Saturday, June 25, 2016

To My American Friends

This is a humour blog. I know my sense of humour isn’t what t used to be, but I still try to keep it entertaining and amusing. I never do serious. I never do politics. But today I am making an exception, for these are exceptional times.

“What Happened?”

This is the question a lot of my American friends are asking. It really isn’t a complicated answer, but it does require some background, so I thought I’d post the reasons here so they could see how something so monumental could come about. This decision will affect, not just Britain, but Europe, America and the rest of the world, so it’s only fair to explain how—and why—we did this to you.

What, really, is the EU?

Here is an ironic fact that was floated around during the lead up to the Referendum: The UK never voted to join the EU. It voted to join the EEC—the European Economic Community—in 1973, and then voted to remain a member, in 1975.

The EU is the self-perpetuating bureaucracy that has grown up from the EEC. So the EU began with its base remit of overseeing free trade and freedom of movement within the member nations, and gradually grew into a monolith that passes laws on nearly all aspects of our lives. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, we have laws handed to us by unelected, foreign bureaucrats telling us how straight our cucumbers need to be, but the EU also has an excellent record on human rights, woman’s’ rights, worker’s rights, the environment, etc.

So, in exchange for the loss of some autonomy, we get to travel, work and live pretty much anywhere in Europe. Going from the UK to live and work in France is no more difficult than someone from New York moving to Pennsylvania. The reverse is also true, and many people from many different European countries now live and work here.

It’s not all good, but the benefits, for most of us, out-weigh the disadvantages. For some, however, they do not. There is a group of people who think Britain should be a totally sovereign nation. They genuinely believe we can enjoy more benefits and better lives outside of the EU. They formed UKIP, the UK Independence Party. Nigel Farage was their leader.

Why a Referendum?

The Referendum came about, not because UKIP finally forced the issue, but due to in-fighting in the Conservative Party. Although it was something the general population were becoming vocal about, there was no real need to hold one at this time. But a power struggle (sorry, I don’t understand all the nuances) forced David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to hastily agree to hold a Referendum.

Consequently, his rival, Boris Johnson, championed the Leave side. This was a political gamble. If Leave won, it would weaken Cameron’s position and Boris could become Prime Minister.

What Remain Did Wrong

The EU: In order to try to avoid a Referendum, Cameron went to the EU to try to agree some compromises with them. The EU refused to budge, showing themselves to be the pusillanimous, smug and self-serving bureaucrats that everyone feared them to be.

Cameron: The PM set himself up as the face of the Remain Campaign. This made people who didn’t like Cameron more likely to vote Leave. The Leave Campaign had no Front Man, so to speak; Boris, Nigel and some other celebrities and politicians campaigned, but there was no central character designed to rally around.

Parliament: In a vote of National importance, more than a 50% win is generally required for the change to take place. No one seems to have given this any notice.

The Remain Campaign Itself: They lied. They lied meekly and self-consciously and their hyperbole came back on them and made people distrust them more. The claims about house-prices, consumer costs, WWIII were all fairly embarrassing.

What Leave Did Right

They lied. They lied eloquently, they lied with aplomb, they lied loudly and often and long enough to fool enough people into believing their lies.
  • -          They said that the $350,000,000 a week going to the EU could go to the NHS.
  • -          They said they would halt immigration.
  • -          They said that Turkey was going to join the EU and that 1.5 million of them would swarm into the UK.

Immigrants and the NHS—two hot-buttons of the British public and the Leave Campaign played them for all they were worth. In short, they told lies people wanted to believe.

The Vote

Despite this, as the country went to the polls, no one anticipated the outcome. It was inconceivable, even to the Leave Campaign. Nigel Farage basically conceded defeat at the start of the “all-night vote-tally” show on BBC, saying he expected Remain to win by a slim margin, as indeed did everyone else.

I stayed up to watch the show, expecting to go to bed about 2 AM when it became obvious that Remain was going to win. Instead, I remained watching, along with the rest of the country, and the newscasters—our jaws getting closer and closer to the floor—as district after district reported Leave wins. I’m glad I did, otherwise I would not be able to believe it happened.

In my view, the Leave voters came in three groups: the True Believers, those who honestly believe a better Britain will come out of this, The “Don’t Like Foreigners” group, who were fooled into voting for something that was not real (I have no data to back this up, but I suspect this was the largest of my groups), and the “Didn’t Know What They We’re Doing” group, who treated this election like a General Election and voted “Leave” just to spite David Cameron or the Conservative Party or politicians in general and basically had no idea what the EU was or what voting to leave it really meant.
I made this chart up, please do not think it is official or represents anything real

 The pundits and the pollsters all took into account the “Don’t Like Foreigners” segment, but no one counted on the “Didn’t Know What They Were Doing” group to be so large. That was where the surprise came in, and why Leave won, and why this should have been a 65%/35% vote instead of 50/50. They should have heeded the words of the American philosopher, George Carlin; “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

As it was, of the 70 to 80% of the electorate who voted, 52% came out for Leave, and 48% came out for Remain—a 4% margin representing around 1 million people. This is hardly a mandate for a change of this magnitude. My feeling is, taking into account the people who didn’t vote and those who couldn’t vote (children, those abroad, etc.) the 36% of the general population who voted Leave are dragging a population largely in favour of staying in the EU, out of the EU.

In short, this was a mistake. And I don’t mean an, “Oh, God, we made a bad decision; that was a mistake!” type of mistake, I mean an, “Oh, God, we made a bad decision by mistake!” kind of mistake.

I truly believe, if they let us do the vote over again next week, Remain would win by a wide margin.

What Happens Now
  • There could be a recession that makes 2008 look like a walk in the park.
  • Scotland may opt to leave the UK.
  • The EU itself may crumble.

 All of this may happen. But then again, it may not.

My Take

Like much of the country, I am shocked. And still in the grip of disbelief that a relatively tiny group of baffled voters can drag an entire nation out of the EU against its will. It doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem fair.

But we are where we are. And if it we are here by accident, well, Britain has a rich tradition of having its history turn on lucky accidents.

We need to get over our shock and start looking to the future. There is a lot of optimism out there. The Leave politicians, as it became obvious the Leave side was going to win, were positively bubbling with enthusiasm at the opportunities that await us. Hopefully, they will take the reins and guide us to that new and better Britain they have been promising for the past ten years.

In truth, I don’t think a lot will change. There will be some pain as the UK and the EU work out their separation agreement, as the EU is determined to make us pay (they are going to beat us like a red-headed step-child every chance they get), but this will only serve to show us that we made the right choice. As one politician put it, “If you join a club, and then try to leave that club and they knee-cap you, then maybe that is a club you shouldn’t have joined in the first place. That’s not a club, that’s the mafia.”

If Remain had won, we would have maintained the status quo, and sat around complaining about the EU and looking at the abyss called Leave, thinking, “at least we’re not in there.” But now that we are in that abyss, we have the opportunity to be totally self-ruling, and if our Leave politicians are wise, and hold the good of the British people in their hearts, then things could turn out well.

In a few years time, I think things will be pretty much the same. The UK has a powerful economy and a vibrant financial sector. If there is, indeed, a recession, we will recover. Immigration will continue, both into and out of the UK. Trade will continue. Our financial sector will still deal with the rest of the world. The difference will be that our laws will come from Westminster instead of bureaucrats in Brussels.

What is happening now is the shock of something so unexpected happening, but once that shock is over, people will begin to grasp the advantages, and work for a better Britain.

I have hope. I’m ready to follow. We just need someone to lead us.


  1. Anonymous2:42 PM

    I totally agree. Thanks for laying it out so well. My own English family is extremely divided, and the "Leavers" are in shock that they won. But as everyone is saying, it's done now, and all you can do is see what happens and hope for the best. Uncertain times, certainly. My fear is that the two blonds with combovers and massive amounts of blowhardiness (is this a word?) do not prevail in either the UK and US, and that a reasonable person comes to lead Britain, and that the US gets the best possible candidate: Hillary Clinton. Best wishes to everyone in both countries.

    1. Yes, let's hope we take a lesson from this and elect some rational, far-thinking politicians. There are rough waters ahead and we need a steady hand on the tiller.

  2. An excellent summary, though I am not quite as optimistic as you regarding how long it will take for the economy to recover.

    I'm almost considering joining the Tory party just so I can vote against Boris. But the problem is, who would I actually vote for? There seems to be a dearth of even half-decent options. Worrying!

    1. As I noted above, we need a good politician. But where does one find such a create, if, indeed, one exists? Maybe they live in the enchanted forest with the unicorns. I'll go have a look.

  3. I can't believe (as I keep saying) that there is no real plan. What the hell was everyone thinking, voting on something that had no details behind it.

    1. What were the voters thinking? Believe me, there was no thinking involved in this.

  4. Most of all I am very thankful to have found, at last, a blog post that is sensible about this issue!!! We are now in the situation we are in, and we have to make the very best of it. Things will recover on the markets because they always do - remember what happened when we left the ERM! - and life will go on because it always does. What we have to do is work hard to ensure that whatever happens is the very best that it can be! Thank you for being a voice of sensibility and reason!

    1. Thanks for your kind words. It's not often I am accused of being sensible ;)

  5. Your explanation makes the situation much clearer that any of the commentaries and editorials in the media! Thanks for taking the time to give us your perspective.