Brexit silver linings

the world through one rose tinted lense

Ok, this is my attempt to get out of the pit with this one, and find some positives. I don’t suggest all of these things will happen, but they might, as a result of the Brexit decision. They largely arise from the fact that it has been a disaster. Within hours the country was in financial and constitutional crisis, there was a Tour de France of backpedalling from Leave campaigners on their promises, it became apparent there was no plan and Britain had become the laughing stock of the world. By lunchtime after the victory the Brexit dream was dead, making it a contender for the shortest lived revolution in history. It now looks as though Johnson will seek a Norway deal. My guess is this will end up costing as much as we currently give and involve free movement of labour. Which pretty much makes the whole thing a monumental waste of time, but from the crisis we’re in now, a monumental waste of time begins to look like a pretty good deal.

So what might be the positives then? Here’s my attempt at happy face:

Closer EU union – rather than emboldening many exit feelings across Europe, I think they will now have a concrete example to look at and be able to say “that was a disaster, maybe this being in Europe thing isn’t so bad”.

The US is saved from Trump – in the US they may have thought there was no way a populist campaign based on lies, and targeting immigrants could be successful. Now they know it can and so can learn how to combat it.

A retreat from racism – there have been reports of an increase in racism as those elements feel emboldened by the result. However, it’s possible that once people actually see it, they will feel repulsed by it and rather than seeing a rise in racism, we are actually witnessing its death rattle. Okay, maybe this one is wishful thinking.

Political engagement of the young – many young people have felt very upset by this result (my own daughter is very despondent), but I think it will be a defining moment for many of them. They have been betrayed by politicians who have blatantly lied and used their futures for their own ambition, so they will need to get engaged themselves.

The last hurrah of newspaper influence – many who voted leave are already feeling tricked by the newspapers that promised a bold new future. In the future, Brexit will become a by-word for being duplicitous with the public and people will be more wary.

Being nice – I have been deeply touched by the nice comments from people around the world, sympathising with us in the UK. As Jo Cox commented we have more in common than that which divides us, and certainly I have felt this. At the same time of course there have been very painful divides and we will need to work hard to repair these. But to be reminded of decent humanity is a good thing.

The end of Europe as a topic – this has been such a divisive, unnecessary campaign that I don’t think anyone will want to go near the subject of Europe as a political topic for a generation. This will hopefully mean the end of Farage, one of the most despicable political figures in the last 50 years.

Now, I know there is quite a lot of wishful thinking in the above, and there is no need to tell me about all the negative issues, I’m very aware of them. But in the spirit of trying to have a group hug, my challenge is to post a positive possible outcome in the comments. We’ve got the rest of the internet to be angry in.


  • nogbad

    I’m surprised that you missed out the end of undemocratic government now that we’re likely to get “the People’s Champion” Johnson as our unelected PM. Crashing the economy is just part of the cost of his leadership bid.

    I think you are doing better than me in finding the positives………….

  • John Kirriemuir

    (Disclaimer: I’m a Democrat and Hillary supporter, and occasional activist limited by still being a Brit) Your second one will hopefully turn out to be right; what England has just done may shake up some of the more complacent there, and also encourage more activists and workers to continue/increase voter registration and getting the vote out (early voting starts in some states in exactly 3 months time, which isn’t that long). It may also give those thinking of not voting (especially core Bernie supporters who do not like Hillary for whatever reason), or voting Green pause for thought.

    On the other hand, the England thing (I hate the word ‘Brexit’) may embolden Trumps coalition of the damned. We’ll see. The numbers currently look cautiously okay for Hillary. But, we said that about Remain a while back, and structural, disenfranchisement, funding and local political problems – some of which were made worse by the consequences of the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections – plus the utter violent hatred that many have in the US for Hillary, means it will not be easy.

    Coming back to your point, it would help no end if Boris was “found out” more in the next few months, as there are so many similarities between him and Donald (some commentator pointed out that the only real difference between the two is the accent). Wavering, left-wing and impressionable voters in the US need to be repeatedly shown that if you elect an experienced con-man, you eventually end up poorer, not richer, yourself.

    Side-point: it’s also deeply ironic that Leave won significantly on an anti-immigrant platform and Boris, if he becomes PM of the UK, will be only the second one born elsewhere (New York City, 1964). Perhaps we should repeatedly refer to him as “Boris the immigrant” to make this point sink in.

  • helenbeetham

    Thanks Martin, it’s easy to be clever and apocalyptic, but much harder to be clever and look on the bright side. One thing you haven’t mentioned is the huge majority for Remain among young people. If the little englanders girning their glee on youtube or shouting abuse at immigrants were young people, there would be no choice but despair. But they’re not, they’re half-way to their graves already. (If fascism is a young man’s game, we’re probably safe from a re-run of the 1930s because they will all have to have a sit down quite soon).
    Young people are angry, and getting angrier as they see the benefits they parents enjoyed being snatched away: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/06/24/british-millennials-like-me-are-the-real-losers-in-the-brexit-vote/. They may not be as engaged in party or electoral politics but they are much more clear eyed and creative in responding to the issues. And they are more tolerant and loving in their political activism than we were. I think they are also less likely to believe the lies sold the by the mainstream media because they are so used to getting their ideas and information first hand, and peer to peer. Whenever I get the chance to work with students and young people I feel cheered, not about the future we’re handing them, but about what they’ll make of it.

  • newbouldblog

    I’m still overwhelmed by the negatives, the disastrous consequences and the deep social divide in Britain. It is hard to see a positive outcome at the moment, and I fear for the US after what has happened here.

  • David Harrison

    Your thoughts echo mine (which I’ve used Facebook mercilessly over the past few days to put forward) quite closely. I belong to “the boomer” generation – which had (and many still do have) the same idealism that the young now have. They now have to seriously consider dusting of those ideals and principles and refreshing them (I’ve rejoined the LibDems – please don’t slag me off for that, far too much of that sort of rhetoric recently) and be outward in promoting those ideals and principles as the voices of experience. Hopefully a new coalition can be built between these two groups that can persuade the other generations between and beyond them of the imperative to be welcoming, open, considered and non-divisive in all their thinking and acts.

  • Lisa M Lane

    Fascinating to watch you process this. I’m an American but I’m here also (in London today, in fact), and was here for the vote. I have listened to many Britons explain why they have voted the way they have. I’ve also seen a fight almost break out on Kings Road today, and have seen many looks of both embarrassment and despair.

    I’m glad to see David Harrison point out that those of us of the slightly older generation need to dust off some of our ideas. We need to articulate and justify them. Perhaps the “intellectual elite” has become complacent, in both the UK and America (as our own disaster unfolds). We’ve assumed that everyone is basically together on issues of “progress”, such as equality and education and diversity and interdependence, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are many who oppose basic liberal values, and who feel strongly that they have been ignored and brushed aside as we elites judge their uneducated viewpoints to be invalid (as noted by Rensin’s article on Vox – http://www.vox.com/2016/4/21/11451378/smug-american-liberalism, which I don’t think is just American).

    Educators cannot afford to be complacent and make these assumptions. On both sides of the pond, we must be able to articulate the moral purpose of liberalism, and the significance of both education and civic-mindedness. So many Brits I talked to either weren’t voting or were voting but said they felt uninformed, blaming “both sides” for lying and exaggerating, while not doing much to get concrete information for themselves.

    I’m working with some of your ideas of a “pedagogy of abundance” for some of my own historical research, but it occurs to me this is all tied together. With “information” and “views” so abundant, it is the worse possible time to just assume that people have the intelligence, will or education to sort them out.

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