Friday 24th June 2016
Yesterday was a historic day for the UK. The results on the EU Referendum were declared.They voted by a margin of 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (‘EU’). The reactions inside and outside were swift and unsettling. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned. The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that Scotland would look to stay within the EU by holding another Independence Referendum. David Cameron’s legacy will not only be breaking up the EU but likely the United Kingdom as well. Mark Carney, The Governor of the Bank of England, had to make a statement to calm the nerves of financial institutions as the stock market tumbled and the value of the pound fell so much that Britain lost its place as the 5th largest economy in the world to the 6th, behind France. The irony was self evident. Presidents and Prime Ministers across Europe all made statements. The pace of events was heady and it was difficult to keep up. People on both sides were in shock; leavers never expected to win and remainers couldn’t believe what had happened.
Saturday 25th June 2016
It was like waking up with a bad hangover. Those first few seconds when you awake and all is well. Then your brain springs into action and reminds you of the events of the day before. Your whole body is screaming to stick your head back under the pillow, stay in bed, and hopefully the nightmare of the events from the day before will go away.
Unfortunately, like any hangover, one has to eventually get up and get on with it. Headache and all. The grim reality was hitting hard. The pound had fallen by 10% against the Indian Rupee. We have to transfer cash every month from the UK. That means everything got 10% more expensive overnight. That’s a dent in anyone’s budget. We’re hoping for a small recovery before the end of the month when we do our large monthly transfer for the (already extortionate) rent out here. It may be a triumph of hope over reality.
People who voted leave are starting to emerge on Facebook and other platforms. Interestingly, amongst my FB friends anyway, only one (a cousin) declared their allegiance. He presented a thought provoking and reasoned argument as to why he was voting to leave, in advance of the vote, and I understood, but did not agree, with him. The rest are emerging as leavers after the result was declared. They are all with one voice about “getting on with it” and let’s face this “brave new world”. Some have simply said they voted leave. None, except my cousin, has stated why they voted that way. Of course, no one has to justify why they voted in a way they did. I have asked some and received one response, the others simply ignoring me. I am desperately trying to understand the thinking behind this and receiving no information at all makes it even more difficult to move on. Posting articles or statements telling people, who are effectively mourning a huge loss from their whole life, to buck up their ideas and soldier on is also insensitive.
I simply have not had the heart or energy to even open Twitter to see the reaction on there.
The Leave Hangover
As the result came in voters from both sides were being interviewed about the result. More than one leave voter has expressed regret at their vote and now wished to change it. Whilst astonishing we perhaps shouldn’t be that surprised. When more than half the electorate is used to their vote not counting for anything much in the First Past The Post (‘FPTP’) electoral system we have, we shouldn’t be surprised that they think it won’t count for much in a referendum either. Whilst some voters may regret voting leave, I am sure that over a million don’t and that was the huge margin the leave vote won by. 52% of people on a 72% turnout is the biggest mandate ever (more than any Government has ever got).
What I hope will happen now is that people will realise that they really can make a difference in elections and start voting in droves. I hope that there is a call for proportional representation so all views and parties are heard. Power back in the hands of the people rather than moving it from one political elite to another.
The Leave campaign have called for a period of calm. They need to. The nation is divided and half of them are hurting, badly. The leave campaign don’t appear to have a plan either. What now? Yes it is a brave new world but we need a PrimeMinister who can negotiate a deal for an EU exit that won’t kick us hard as a warning to other EU nations not to even think about leaving. I dread the Conservatives electing BoJo The Clown (Boris Johnson) as their leader as he will instantly become Prime Minister, and one no one voted for.
My theory on the leave vote
I think some people voted leave because they had nothing to lose, literally and figuratively. When the banking system was bailed out in 2008 and the recession started, it was the poorer working class who suffered the most. Bankers felt impunity as their horrendously bad decisions were effectively rewarded by the government bail out. They had just been told they could do what they liked and there would be no consequences. Meanwhile the effects were felt swiftly and harshly by those outside London. Economists and other experts were warning of the impending economic disaster if the vote was indeed leave – but what does that matter to anyone without shares, a pension or a job in the City? They simply do not care as it does not affect them. Some may have even voted leave to exact that just punishment on the City for their current predicament- who knows?
The subsequent General Elections did not give a voice to those dissenting voices. I am a great believer in democracy and representation and expressed unease at the fact that Green and UKIP voters were massively under represented in Parliament and yet the SNP was massively over represented. Friends expressed horror that I thought UKIP should have been given a voice, but much as I dislike their policies and views, it is important in a democracy that they are heard. Deprive people of a voice and there will be a revolt. That revolt has now happened.
Some people will have been fed up with the cost of the EU, the huge unwieldy bureaucracy, the fact that the UK’s voice regarding reform was rebuffed time and time again, and the fact that the UK felt ‘dictated to’ by unelected officials in Brussels. The EU needs to reform and this is the biggest wake up call they can have. Telling very different nations to toe the line and swallow the meal being fed to them is not the answer to genuine concerns. Nations need to be able to swallow what they are being fed and not choke on it. There are harsh lessons for the EU to learn from this. Unfortunately for them , they won’t have Britain at the negotiating table to help them out with that. The Polish Foreign minister has already expressed his disappointment about that.
I am sure there are many other personal and varied reasons why people voted to leave and I am sure these will emerge gradually over time.
A whole new world
Well we got through today by taking one step at a time. We had things to do and got them done. It was a somber day, but life goes on. In the weeks and months ahead we will get used to the idea, start thinking of the positives and get on with it. We are British after all. In the meantime, I would like some time to grieve. If I stick my head back under the duvet please don’t disturb me whilst I cry one more time.