking there would be once place that would swamp the leave vote and I would breathe a sigh of relief. It didn’t come and it wasn’t going to come. Sleep got the better of me around 10pm (5am GMT). I awoke early this morning with my phone beeping frantically with messages and social media links of news I didn’t think would ever happen: Brexit won. But at the same time I am not shocked at all.
How did it come about?
David Cameron and others within the political class have been systematically eroding the fabric of British society for a long time, and I have felt it even though I live several thousand miles away. David Cameron resigns from office claiming a legacy that no one else sees or believes: he was a good politician because he lies a lot, a necessary attribute that people say politicians need to be successful today, but it is one of the reasons why people feel so disillusioned by politics and why the millions given two fingers to the political elite. Those at the controls of austerity did not have the life experience nor the know how to understand the damage they were causing. They kept crossing the line thinking they would get away with it, not listening to people and dismantling the welfare state and NHS as though it was a barrel of laughs (just look at Jeremy Hunt’s smirk). The EU has been a scapegoat for British anger. Very mis-directed, I feel, and a case of lashing out, a lot like when a child does during a temper and says it doesn’t want something when it so, so needs it.
The Brexit debate was one of the most nasty I have seen. Lies and misinformation was thrown at it in a similar mudsling that we saw in the Scottish referendum and the last general election, which makes British politics a synonym of “shit” and makes people disinterested in voting. Arguably the best defence for Remain came from former footballer, John Barnes, who only came into the debate after Michael Gove dragged him in by, what seems to me, accidentally on purpose incorrectly mentioning his name as a supporter of Brexit.
Labour should not escape fault. Less than a year ago I was so excited at the prospect of having Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Now I question him on leadership skills and whether he can really cut it. He often let his voice be drowned out in the mass media, and his refusal to take to the stage with Cameron (yes Jez, I don’t like the pig abusing, pug-faced tax cheat either, but . . .) in an act of solidarity against Brexit, it consequently made the Brexit brand stronger. At the end of it, it is such a shame that Jo Cox lost her life valiantly fighting for unity and immigration. For me she was murdered by one the darkest, frightening corners of Brexit.
In the UK, the EU has received bad press for years. It has felt as though it has been governed by strange people in far off places, and its handling of Greece (especially Merkel) did not bask itself in glory.
However, the more positive aspects have been ignored in place of another rhetoric: immigration, paranoia and hate. What will happen to places like Cornwall and parts of Wales and Northern Ireland which have received millions to billions of pounds in EU funding, and workers rights, human rights, refugees, Britons who have settled across the EU, nobody knows. There are many other great aspects of the EU that I am sure I’m leaving out due to innocent ignorance. Scotland wants a second referendum and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland wants a look at the borders. This could be a very ugly can of worms about to open. It was a big risk to vote out and people have decided to take that.
I have to be honest, I am very bi-polar about the Brexit voters. I believe they mostly voted out of anger, as indicated above. But how I feel about them swings like a pendelum between anger and empathy.
You have to understand that, in a country like Honduras where everyone calls you a gringo, you have to show your patriotism and fight extra valiantly to prove to people you are not. “You’re the same as a gringo, though“. Cue very red, furious face. “No, I am not, neither are Britons. We have our own culture and our own ways. We are not the same as Americans, especially stupid Americans.” Yet, now, I really do have to ask myself that question. Do we British deserve to be lumped with stupid Americans? We Brits turned our noses up at them like the rest of the world when the voted a Bush into the White House (three times was it?). And as the world contemplates what will happen if Donald Trump gets into power, I don’t think us Brits can criticize too much.
The Brexit was mainly headed by right-wing Tory members (Bris Johnson) and UKIP (Nigel Farage), as well as far right groups. Except, despite what I said above I don’t think the Brexit voters are necessarily voters of those aforementioned parties and I think it would be wrong of us to assume they are. Very misinformed and disillusioned maybe. Sunderland is traditionally an old Labour voting area. I am surprised by it, but I don’t think they are all stupid nor racist.
These areas were abandoned not just Tories but New Labour. One has to understand where they are coming from. Industries and jobs have disappeared not because of immigrants, but politicians selling them off. As I say, this is a lash out. Anger. Good riddance Cameron; good luck on the pig farms, kind of thing.
I am frustrated that they have, in my superior opinion, made a terrible decision. There will be a lot of “told you so’s” from the Remain supporters in the coming years. There has been one in the space of 24 hours with the pound sterling going into freefall. Cameron was a shit, but now you have the real nasty side of the Tories in power, and I can’t see Labour reclaiming voters from UKIP. Farage has the charm to keep them (Hitler was also charming, they say: just saying).
What will happen to the EU now is anyone’s guess. But I don’t feel we Brits will have the prestige we have enjoyed since the Olympics. That feels a long time ago.
The UK is now a much smaller place.