The day I woke up and saw the result of the referendum I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Some would say that I wasn’t being patriotic, wasn’t believing hard enough in Great Britain. But facts are stubborn little things, slithering their way through the shafts of what we once thought was Sunlight on the uplands. Brexiteers will do back breaking gymnastics to point the failure-finger at everything but their precious brexit. But some of us remember.
I knew sod all about economics in 2016. At the time I was under increasing mental strain: people in my family kept dying of cancer, my partner at the time was a horrendous person, my job in the NHS was plagued with the demands of managers put into their roles through nepotism. I’d been off work just over a month when the referendum happened: I was signed off with stress because I calmly explained that I was going to kill myself over a small slip up at work and to escape how horrible life was- so as you can imagine, I was not exactly in my right mind at the time.
But I do remember spending hours reading about trade, trade deals, EU/UK relations, market reliance, import export statistics, various EU laws that the UK both loved and hated according to Straight Banana enthusiast Boris De-Waffle Johnson. At one point I went out for some food with a friend who was an economist. We actually went out so I could talk to him about how depressed I was, but naturally the conversation tilted to the looming referendum. And his words about what would happen to the market have come true to the very letter. It was, in retrospect, a bit like sitting with Cassandra from the Greek tale, desperate and dire warnings which crashed around the ears of everyone to no avail.
But all of this meant that, despite feeling completely out of sorts at the time, I felt very clued up when I stepped into the empty primary school that was my local polling station to confidently say “of course, leaving the EU is a bad idea”. As I crossed that box I assumed others around me had done the same research, had come to the same obvious conclusions and were not buying into the happy fish cheaper mortgage better goods nonsense being pushed by government ministers who had one agenda: deregulation, less work for themselves.
I was wrong.
My local MP at the time was Jo Cox, who was a passionate campaigner for remaining in the EU. I was actually practically around the corner when she was murdered. The reason she died? The malignant, supremacist guff whose tendrils had spread murkily through the chatter around leaving, around stopping them nasty forriners comin ere an stealing are jobs. It’s that simple: she was murdered because of the blunt, ridiculous conclusions of a white supremacist racist whose grasp of economics extended no further than his nose and who believed that murder was a better expression of his discontent than discussion.
I thought of Jo too when I put a cross in that box. I knew she was right in her convictions, and I knew it was wrong for her to die for them but I felt it right to honour her sacrifice. To this day whenever I think of ardent brexiteers I remember they’re dangerous: that’s how far some of them went for this, ignoring the actions of a deluded extremist murderer. And how did the government at the time respond: Boris Johnson told MPs terrified by Cox’s murder that they needed to vote for Brexit to keep themselves safe… Remember that well used line from cheesy US action films? We don’t negotiate with terorrists? Johnson was actively encouraging fidelity to the wants and whims of an extremist to prevent more terror. I bet you won’t find that in any favourable coverage of him.
All of these things were not a culmination for me. The referendum, at the time, seemed immaterial in the pulsing flow that was my life. I wasn’t going to let a referendum about economics define me when everything else was so wrong, but it was also important to me. I was proud of our EU membership because it showed we were a nation happy to work together with our neighbours to achieve success. But as it went on, as I had accusations of betraying my country or not believing hard enough in the magic healing that would take place with the leave result, or as I saw sneering politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg or whichever else they squeezed on tv to trot out lies about NHS funding or happy fish I got more and more annoyed. I was being told to ignore the research and expertise I’d worked on to believe Ben our local crazy and his idea that once we were free from the chains of the EU we’d all have a castle, a unicorn and our illusory freedom form bureaucracy.
How much shame I feel now, having watched our country’s petulant behaviour over the last 6 years.
The charitable part of me gives a grain of amusement to the passionate brexiteers whose unfailing defence of brexit never ceases to amaze. It’s not because of brexit, it’s… the nasty EU making it harder to leave, they’re punishing us!
Yes, naturally. They don’t want other member states to do it so of course they are going to make it difficult; that was one of the many deciding factors.
Well, yeah but… It’s about sovereignty isn’t it!
Ah yes. What has sovereignty brought us? A radical government incapable of balancing the books who stripped your protesting rights back, endorses pointless legislation against voter fraud- essentially the US’ voter disenfranchisement laws copy pasted for the UK, and economic backslide so harsh that the UK is like an elevator with its wires cut screaming down the shaft to the basement as other economies overtake us: not because they’re good. Because we’re bad.
OK but what about covid then!
Well, about that. Covid has certainly contributed, there’s no denying that: it’s obvious. But you seem to be overlooking the fact that the EU offered a mid-term extension to the brexit window which Johnson and his cupboard of morons turned down. And whilst covid has indeed damaged the economy, factually, reporting shows that brexit has been worse for the economy on its own than covid was or would have been.
…Well, it… it’s the war in Ukraine then!
Nope. Again, all of this was predicted by knowledgeable economic forecast.
Here’s the thing. Economic forecasts can vastly differ depending on the pessimism of the economists conducting them. Think of it like going fishing on a lake. On a sunny, warm day with the right gear, the right lures, a flask of nice strong coffee and having long experience of how to fish the waters, the chances of you getting a good haul are pretty high. On a rainy day with a stick and some string and a hook fashioned from one of Boris Johnson’s eyebrow hairs you’re probably not coming home with a bounty.
Economists who were pro brexit were operating on the idea that everything would go our way, that the EU would capitulate and/or be friendly and a myriad other things that didn’t happen.
But the big difference is, economists whose forecasts looked bad were this terrible, inescapable thing: realistic.
Every single thing brexit was meant to give was a lie.
Freedom from EU bureaucracy. We still have to trade with them so, you’ve actually got more paperwork now.
Cheaper prices. Everything is more expensive both at retail price and for import.
Cheaper mortgages. Hahaha.
The chance for US to make decisions about our OWN laws! I attended 17 protests featuring thousands of people about voter ID, about the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill and they still passed, I’ve signed at least 30 petitions calling for everything from benefit reassessment for the poorest to windfall taxes to early elections- all ignored.
Every single promise a twisted straw mat of lies, beckoned over by Nigel Farage who promised it was a king size mattress.
Brexit was never going to do well, and maybe its impact wouldn’t have been so gargantuan if we didn’t have 145 crises all kicking off at once, now with Liz Truss picking up a shovel to heap more on top of us- but it is now an abject disaster. And I’ve noticed a trend with brexit conservative types. It’s always the “imagine the for instances that’d be much worse!!”
“Imagine if Jezebel Cranglin had gotten in, we’d have empty she… I mean, the pound would be worth nothi- we, I mean… we could be at WAR…oh I…”.
Or of course the “but imagine if these things HADN’T happened!”
“Well yes BUT if covid hadn’t happened we’d be FINE”.
These people live in their own imagination constantly, in a world where the bad stuff didn’t happen and the good stuff did- I invite them out of their own heads to observe reality.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a maladaptive daydreamer who spends my time in a fantasy world when I’m not working. We don’t live in a world where Corbyn won, we don’t live in a world without covid or war or whatever else you want to sling blame at. So I ask you brexit enthusiasts to STOP living in your imagination, fun as it is. You imagined your way to sunlit uplands and ended up with human offal floating in your rivers. You imagined a nightmare scenario with Corbyn at the helm and yet every example of how that would have been bad is happening, and you imagined brexit would have been a rip roaring success in a world where exactly what’s happened didn’t happen.
The fact is, we’re all inconceivably small. Tiny people, less than cogs in a huge machine rolling around trying to reach equilibrium and the referendum presented a chance to change this. Finally, we little people could have a say about the direction of the machine! We could change our very destiny! And so many people fixated on the EU as the cause of all their problems! It’s the EU’s fault my job doesn’t pay well, it’s the EU’s fault my business is failing! It’s the EU’s fault that Sarah my wife caught me cheating and kicked me out, please let me back in Sarah I just want my cufflinks… And they grasped that sad conclusion with all their might! They stuck both fingers up at the EU. Defining their entire life around putting a pencil x in a box. The biggest decision in their lives, and it’s been a wash. No wonder brexiteers are so strident in their defence of it: it was their one chance to improve their lives and they fucked it by choosing the options smarter people told them not to. Brexit is the equivalent of a toddler grabbing a hot pan and then yelling at their brother, who stood there telling them not to the whole time. SHUT UP TIMMY, WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME. We did try of course, but then you get told freedom of speech, that they’re tired of experts. BREAKING NEWS: Cutting your nose off to spite your face quite painful actually- more at 11.
So to brexiteers across the land I have some sage advice: get real. Wake up. Stop living in a fantasy world where you blame “remoaners” or “socialists” or “the nasty EU”, or Covid or political correctness gone mad or war… and start blaming brexit. It wasn’t the brexit you wanted, right? The brexit you wanted was in your imagination: what you wanted was for your life to improve and you’ve voted against that consistently for years.
So just for good measure, for me, for my own mental health- start taking some of the blame yourselves. You were warned.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.