Brexit, or when people vote to harm themselves

Frankly, I am just stunned that the voters of the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU.  Obviously I am not British, and I can’t pretend I understand all of the issues going on there that might motivate people to vote that way.  But I do know that many of the consequences predicted were not good. And I also know that many of the people who voted to leave are in the parts of the UK that depend on the EU the most, like Cornwall.  The government of Cornwall is now insisting that the UK government make up for the 60 million pounds a year of EU funding that will be lost by Brexit.  To quote from Cornwall directly:

Prior to the referendum we were reassured by the ‘leave’ campaign that a decision to leave the EU would not affect the EU funding which has already been allocated to Cornwall and that Cornwall would not be worse off in terms of the investment we receive. We are seeking urgent confirmation from Ministers that this is the case.

Suddenly Cornwall is like some teenage kid who seriously pisses off his parents, and then suddenly doesn’t understand why they aren’t going to pay his college tuition anymore. You guys really didn’t think this through, did you?  And you believed everything that the Leave Campaign told you?

Oh, dear.

You know, that would be comical if it wasn’t so damn tragic, because there are going to be real consequences now, which will affect a lot of people’s lives.

Now, for me personally, I can’t really say how much skin I have in this game, so to speak.  I frankly don’t know.  One thing that comes to mind immediately is how it will affect my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones, which is currently filmed at multiple locations across Europe. The Brexit may affect the ability of the show’s creators to film in Northern Ireland and still get subsidies from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, which means there are large questions about how exactly Season 7 will happen.  Still, in the big scheme of things, it’s a TV show, and losing it is not as huge a deal as some of the other things that will happen as a result of Brexit.

Ironically (or perhaps not), most of the people in the UK who support Brexit are also the same sort of demographic that supports Donald Trump here in the United States: less-educated, economically disadvantaged older working-class whites who are scared of immigrants and change.  Wheeeeeeee.  One public pollster looking at a wide range of social and economic factors (including religion) described Trump voters like this (boldface is my emphasis):

In a nutshell, I think these voters are best understood not as values voters, not even as Tea Party voters, but as nostalgia voters, these voters that are looking back to — they’re culturally and economically disaffected voters that are anxious to hold on to a white conservative Christian culture that’s passing from the scene. I think that’s the core of who his supporters are. I think it’s highly doubtful that there are enough of those voters out there to get him across the finish line no matter who the Democratic nominee is in the general election. But there may be enough of them, and it looks like there are, to get him across the finish line to be the Republican nominee.

I am getting the impression that this sort of “nostalgia” is at least partially responsible for Brexit support in the UK.  Certainly there is a lot of this sort of anxiety about the changing demographics of the country, as one British journalist writing for the Independent discovered while researching Brexit support/EU opposition across the country.  In fact, note this little gem hidden in his article (again, with my own emphasis):

When voters say they are worried about immigration, they do not mean whether 80,000 or 250,000 arrived that year. These numbers are totally abstract, meaningless to their reality. No, they are talking about something more profound: ethnic change. They mean changing street signs (“Polski Sklep”) and changing balances of power between cultures in their towns (“They want to impose sharia law”). In everyday English, “immigrants” means “ethnic minorities”, not “recent arrivals”.

The Leave campaign is, in fact, intensely aware that this has become an immigration referendum – and this is why it has chosen to mention the fact as little as possible. Many campaigners fear it becoming a referendum fought on liberal values.

And that is one thing that concerns me a great deal.  Just as white supremacists in the United States are seriously emboldened by Donald Trump’s candidacy, so much so that some of them have decided to really let their racist freak flag fly, a lot of white supremacists seem to be latching onto the Brexit vote in the same way.  I am pretty sure that is what got MP Jo Cox killed by a guy with a long history of white supremacist politics.  Certainly all the crazy far-right people across Europe are cheering what the UK has done.  And when people like that are happy about something, my own inclination is to want the opposite.  And I am concerned that more pro-Brexit people who (at least up until recently) I had a high opinion of such as (sigh) John Cleese and Michael Caine have not reflected on the fact that a lot of the people screaming the loudest on their side are some serious douchebags.  And the same is of course true for pro-Trump people here in the US.  When you find yourself on the same side as this screaming idiot, it might be time to start reevaluating your position.

Maybe the world really is losing its mind.

 

-Geoff

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