Yes, it's me again, once more summoned to fill my foreign correspondent boots. Back to talking about the political goings-on of this Sceptred Isle.
...Look, it's like getting an injection. It'll be over before you know it.
Anyway, last year I wrote a little something about the UK general election, and a month after that I wrote a follow-up criticising the Labour Party's unwillingness to hold a referendum on European Union membership. See that article for my views at the time, and see here for a handy-dandy guide to everything referendum-related you could ever want to know, since this article's gonna be long enough without me stopping to explain things for laymen.
I promised I'd have more to say when this referendum was held, and we don't go back on our promises at KoopaTV (no matter how much we might want to)! Well thankfully, Labour lost last year's election, and democracy is denied no more! The referendum went ahead yesterday, 23 years after the EU's political inception and 41 years since we voted to stay in its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC). The British people have finally had their say, and we've voted to...
LEAVE the EU.
On an average turnout of 72% (the highest since 1992), the Leave campaign won with 17,410,742 votes to 16,141,241. 51.9% for Leave, 48.1% for Remain.
All bets are off as to what exactly happens next, but the process of negotiation with and disentanglement from the EU could take up to two-years, and political pandaemonium is already in full swing here.
|#UKexit? Not quite. #Brexit? Oh yes indeed.|
IMPLICATIONS:This is the biggest event in UK politics for generations, and will have ramifications right across the world for years to come. Not even Donald Trump getting into the White House could top this! Actually, this result is one to pay attention to for Trump fans as many of the populist platforms he stands on (like immigration, free trade, and generally not getting ripped off in bad deals) were a big part of the Leave campaign. In short, now the UK's voted out, come November, Trump could be in.
|Make America Great Britain Again! Wait, that's not how that goes...|
Trump himself, who was actually in the UK at the time, said of the result: “I said this was going to happen, and I think that it's a great thing, and we will see, but I think it's gonna be a great thing. Basically, they took back their country. That's a great thing.”
On the financial market, the value of the British pound initially rose sharply, showing its strongest week for almost 30 years, on early indications that Remain may have won. But as more and more results came in with Remain strongholds showing lacklustre results and the Leave vote outperforming expectations in many areas, sterling fell like a lead balloon to its lowest point since 1985.
This result could also signal a renaissance of support for the fortunes of populist, anti-EU, and nationalist parties across Europe (for better and for worse, as some of the groups in this broad clique are outright fascist) as they seek to follow the UK's lead out of the EU. So watch this space for more #exit campaigns in the future.
Every region of England (except London) and Wales voted to leave, while Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar voted to remain. This is problematic because the massively pro-EU Scottish National Party (SNP) had threatened to hold a second Scottish independence referendum with the aim of rejoining the EU if Scotland itself voted to Remain. Since the SNP failed to get an outright majority in the Scottish parliament back in May, there's a chance this could get blocked, but I wouldn't count on it. There have already been calls for a vote by Irish republicans on the status of Northern Ireland, and I shudder to think what'll become of the poor Gibraltarians in all of this, who voted 96% in favour of Remain. Spain's already making moves to gain control. If any of you out on the Rock are actually reading this, I genuinely feel for you.
Pardon me if this article has an overall aura of gloom about it, but there's a real risk that in the coming years I could witness the wholesale dismemberment of my entire country, and that is not a prospect I relish. Only one thing is certain here: there will be no easy solutions to sorting out this almighty mess.
WHO BACKED WHAT?:I'll try to keep this simple. Basically, all major political parties and Members of Parliament sided with Remain, with the following exceptions:
|Nigel Farage: man of a thousand faces, none of them pretty.|
Britain's answer to Donald Trump (though marginally less controversial), the plain-speaking, right-wing, populist, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader and EU Parliament member Nigel Farage is a KoopaTV fan favourite and has been campaigning to leave the EU for more than 20 years, leading UKIP on an insurgent grassroots campaign against the establishment in recent elections, and has never shied away from sticking it to the upper echelons of the EU elite in Brussels:
And his tirades make for excellent viral video fodder!
Well, he's now achieved his political-life's work (even if he has kinda made his party obsolete in the same stroke). He's even called for June the 23rd to become the UK's Independence Day and a public holiday. Early in the night he conceded the fight to Remain, only to “un-concede” as more results came in. Then he conceded again, un-conceded again, then semi-jumped the gun on calling it for Leave. This sounds like a shambles, but it does fit with his “un-resignation” from last year's general election.
UKIP's sole MP, Douglas Carswell, also backed Leave, as did a scant handful of Labour MPs, a few others such as the Northern Irish DUP, and 138 of the Conservative Party's 331 MPs (including a fifth of the government's 30-member cabinet).
|This is actually from the London Olympics, but it's just too funny not to use.|
“Lovable buffoon” Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London, has perhaps been the most high-profile Leave campaigner, eclipsing even Nigel Farage, who is often seen as more “fringe”. Boris is one of the most popular politicians in the country, with charm that transcends party politics to a more mainstream appeal, which is why I used his first name right there. Everyone's on a first-name-basis with Boris! He's also a likely future Conservative leader and Prime Minister, and the only politician on the planet with hair worse than Donald Trump.
Lastly, allow me to introduce KoopaTV's latest red-hot property, Britain's newest cheerleader in a post-EU world, Brexit Braixen!
|*Psst* Don't tell her we have plans to unban fox hunting, 'k?|
Brexit Braixen has arrived on the scene to bring the country together around her roaring flames, which will guide the Good Ship Britain through the murky waters of instability and light the way to a brighter future outside the EU. Well, that's the hope anyway. Also, don't mistake her for an introduced species from the continent. This foxy vixen is as British as they come.
|I feel for him. I really do.|
Prime Minster David Cameron led the Remain campaign after a much-mocked “renegotiation” with the EU at the start of the year that did in fact win back some powers on social security payments and various opt-outs and the like, but for the Leave campaign this was all very much too little too late. I do have to applaud the Conservatives for having the guts to actually have this referendum at all and embrace the electorate's desire to finally have their say on this issue. However, Euro-scepticism has always been a shadow of dread hanging over the Conservative Party. Bitter divisions on the EU infamously made things difficult for John Major's government in the 90s, and despite the fact Cameron vowed to continue as PM during the campaign even if Britain voted to leave, it's cost him his job now that voters have rejected his vision of the EU along with his renegotiation.
It's a shame really. I think Cameron's been a pretty good PM these last six years, and having to resign after a shock election win and forming the first majority Conservative government in 18 years just last year? And to hear his voice crack and see his eyes tear up at the end of his “resignation” speech? What a waste. Expect a Conservative leadership election and possibly another general election in the coming months.
A majority of Conservatives, the aforementioned SNP, the fallen-from-grace Liberal Democrats, almost all MPs from the smaller and regional parties, and the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs also backed Remain, including Britain's answer to Bernie Sanders. No, it's not his British brother Larry Sanders. Nor is it that handsome, well-spoken, eloquent fellow who dubbed Bernie Sander's guest article for KoopaTV into dulcet British tonalities. It's fairly new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
|He's only been in the job nine and a half months!|
Actually, I take that comparison back. Jeremy Corbyn makes Bernie Sanders look like John Maynard Keynes! He's old-school socialist, not just a social democrat, as they say. The kind of socialist that makes Americans shrivel up and die just from them being in the same room. During his leadership campaign last year, he came across as lukewarm on the EU at best, and during this campaign measured his enthusiasm for Remain at about a “7, 7.5”. Hardly a ringing endorsement, is it? Owning to being so hard-left, he's viewed as something of a unelectable lame duck even in his own party, and what was seen as his half-hearted Remain campaign has proved the final straw for some as he's already been issued with a vote of no confidence. So, that's potentially another leadership contest on the books.
But you know what? No matter what side of the argument, the point is this: democracy works. I've already been hearing a lot of sour grapes from leftist Remain campaigners about how this referendum didn't even need to happen and that it not only took the UK out of the EU, but put the very future of the UK in doubt, and are saying Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves for having the temerity to actually consult the electorate.
Well, as I mentioned in Denial of Democracy, this is just more of that “the British people are too stupid to know that staying in the EU is good for them” nonsense. Sentiment like this is the complete antithesis of democracy itself and anyone espousing it is just using it as a scapegoat because they can't blame the voters since that's political suicide. I also said that even if you lose the argument, it's time to get behind the democratic will of the people and (from a losers' perspective) make the most of a bad situation, which is what most people should be doing right now.
|This was the poll tracker from May 2015, where I said pro-EU sentiment was getting stronger. Erm, yeeeeah, about that...|
Yes, it was a long, vicious campaign. The polls had been going back and forth for weeks, and campaigning was even suspended for a few days due to the tragic assassination of a Member of Parliament. Thanks to the Communications Act 2003, we in the UK are at least spared parties spending absurd sums of money to smear each other in TV and radio advertisements, and politicians must instead get their messages across via TV interviews, public speeches, canvassing, posters, flyers, et cetera. We British like our scare mongering done the old-fashioned way!
Speaking of “scare mongering”, that term's seen a lot of use throughout this campaign. Some might even say over-use, with accusations flying from one side to the other. But I think voters are smarter than you think. Sure, you can scare some of them into voting how you want, but most will see right through it and vote against you just for even attempting that. In my experience, accusations of scare mongering are mostly just sour grapes from the losing side. Voters are ultimately responsible for how they vote.
|“Oi! What're YOU doin' 'ere?”|
We also had Barack Obama stop by in April to urge us not to leave, as if it's really any of his business. Last I looked, America is not in the habit of being told what to do in this fashion. Seems a bit rich to me.
Obama's actually fairly well-liked here, but he said that the UK would go to “the back of the queue” in hammering out a new trade deal with the US if we voted to leave. Seriously? Who are you trying to kid, Mr. President? Rather like how it's not in the best interests of the EU to lose tariff-less access to British consumers of their goods, such as German cars, the US would certainly want to knock out an agreeable deal as soon as possible with the fifth largest economy on Earth. So let's crack on and do it. “Back of the queue” my aching backside.
THE DREAM LIES IN RUINS:I'm not ashamed to admit, up until a few years ago I was a fairly large Euro-phile (a pejorative term in Leave circles), especially notable for Britain being a very Euro-sceptic country. I thought this idea of European brotherhood, closer relations, and increased co-operation was a wonderful goal to aspire to on a continent where we've been butchering one another for literally thousands of years. I dared even to dream that perhaps one day in the remote future (like in the next century for instance) it would actually lead to the formation of a United States of Europe. A much reviled concept today, but nonetheless not outside the realms of eventuality, I thought. Yes, I was a dreamer.
So what changed? Well, a lot of things...
I was shocked at what's become of Greece as a result of the EU's embracement of the economic fallacy known as the currency union, leaving Greece crippled and incapable of paying off its mountainous debt. Wouldn't be surprised if next we saw the return of #Grexit.
I've also become sick and tired of the repeated broken promises on net migration levels. When David Cameron first campaigned to become PM, he said he would work to reduce the numbers from hundreds of thousands, to tens of thousands per year. And this was in 2010. What was done about it since then? Absolutely nothing. Net migration went up in fact. He ran on the same message in 2015, yet net migration still hit record levels that year.
Now, I'm not against immigration itself (which is vital to provide the skills we need to run our public services). I'm against too much immigration, and we've had too much for too long. There's simply no way to successfully assimilate so many people into a society so quickly, and failure to do so breeds division, prejudice, and a sense of alienation in your own country, not to mention placing an even greater strain on said services and keeping wages depressed. A re-balancing is what we need, so the playing field is level for everyone and not biased towards countries of the EU. From now on, things need to change.
Another alarming development was how easily the supposed solidarity of the European community vanished like dust in the wind at the onset of the ongoing migrant crisis, as borders between countries that hadn't existed in years were suddenly thrown back up to staunch the seemingly endless flow of humanity. I don't necessarily disagree that countries should have the right to take that sort of action in an emergency, but my point is that it shows how easily those aspects of the wider European project like free movement of people failed under pressure.
Speaking of the migrant crisis, another concern I had was with aspirations Turkey's had to join the EU since 1987. Negotiations didn't even begin until 2005, and since then Turkey has made next to no progress. But despite that, Turkey could potentially end up on a fast-track to membership, eventually joining earlier than it otherwise would have due to having the EU over a barrel thanks to the aforementioned migrant crisis. Even with that sped up process, they still won't be joining for decades, but allowing Turkey into the club at all before it's truly ready would be a disaster. Most agree that Romania and Bulgaria joined a good few years before they should have, but at least they weren't also potential security risks.
Then of course there's the much discussed dearth of direct democracy in the EU, and the fact that unelected, unaccountable 'Eurocrats' are the ones running the show. At times like these, the disaffected masses need an inspiring message to rouse them to action capable of reminding the top brass who's really in charge here.
All these crises together rocked me to my core over a relatively short time and broke the back of my faith in the European project. Since then, I've been incredibly conflicted on whether we should Remain or Leave. This internal conflict, rather than simple youth voter apathy, was the reason I didn't even vote in the referendum, preferring to simply await the verdict of the people. My heart was saying Remain, but my head said Leave.
In the end all these things combined left me with the impression that the EU is like a bloated cadaver, unfit for purpose, nor up to the challenges of the future. It seems to me that the EU itself is the real sick man of Europe. In that respect, in perhaps the most nerdy display of anything ever, it reminds me greatly of a quote by Chaos Sorcerer Ahzek Ahriman of the Warhammer 40,000 universe as printed in White Dwarf (US) issue 275, page 88:
“And what are the achievements of your fragile [European Union]? It is a corpse rotting slowly from within while maggots writhe in its belly. It was built with the toil of heroes and giants, and now it is inhabited by [Eurocrats] to whom the glories of those times are half-forgotten legends.”
Okay, well, it almost works. But when the EU is bringing something like that to mind, that's not a good sign. For Britain at least, the European dream lies in ruins. I'll be surprised if the EU even still exists in 25 years.
CONCLUSION:Right now I feel apprehensive, and even a little guilty for having left, like we've committed some horrible treachery against our European neighbours. But I also feel hopeful for the future, and still in a sense of disbelief at what's happened. Even now I can't quite believe it, like I've been walking around in a daydream. After getting distracted by something, I repeatedly find myself suddenly realising, “Oh right, we voted to leave didn't we.” I'll likely wake up tomorrow having forgot any of this ever happened. It's just this great cocktail of emotions percolating inside me and it will take time to settle down. Sometimes I feel like I'm about to burst into laughter, or rivers of tears, or both at once. Sometimes I feel sick to my stomach, other times like I'm walking on air.
So, despite my starry-eyed naivete, maybe this is for the best. It absolutely breaks my heart to say that. Like going through a messy divorce, there may be reason to celebrate, but also reason enough to grieve for what has been lost.
To borrow from the popular slogan, I hope this result will Make Great Britain, well, GREAT Again! We once led the world practically single-handed, and commanded the largest empire mankind has ever seen. Those days are gone, yes, but whatever happens, dear old Blighty will soldier on.
But as I see that flag now, flapping majestically in the breeze, it still makes me feel, well, proud. Perhaps that pride is or was misplaced. The dream of a European Union was a lofty, noble achievement that we were right to reach out for. But given the reality, perhaps that's all it ever was likely to be... a dream...
Vortexica knows people don't care much for his British politics pieces (he doesn't blame you), but this was something he promised to write about. He apologises if this article was a little light on the levity... and video games. Don't worry, he'll make it up to you soon. Please understand.
Ludwig tried to make a Brexit joke two articles ago, but it was about Brazil.
Vortex makes his apology here and writes about games again.
Britain is so far doing economically sound after the Brexit vote.
According to UK game developers, they're more optimistic after Brexit's vote than before.