As I write this, the country is coming to terms with the sick practical joke that is Brexit. It’s like waking up on the morning of April 1st, and finding out that someone’s swapped your Frosties with cornflakes and sewn the bottom of your trouser legs together. Despite the fact it’s not really all that funny (these are your only trousers), someone will shout “April Fool!”, and you’ll grudgingly respect their right to prank you.
Psychologically, it’s much like that. Oh, apart from the fact that it’s June 24th and the prankster is Nigel Farage. You want to think, this can’t be real – because something this cartoonishly stupid can’t be possibly be real – but if anyone can expedite the five stages of grief, Nigel Farage can. Take a glance at his gurning, death mask grin and you’ll quickly move out of the denial stage into anger, bargaining and depression.
As for acceptance, I’m not sure I want to get there. Brexit has sewn the bottom of our trousers together and that’s our reality now. The UK must stand alone on the world stage, a playground outcast in just its underpants.
So much of what is said, or written, today will be pure emotion. I personally know that while I want to write something (just to have the immediate aftermath on record) I might just as well record myself yowling inarticulately into the void and upload my feral cries to Soundcloud.
The facts of the matter seem obvious; this was never a subject for a referendum anyway. When you’re dealing with issues of huge economic complexity, this is a subject for those who know their shit. It’s a subject, let’s say, for the 10 Nobel Prize-winning economists who issued a warning last week, or for the World Bank, or for the overwhelming majority of MPs – all of whom said we should remain.
I mean, I don’t have a clue about this stuff (reading a few Guardian articles does not an expert in fiscal policy make) and I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb to say the majority of voters don’t either. Cameron et al knew this. They knew from the outset that the determining factor would never be reasoned argument, but ideological divide.
Over the next few days, I’m sure people of my own social bracket will attempt to analyse that divide. They’ll place the Out camp under the microscope, commenting on the deep sense of disenfranchisement that caused those voters to jump ship. Perhaps they’ll uncover some quite legitimate resentments, and will come to understand ‘out’ as a kind of protest vote; a chance for older, working-class small-town voters to kick back against an establishment that writes them off.
But is it our place to do so? Not when the echo chamber effect is so strong. From inside our pro-remain bubble, we can’t comment on whatever the hell is happening in Hartlepool without coming off as patronising or worse. I would assume that, from the vantage point of such voters, metropolitan lefties are the establishment, and our drive to speak on their behalf is part of the overall problem.
As a result, surely we should be more concerned with the political manoeuvring that allowed this to happen. Cameron knew that Brexit would be a terrible idea. He also knew that promising a referendum would help him get elected. He placed personal hubris over principles in a grandiose, Shakespearean kind of way, and he’s going to go down in history as having scored one hell of an own goal.
Whether a new, grassroots politics will rise from the ashes, time will tell. In the meantime, I’m crossing my fingers that this actually is one giant political whoopee cushion. Because otherwise, never mind leaving Europe – I want to leave the planet.
Next up, Donald Trump.
Freelance writer and expat