Why the summer has kept things ‘Brexit and Chill’
Just imagine, for a second: a dark and gloomy Winter had followed a Brexit vote…
While indulging in the hottest September day since 1911 (let’s hold off the worries of global warming for the moment — I know it went through your mind), I realised why a hot, sunny summer might have been crucial to the mood following the UK’s vote to leave the EU — well for most of us anyway.
Picture this for me: it’s 6:45am on a November morning, and your alarm has gone off. It doesn’t feel as though you should be awake; your body is screaming for you to ignore the flashing white light from your bedside. This is probably because, as far is your senses can judge, it isn’t really morning yet. You can see through your window that it’s still dark. You can hear pebbles of rain hitting your window, accompanied by a sporadic rustle of frosted leaves being swept from the pavement by a gentle breeze — not the nice kind: not the gentle, refreshing cool breeze on a summer’s day during a coastal holiday. Deep down, you know that this breeze is no friend; it’ll be the icy chill breathing down your shirt while waiting for the train into work — it’s late, of course — leaves on the track. Your suspicions are validated by a cursory exposure of a foot outside the duvet. It’s cold, too cold.
While you are already reeling from your slip on the leaves on the pavement, and the fellow worker sneezing on your shoulder during your commute (you know their attempt to cover their mouth was half-hearted, you’re no fool), it is flick through the day’s Metro which really gets you.
Aside from the ritualistic glance at ‘Rush Hour Crush’ and ‘Guilty Pleasures’, you can’t help but be reminded of something which irritates at a far more personal level than an unenjoyable Autumn-Winter commute. An ache of raw feeling: of disappointment, betrayal, helplessness and frustration…today hasn’t been good, and the future is looking just as gloomy — Britain has voted to leave the European Union.
Though this may have been an exaggerated account of the average commute, based on the Hollywood-style stereotypical ‘bad day’ scenario, I hope it at least paints a picture.
The UK’s vote to leave the European Union politically mobilised a great many Britons. Thousands have joined political parties this year alone, and the referendum saw a 71.8% turnout — with over 30 million people voting. In comparison, the UK’s last referendum, on adopting the Alternative Vote, mustered just 41% — and that was reportedly a higher than expected turnout. With such an important issue for the UK, passions were flared in even the most docile, news-following citizen. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, such emotion was obviously going to remain impassioned in the mind of many on the defeated side for a significant period of time — and for a seizable proportion of the 48% — the remainers — it no doubt still is sitting there. But I wonder whether the reaction to the Brexit vote could have been worse: more severe and elongated, if the physical environment surrounding the referendum had just been a little less…pleasant?
Instead of sunshine, sun-loungers, ice cream, family BBQs into the late evening, beer gardens, strawberries, nature’s flowering beauty, the annual holiday away, days out with mates, walking to work, and Wimbledon to lift peoples’ moods into calm, lethargic bliss…imagine if the morning of millions of people held some resemblance to the scene at the start of this article. Yes, there would be Christmas, and the ‘new leaf’ sentiment of a New Year to bounce people through long nights, but when it comes to waking up on a Monday morning and looking out the window: dark, cold and rainy isn’t quite the same as bright, welcoming sunshine.
The Evening Standard reported today that London’s house prices have defied some pre-Brexit doomsday predictions, and continued to rise. The UK has not witnessed widespread job losses, but rather unexpectedly the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell in July. Consumer confidence data has indicated that the British public have remained more resilient than expected over the summer. The lower pound, as expected prior to the referendum, led to 3.6% predicted growth in the UK tourism sector in 2016 — a result, in part, by more Britons staying in the UK this summer — dubbed a ‘staycation’, and the FTSE 250 has erased its post-Brexit losses. These indicators cannot offer any kind of conclusion about the real impact of Brexit on the British economy. Only time will tell. It hasn’t all been plain sailing: the UK lost its AAA credit rating, and the The British Chambers of Commerce this week cut the UK’s growth forecast from 2.2% this year to 1.8%. But as Mark Carney said to the Treasury Select Committee earlier this month, “This financial system, under the oversight of the Bank of England, sailed through what was a surprise to the vast majority of financial market participants”.
According to recent polling, mentioned by David Davis in his appearance at the House of Lords EU Select Committee yesterday, something like 70% of the UK want the Government to “get on with it now”.
I wonder to what extent, if any, Britain’s “sailing through” this ‘summer of Brexit’ can be attributed to the summer sunshine. Did it help mellow raw emotion, cool heated debate, and distract from the fears of the unknown with the intoxicating aromas of suncream, coal BBQs and Pimm’s O’Clock?
Maybe the weather is just the weather, and Brexit just means well…Brexit.
At least it’s been a nice summer.