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Brexit Day


Parliament Square is the site, muddied by rain, trodden by hundreds who have made it their celebratory space. The Leave Means Leave official website had been busy for weeks, thrilled about January 31 and the fact that Britain would finally be leaving that beastly collective they know as the European Union. Those who promised to be in attendance were the usual suspects of the Little England brigade who had been so successful in convincing citizens that leaving the European Union was tantamount to gaining one’s freedom from a stifling oppressor. Over time, the EU had become a figure no less savoury and vicious than Hitler, an achievement of branding if ever there was one.

London is ground zero for the anti-Brexit sentiment that clings to this city with depressing dedication. It is the Leavers’ primary target, and affirmation they have won. Vae victis – woe to the vanquished – is a sentiment they seem to relish, though few would know the provenance of the term. There are parties taking place celebrating the event across this wounded city, daggers into the heart of the metropolitan centre. During the day, London talkback radio was bubbling and humming with an upbeat note in the morning, occasionally moving into a state of delirium. Some, it seemed, had already been on the sauce. Bikers for Brexit, for instance, were happy to share their views about the “revelation” that their freedom was being returned; that the “tyranny” of the European Union was finally being overthrown.

A good number of callers could not see what the fuss was all about. “We can trade with Europe; we can still trade with Europe,” suggested a sozzled David, who promised to be nursing a brandy as the celebrations commenced. But beyond trade, David’s true colours showed. The EU had been responsible for the sort of immigration that that had produced “beggars” and the “homeless” problem in Britain. No mention was made of the industrious contributions of those millions, spearheaded by the Poles.

Robert was particularly irate at the divisions. As an arch Leaver living in a Remain borough, he faced the cancellations of playdates for his children, a feeling of having contracted leprosy. His account was marked by breezy uses of “apparently” (“Old people voted for Brexit, apparently”). But the caller was clear: he was definitely not racist, because “I’m black.”

Anecdotes seemed to be the order of the day, an easy if questionable form of data sampling. Craig from Shoreditch spoke of “the Pole, the Israeli, and the Czech” who told him what a good thing Britain was doing against a seventy-year-old effort to initiate a “global takeover”. One had to “fight the system”. This, it seemed, entailed voting for the very same man with system etched on his forehead.

By the afternoon, the mood had moderated, though still dominated by the theme of hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had reiterated for months. On radio, Vincenzo from Sheffield felt he had little to celebrate. He had been in Britain for four decades as had others of his generation. “They forgot us,” he lamented. Another spoke of moving to Ireland and chasing up his business contacts there, abandoning this sceptred Isle of Idiots.

By 5 in the evening, the dissenters had vanished from Parliament Square with their mild, even defeated voices, with placards such as “We’ll be back” and “You have destroyed my future career and dreams.” Predictably, the statue of Winston Churchill found itself the subject of much attention. There were posters such as the “Restoration Bill 2020” appended at the base, a document scatterbrained and meandering in its clauses. The authors wished for all EU flags to be removed from buildings, fishing rights restored exclusively to Britain, a reinstatement of the Magna Carta and the abolition of hate-speech laws. Evidently unaware that British law and EU law have nourished and influenced each other over almost a half-century, such documents become parochial venom to direct at those in disagreement. Just to keep with that theme, a rotund gentleman, cheeks red and defiantly moving his placard around before Churchill’s indifferent gaze, was giving tips on how to tell a “Remoaner from a Remainer.” The former, spat his message, are offered money to betray their country.

There are pockets on the square gradually growing in number, but at this time, they resemble devotees of a cult. Like Sadhus in a trance, several men dance before drum beats, their eyes shut, limbs a jumble of ecstatic movements and gyration. Donald Trump-inspired imitation Stetsons are handed out, albeit sporting the Union Jack on flimsy material. Others in attendance seem to resemble an animal species preserved in a sanctuary, making Parliament Square something of a historical zoo. A man decked in full Union Jack regalia from head to toe, his dark skin and flashing grin a striking contrast to his outfit, terrifies some of those who have decided to see the spectacle.

As the Brexiters had failed in getting their Big Ben to bong for 11 in the evening, a makeshift miniature was assembled on the square, with the more modest title of “Little Ben”. Makeshift Little Ben was plastered with “Democracy”, “Sovereignty”, boasting a small bell to sound by anybody wishing to partake. The drum attached below the small makeshift tower, which resembled a haphazard paper construction, was belted with manic delight.

Covering the show was an entire regiment of press officials and support staff from any number of countries. They seemed as bemused as anybody else, adjusting their cameras and mikes between the statues of Churchill and Jan Smuts, with an illuminated Westminster as the backdrop. A few interviewees were already being drawn in, their eyes sparklingly enthusiastic about what is to come.

The hour duly arrived and, impressive as ever on timing, comes Nigel Farage, a man who has been paid from EU funds as a member of the European Parliament for years, yet has never won a seat in Britain’s parliament. To be paid by the enemy, it seems, is not a form of betrayal, except when others do it. “The war is over,” he declares emphatically. “The vast majority of people who voted Remain now say we’re a democratic country and its right we accept Brexit.”

The sense that this is done and dusted for those who wished to exit the EU is unshakeable. It ignores the obvious point that the machinery that will extricate Britain is still to be hammered out, sorted and implemented between British negotiators and their counterparts in Brussels. The EU strategy on this is to bring in the squeeze after those months are out, imposing what will be a form of moderated misery. January 31 is but a symbolic day; the practical cruelties and nastiness will only be felt once the transition period expires, when the bureaucrats so loathed by the populists will have their say. For now, Britain continues to pay EU dues without any representation. Not exactly independence, by any stretch of the imagination.

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  1. Pingback: Brexit Day #newsoz.org #auspol - News Oz

  2. LambsFry Simplex.

    In my mind’s eye, I’ve got one of these cartoons, say a Martin Rowson, of a holed rubber dinghy, eccentrics paddling furiously away from European shores while an inflated, deranged “Pirates of the Caribbean” figure, tri corner hat and all, looking like a glassy-eyed Boris Johnson, draws his frantically waving cutlass away from the hole where the leak is.

    Never mind, they are no dumber than us or the Americans I suppose…

  3. Miriam English

    Putin must be laughing hysterically at UK turning into an idiots’ paradise. Who knew it would be so easy to destroy without firing a single shell? All it takes is judicious use of carefully targeted dishonest social media, a few crooked politicians prepared to be entertaining while lying their faces off (and they’re plentiful), and getting Murdoch on side to mess completely with people’s minds.

  4. Peter F

    Miriam, which country are you talking about?; sounds terribly familiar.

  5. New England Cocky

    Agreed Miriam.

    The forgotten history is that the now EU was initiated about 1942 by a US think-tank as a method to prevent European nations from commencing WWIII as they disputed declining natural resources and market share. The real “jewel in the Crown” for the Europeans is the imminent move by the London City financial sector from London to other European Union financial centres.

  6. Kathryn

    Sadly, the short-sighted Britons who cheered Brexit on will, very soon, rue the day they decided to give their main trading partners – indeed, their ONLY trading partners – in the EU, the middle finger! Does the UK REALLY think that leaving the EU won’t cause a massive rift between them and the rest of Europe? Do they REALLY believe there won’t be any consequences when, clearly, Germany and France (who are so angered by Brexit) are not going to make them PAY (in every way) for the UK’s traitorous abandonment of the European Union? Do they REALLY think that they do not NEED the EU in a world where Australia and New Zealand have their own trading partners within their geographical area of Australasia and the USA doesn’t give a shit about any other nation outside the walls the insular Trump regime are rapidly building around its borders?

    The Churchill-styled staggering arrogance exhibited by the UK may be the ONLY thing they have to hang on to when the rest of Europe turns their back on the UK, when Europe decides to do to the UK what the UK relished doing to the EU – exclude, shun and alienate. Already, countless businesses have left the UK in their rush across the English Channel in haste to ensure that their bottom line is not impacted by the economic suicide dressed up and sold as “Brexit” by the bumbling, inane Boris Johnson!

    Not surprising that when all hell breaks lose and a heap of shit hits the fan, you have the wrinkly old self-obsessed behemoth, Murdoch, right there in the background cheering it on! Murdoch promotes and feeds on hatred, division, xenophobia and fear like it was oxygen – this is a heartless, soulless monstrous grub who has spread his vile self-serving agenda across three countries! One must admire Europe’s ability to refuse to allow Murdoch to infect and pollute their media beyond the limited boundaries of the UK!

    Februay 1 should be the UK’s newly appointed REMEMBRANCE DAY – the day they decided to sever the hand that feeds them; the day they decided to exclude and alienate the strong link they once had with their geographical and economical partners in Europe and, in so doing, putting the last nails in the coffin of their British empire which is now in the throes of Rigamortis. It seems like when EVERY other country is progressing ahead in leaps and bounds, the ultra-conservative nations of England, Australia and the USA are regressing at the speed of light!

  7. whatever

    Conservative Party politician Sajid Javid, who served once as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has summed-up the Brexit economic outlook.

    "A commitment to sweeping tax cuts for corporations and mobile rich people – tax wars as a fiscal weapon;
    Tax measures such as accelerated capital allowances to attract mobile investments to UK;
    Comprehensive de-regulation, removal of social and environmental protections;
    Weak or non-existent compliance with international anti-money laundering measures;
    Retaining golden visa arrangements to provide residence rights of wealthy non-British citizens, increasing exposure to oligarchs and corrupt illicit financial flows."

    Brexit and the future of tax havens

  8. Phil Pryor

    We might imagine daily comments over the next decade or two, about the slow and sure decline of nearly all things British. It seems a monumental stupidity, for every grievance might surely have been negotiated and ameliorated. British blood has soaked many a field in Europe, in the hope of peace and prosperity after the curses of war. U K future status is at risk now, more in future. When the boring Farage and Johnson show is booed off, what act will follow? Will the theatre itself close or need reconstruction? Who will reflect?

  9. Michael Taylor

    Miriam, the Brexit No vote was always going to be the winner … until … the Murdoch media played the race card. It swung the vote. 😡

  10. paul walter

    Just this once, I will suggest that it was very easy for the right to play the race card when with high unemployment in the rust belt cities and a welfare system cut to bits by neo lib austerity.

    Yet no right to control labour inflows despite this?

    Of course it was easy to manipulate the obvious resentments, but where else have we seen this game played?

    In societies where there are information shortfalls, how easy to turn a understandable response to capitalism into a xenophobia?

  11. A Commentator

    Why is it that Scotland’s push for separation from the UK is seen as a legitimate, progressive, left leaning objective, but the wish of the UK to leave the EU is seen as manipulated by the right and the media?

    Personally, I can understand the sentiment behind both.

  12. paul walter

    whatever’s comment summed it up anyway.

  13. Miriam English

    Yay! Corruption and hate win. 🙁

    We’re about to experience something similar in some respects: a religious supremacy law imposed upon us by a very corrupt core of extremists. Though, in Australia, Murdoch hasn’t been able to bend a majority of minds against LGBT folk (yet)… despite a veritable flood of poisonous garbage from his media.

    Maybe the big change that comes out of all this will be when people realise how screwed over they’ve become, that they’ll push through genuine reforms to protect against corruption.

    As I wrote elsewhere this morning:

    I wish I better understood the mechanism whereby people can infect others with hate. We need to be able to counter that safely. (Too often, measures taken against hate can turn into hate itself.)

    We desperately need to become smarter and more stable as a species before we have common use of artificial intelligence that surpasses human capability. The movie “Ex Machina” is, I think, a warning of what could result if we raised such a mind in a cruel environment.

    I have the scary feeling that we are running out of time… climate change, biodiversity loss, AI for weapons and social control.

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