Battling the Brexit barbs

The result of the EU referendum came as a blow to a lot of people; a bitterer blow, certainly, than I expected, and I gave quite a lot of thought to the matter in advance. Why did it hurt so much?

  • It was a close result. 51.9%-48.1% is hardly a mandate for seismic change.
  • And seismic change may well be what we get. As well as a probable recession, higher prices and fewer jobs, many of us now face reduced working and travel opportunities around the globe, the loss of friends for whom staying in the UK is no longer practicable, the prospect of the breakup of the UK, renewed trouble in Ireland, huge cuts to research funding, and the knowledge that our country’s standing in the world just took a hit from which it might never fully recover. And for what? A protest? An illusory “sovereignty”?
  • Most of the time, when an election doesn’t go your way, you get another chance within a few years. Not this time. This is for keeps, at least as far as people my age are concerned.
  • With every passing day, another one of the Leave campaign’s claims unravels. Many pointed out the deceptions at the heart of Johnson and Farage’s campaign, but few took notice. When Olympic athletes are exposed as cheats, they are stripped of their medals. Why should lying politicians be any different?
  • Leave’s principal rodents, having gnawed through the power cables linking us to the continent, have all slunk back into their sewer. Because they never intended to take a scrap of responsibility for their actions, and they have no intention of being anywhere near the public eye when the public eye eventually wakes up to the damage they’ve done.
  • We know, we know. Not everyone who voted Leave was racist, or even mildly distrustful of foreigners. But judging from the crowing on their websites and Facebook pages, there’s little doubt that all the racists voted Leave. The far right, emboldened by what they see as a glorious victory, are now taking their hate out into the streets. Depending on what figures you believe, racially motivated attacks are up between 200% and 500% since June 23.
  • Many more of those who voted Leave weren’t really voting to leave; they were voting to give the establishment a bloody nose. And many of those who did want to leave seem to have reached their decision entirely on the basis of Daily Mail headlines.
An actual person from the actual world.
  • The Leavers have no plan for what happens next, and never did. The few sketchy “plans” I have heard make Wile E Coyote look like a master strategist, relying as they do on best-case scenarios, wishful thinking and downright false assumptions. (Some seem to think, for example, that the EU, a body whose survival now depends on making the prospect of leaving as unappealing as possible, will somehow be falling over itself to offer us the best possible terms for exit. Try cancelling your Netflix subscription and asking them if you can still watch their best movies, and see how far you get.)

None of these are unreasonable objections. It should be possible, therefore, for our vanquishers to begin to understand why we’re disappointed, or even a little angry. And yet, if we express so much as passing discontent with the outcome of the referendum, any Leave voters in the vicinity (virtual or otherwise) descend on us like a pack of harpies.

The interesting thing about the Gloat Leave digs is that they seem to be restricted to five or six stock phrases, no doubt lifted wholesale from some Britain First leaflet. And most of them, funnily enough, are entirely without substance. I’m sure most of you are perfectly capable of coming up with your own retorts, but for those who are too busy, or not confident enough with the issues at hand, here are a few ideas for possible countermeasures.

“It’s called democracy, mate. Ever heard of it?”

(This one crops up most often with reference to pro-remain marches and the petition for a second referendum.)

  • Democracy isn’t about 52% of the population tyrannising 48% of the population and ordering them to do the exact opposite of what they want. Democracy is about working out compromises that keep as many people happy as possible.
  • The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right.
  • Democracy, as applied in the UK and most other civilised nations, means choosing elected officials — well-informed, well-advised elected officials — to make big decisions for you; not making big decisions for yourself.
  • There is considerable disagreement among politicians and academics on whether referendums serve democracy well.
  • If people who moan about a vote going against them are clueless about democracy, where does that leave people who menace brown people on the streets, screaming, “Why are you still here? We just voted you out!”?

“Quit your scaremongering. The FTSE 100 is already back to pre-referendum levels.”

  • Only the painfully naive could think that the economic consequences of this decision would peter out after a couple of weeks. We are going to feel the fallout from this decision for years. The true test will come if and when we strike a deal with Brussels on the new terms of our relationship, and the early signs are that those will not be favourable. The UK has very little leverage in those negotiations — never mind a chronic lack of people qualified to conduct those negotiations — and the EU has everything to gain from making the terms as punitive as possible.
  • The FTSE 100 is full of multinational companies, most of whose revenue comes from outside the UK. Its health is more a reflection of the state of the global economy. The FTSE 250 is a much better barometer of the health of the UK economy, and that’s still taking a kicking.
  • There’s another reason the FTSE 100 companies aren’t suffering too badly: the unprecedented weakness of the pound. Because they take most of their revenue in foreign currencies, but report it in sterling, the fall in the pound means their figures are artificially inflated.
  • Most economists are agreed that 10-year gilt yields, the interest rates on UK government bonds, are the best indicator of financial robustness — and they’re lower than they’ve ever been, and still falling.

“Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!”

  • I won’t. Because I, and others I know, am now actively looking into leaving the UK. I do not like what this country has become; I would rather live and work in a tolerant, open-minded place, where difference is celebrated over uniformity, and where cooperation is favoured over suspicion. I speak a few languages, so I have a pretty wide choice of places to go, although Canada seems most appealing at the moment.
  • You’re more than welcome to your small-minded, backwards, bigoted rump of a former world power, ruled over by a government that despises you and lied to by a press that despises you more.

“Why don’t you fuck off to North Korea?”

  • I don’t need to. You just voted to turn my country into North Korea: insular, xenophobic, a pariah in its own neighbourhood, and doomed to serve under the same dynasty of corrupt, nepotistic zealots for ever.

“Stop whingeing. We all have to pull together now to make this work.”

  • In other words: I have no idea how to make this work. You do it. So, let me get this straight. You seriously expect the people who voted against separation from the European Union to come up with a plan to separate from the European Union?
  • If I’m sharing a house with someone, and they burn it to the ground, I’m fucked if I’m going to be the one to rebuild it. The government may have an obligation to execute the will of the people, but I sure as hell don’t.

“You lost!”/“Stop being such a bad loser!”/“Suck it up!”

  • Firstly, as will become increasingly clear over the coming years, we weren’t the only ones who lost.
  • Secondly, why should I suck it up? Many of those who voted the wrong way in the Common Market referendum in 1975 bellyached for 40 years, so I’m damned if I’m going to quit after a fortnight.
  • Thirdly, good losers don’t learn from their mistakes. Good losers don’t get fired up. Good losers don’t practise, train, improve, identify their enemy’s weaknesses and work on eliminating their own. In short, good losers don’t come back and win next time. And we intend to win next time.