Now the following is just me providing a slightly insightful opinion on the EU referendum. I am piecing together this opinion based on the some the stuff I’ve read and even then I am playing catch-up so there will be gaps. Also I’m limiting myself to talking about why the vote went the way it did so let’s start.
So that just happened.
Yesterday the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to stay a part of the European Union (EU). The referendum went under the name Brexit for short.
Now you may have missed it (I’ll be honest it snuck up on me too) but you’re probably hearing about it now. Immediately following reports that the UK had voted “Leave”, the British Pound started falling in price and every type of market you could think off started dropping like flies.
So the European Union is a bit of an amorphous entity. The EU is a weird mix of an economic trade organization and quasi super state. The EU started as a way for the various industrialized nations of Europe to come together around economic trade. As time as gone on the European Union has become a government without going all the way; almost the United States of Europe. The EU has a currency, a parliament, no army, but can create binding laws.
The basic issue behind Brexit and why it came to a head in a referendum vote is complicated; much more complicated than either the Leave or Remain sides say. For some the vote is about immigration and others national control.
The Brexit vote has been seen by some as a nationalist rebuke of global trade and globalism. For others the referendum vote is seen as an exercise in anti-intellectualism and anger. And in many ways Brexit was all those things. the vote also reflects the fact that the UK has always been iffy on the EU; it did not switch over to the Euro (EU currency) and it has in conflict with the EU over various policy issues. It was a move by the current Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron to appease members of his own party and maintain power. Another view is it was a referendum highlighting growing anti-immigrant and right-wing sentiment in the UK; or a vote for Britain to be in control of it’s destiny.
The Brexit vote then came and the result is the UK is leaving the EU. The fallout has been immediate.
For me the interesting thing has been reading the comments on Twitter. Most people in my timeline are/were for remaining in the EU; so they are upset. I think a lot of them thought that their fellow countryman would see through the rhetoric of the Leave campaign and vote to stay in the EU. And in the aftermath many are decrying the voters who turned out and voted to go as anti-immigrants, racists, bigots, xenophobic, and short-sighted.
Sort of how they viewed them all along.
In my opinion this is where the Remain side failed. The problem that faced those who wanted to remain in the European Union, the big one, was they couldn’t sell it. Any campaign that wants to win has to make a strong narrative and tie it to a simple slogan. You have to get voters attention and keep it long enough to have impact in the voting booth. The second problem with the remain camp, especially online, is they were too busy decrying the type of voter that voted Leave while not making sure their voters hit the polls. See talking shit only makes sense when you can insure yours turn out; and this hits on the third issue.
The people behind the Leave campaign seem to have been more organized than the Remain camp. I mean they had an easier time because they could make the case that leaving the EU was an act of reasserting control. They could appeal to national pride. What was the story for the Remain vote? I mean if I went by Twitter then much of it was about the type of voter that would vote to leave and EU benefit vagaries. It also didn’t help that most of the pro-EU talk sounded like veiled threats. Leave the EU and we won’t fuck with you says such and such business. I should point out here that another issue with the Remain side is they didn’t really confront the anti-EU sentiment of the public meaningfully. A big unanswered question, in my opinion, was how do you answer those who feel left behind by this thing you’re for?
The fact is Brexit went the way it did for a lot of reasons, but the big one may be an undercurrent of real distrust with the system we have. And that is something to think about.