The campaigns were fought hard, with casualties on both sides (and although this refers to political casualties, the real-life tragedy of Jo Cox and her message of unity should not be forgotten). Landmarks of the Brexit battle range from the sinister to the downright surreal, from Nigel Farage’s controversial Nazi-esque immigration poster to a flotilla battle on the Thames that culminated in Bob Geldof showing the finger to a UKIP vessel encouraging him to “Get a job!”.
the value of the pound fell to $1.3305, the lowest it has been since 1985.
But amusing as it was to mock UKIP, as well as the Conservative Party’s shameless career opportunism, the fun and games were brought to an abrupt halt this morning as the value of the pound fell to $1.3305, the lowest it has been since 1985. This figure will no doubt be repeatedly churned out over the next few days, although it is worth noting that during the vote the pound rose as high as $1.50 when traders foresaw a remain victory. It seems they were overly optimistic, and blind to the future of their country – how unlike the City. But before David Cameron tries to drown himself in his bowl of porridge (and some will say his tears are well-deserved for calling a referendum in the first place), it is worth trying to draw what little hope we can from what currently feels like a cataclysmic decision.
Although the predominantly middle-class remainers are despairing on this dismal Friday morning, even they cannot deny that England’s voice has been clear, with 53.4 per cent voting to leave. With the exception of London and its surrounding areas, England appears set on leaving the European Union. What conclusions should we draw from this decision? That the English public have proven themselves no better than some Americans, easily swayed by messages of xenophobia and a nostalgic sense of national pride? As tempting as it is to blame Trump for all of our problems, the leave campaign deserves more credit. By 23 June it was a generally accepted truth that leave had employed emotion where remain had opted for reason. In an age of fear and uncertainty about the future and international politics, can Britons be blamed for voting with their hearts rather than their heads?
England has always had a reputation as a bit of an outsider – the awkward eccentric uncle at the EU family Christmas party. Whilst in England, one might have a conversation about “going to Europe” for a holiday – apparently oblivious to the fact that they are technically already in Europe, despite the reassuring waters of the Channel protecting them from age-old foes, the French. In Brussels, a typical joke goes: if you speak three languages you are trilingual, if you speak two you are bilingual, and if you only speak one language then you must be a Brit. It is almost part of the British cultural identity to reject European identity – so maybe it was time that the British people were honest about how they felt?
Many Brits, particularly the young, university-educated or multi-cultural proportion, will disagree with this characterisation. But whilst this rather unfairly-xenophobic stereotype clearly does not apply to all, it does seem that the majority has spoken. Having been persuaded by Boris and Nigel that we can reclaim our country (which we have apparently lost to immigrants) and become great again (thank you Donald), many leavers will hail today as Britain’s Independence Day. It might take a while for the reality check of the financial markets, business leaders and foreign politicians to sink in. But this crash back down to Earth has been sorely needed by the British people for a long time. As tempting as it is to let ourselves be persuaded that our problems can be blamed on Brussels, the difficulties of battling on alone might just remind our little island why we thought the EU was a good idea in the first place.
It might take a while for the reality check of the financial markets, business leaders and foreign politicians to sink in.
If remain had won by a narrow margin, then a large proportion of the English population would have stayed disgruntled, with a sense of bruised – but still swollen – national pride. At least now the public have had their request granted, the convincing lies of the leave campaign will be revealed, and Brits might finally realise that, although Britain already is great, its xenophobic and often isolationist attitude is not part of that greatness. It will be a lesson hard-learned, but perhaps ultimately for the better. In the meantime, conversions to French and Spanish citizenships are likely to soar, almost as fast as the markets plummet.