Brexit: It’s not the economy, stupid.


He just couldn’t move. He was in shock, he said. If somebody had thrown a frankfurter at his head he’d have been less surprised he might even have been reassured. At least it’d have been a reminder that European transit hubs still had a place in the United Kingdom.

Then without catching his breath he continued with his disbelief.

The guys who voted for all of this were poor, he said. Now they could hope to be more poor. Just look at all the inequality floating around the United Kingdom, it would only get worse.

And the stockmarket! Look how it tumbled. He suddenly had sympathy for all the bankers.

Then he related it back to the people who voted for Brexit. How stupid were they. Their pensions are going to be affected, he said, how could they want that, clearly it was their uneducation that did it.

But, I asked, was it possible that they knew all this before they voted?

Judging by the half-agape positioning of his mouth and how he combined it with a fierce horizontal nodding movement I guessed his answer to my question before his mind had time to comb through the various stock rebuttals he’d seen or heard somewhere else.

You get so many benefits being part of the European Union he said, and a lot of people don’t know this, it’s the uneducation and David Cameron.

David Cameron had all these rich right wing mates who were all out of control and despised by everyone, he told me. Some of them even managed to get elected to parliament through their use of the stockmarket, bankers, uneducation, and vast feudal estates serviced by former members of the National Front.

They had a right-wing agenda that involved Europe ditching the European Union and keeping Britain white by stranding Europe’s whites at border control stations with the aid of that great British institution: the queue.

He couldn’t remember the specifics of how it all worked but I’m assured it’s all in a diagram somewhere on the internet – probably The Guardian.

Won’t the stockmarket tumbling paradoxically reduce inequality? I asked, being naive of his British ways.

Well the fact is, he said, that the European Union is the one doling out all these benefits reducing inequality.

Everybody in the EU contributes to something called a budget, he said, and they then get multiples of what they contribute back, it’s sort of like how compound interest and the stockmarket works, he assured me.

Well, Wales is better off with the budget anyway, he continued, in his reassuring manner, saying ridiculous in an almost French way blending several consonants together, before flicking open his phone and exiting out of a carousel of flabby gym selfies to show me an infographic with lots of reds and blues on it, tapping his screen furiously till he achieved the optimal level of zoom to educate me.

I asked him what role culture played in all of it. What was all this stuff about people wanting their country back?

No country is an island, he assured me.

But is it possible that all these old fogies who grew up thinking Britain could and should survive on its own without ‘the continent’ decided that was what they wanted, economics be damned?

They were all under the impression they’d be dead soon, I said, and they were debilitated by age, and didn’t need a lot of money to survive. Their pension scheme was all they needed, and all they could ever hope for, and they were under the impression that the meager amount they contributed a decade or so ago when they worked in a factory that one time was enough to sustain an ever-expanding stream of benefits.

Or maybe they just remembered a time when Britain manufactured everything and just wanted to see that ‘Made in the U.K’ sign on something the same way my friend got that warm fuzzy buy local feeling when he bought three carrots at the Farmers market.

He assured me that wasn’t the case, England wasn’t like that, the solutions were less inequality, more income, and more education but none of those could happen without the EU and its budget that had money for all those things but, alas, these people, a small fascist minority of 52% of the voting population hadn’t been educated about it.

I thought of teachers showing teenagers pictures of blackened lungs and gangrenous limbs before they tumbled out of class and gangrened their limbs for morning tea.

Why hadn’t people like my friend run a campaign warning everybody about the decline in the stockmarket, about economic apocalypse, about how everything was about the economy and national income and that it would all go wrong if they ticked the wrong box, I asked.

My friend had no idea but he wished they had.


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