7 Thoughts About Brexit, The Night After

This will only be slightly connected to comic books. They'll be in there somewhere.

original-keep-calm1. A Nice Cup Of Tea

The reactions in my timeline have been a mixture of panic, bafflement, rage, hysteria and gloating. But there's nothing a sit down and a nice cup of tea can't hurt. Things are not as bad as some people are painting. That does not mean this is good. But there are opportunities, ways of ameliorating the harm and a potential way to make it through.  But first, a nice cup of tea, made with boiling water (that's boiling, not recently boiled or, California, merely hot). Boiling water breaks open the flavour of the tea leaves in the bag. Get that right and the world is yours. Onwards.

2. How Did We Get Here?

Resentment towards Europe has been a staple of Britain. We've been at war with it in some form of other for most of the last thousand years, and mostly the French. The European Union was, therefore a useful way to extend our influence, stop the French and Germans from getting too friendly, and be a part of something bigger. But too bigger and much of Britain got nervous. A free movement of people within the EU was mostly okay, until the Eastern European countries joined the EU and Britain had a lot of Polish builders all of a sudden. Which was a boon to the building trade and the economy – as well as to the Polich economy, who got a lot of currency sent back home. But in these, and other jobs, wage levels were flattened because of Eastern European labour. Public services such as hospitals and schools were stretched further and the government didn't increase them, even as they benefitted from increased tax revenues. Britain also saw more accents and languages added to its population. Previous increases had been introduced more moderately and was tolerated, then accepted by most Brits. Eastern European migration happened a little more suddenly. All this fuelled an anti-Europeanism that was seized upon by a number of nascent political parties, but especially UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, which started as a left wing party but soon swung right – but managed to maintain a left wing appeal. In repeated elections. It called for a referendum over membership of the EU. UKIP did well but with little representation thanks to Britain's archaic political representative system. Nevertheless it was a threat to enough members of the Conservative Party, the leading party in the recent Coalition government for David Cameron to make a manifesto pledge for a European Union referendum at the last General Election in order to stop people feeling they had to join UKIP. Then the Conservative Party won an overall majority rather than an expected minority party and as a result felt duty bound to hold that Referendum or be labelled liars at the next election. They had no excuse.

3. Why Did Britain Vote Brexit

It has been easy to dismiss the vote as some racist, xenophobic tribal roar. If that were the case, the vote would never have commanded the support it did. Instead there were plenty of political ideologues, wedded to the idea of a more direct democracy, who were opposed to EU corruption, who saw the EU as an economic, bureaucratic cartel – and frankly – it's hard to argue with that. Britain's membership of the EU has generally been a pragmatic one, finding an advantage to be a part of such an economic cartel, paying the cost of being a member but reaping certain rewards in terms of economic success. However, how much of that actually trickles down to the man on the street is debateable. For many, the EU was the distant Man, keeping them down – while occasionally providing their employers a grant for this and that. Much of the vote had little to do with immigration, but revenge against the bankers, the politicians, the economists who had colluded together and caused – or not prevented – the financial crash that caused great hardship. It also helped that this Referendum saw everyone's vote count equally, rather than with a usual election, being wasted depending where in the country and in what demographic it was cast. And people who never voted through apathy or frustration came out to vote, with a far higher turnout than general elections. And they weren't happy. This was as much a left wing vote against the machinations of big business as it was a right wing vote against the nasty foreigner. Though there was some of that as well.

4. Why The Disparity?

Scotland, Northern Ireland and London swung to Remain, the rest of the country mostly went to Leave. But why? Northern Ireland and Scotland have been economically deprived and benefit hugely from EU membership – but then so do Wales and Cornwall who went for Leave. That specific dissonance will be debated by political scientists for decades. But London has more people tapped into the higher echelons of the economy – as well as a rich and vibrant multicultural society going on, that generally integrates and works well. In some parts of the country, it's far more ghettoised and can breed resentment. But Sunderland, the first of the big swings to Leave, and who anecdotally blamed immigration, has a relatively low immigration level.

There are lots of theories. But no real answers.

5. Is It Binding?

There is no legislation that Referendums called by the Government must have the results enacted, Britain has a generally unwritten constitution. But it will be, or the Conservative Party will never be believed over anything they ever say ever again. Surprisingly, some people still give them the benefit of the doubt. And they have lied over many other promises before. But this would be the biggest, most obvious one, stripped naked, painted lumunous orange and popped on a podium danding to Mika.

6. So What The Hell Happens Now?

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have politicians pushing for a Referendum to leave the United Kingdom and rejoin the European Union, Scotland on its own, Northen Ireland reunited with the rest of Ireland. Depsiet the bravado, there is no guarantee that either would do so. Scotland recently voted against the United Kingdom and the crashing value of the oil since that vote has only harmed those chances. And Northern Ireland still remains pro-Unionist overall. But, as the events of last night shows, anything can happen.

Now firstly, the divorce isn't going to happen overnight no matter how the markets react. It is going to take time for a country to extract itself. A lot of laws have to be untangled, rewritten, torn up and started from scratch. We are in for a long haul. Now would be a great time to start a career in the Civil Service.

7. What About The Economy, Stupid?

Some companies are going to leave Britain. There will be job losses. Factories will close, thousands will be made unemployed, it's going to be armageddon. Slowly they will be replaced by others. I mean, right now, with the crashing currency and shares, it's a pretty good time to invest in the UK. And there are signs that is already happening. Which will cushion, if not make up for the drop.

But there are likely to be long term effects, Without easy access to a revolving, cheaper, Eastern European workforce, manual low skilled wages are likely to rise. But not by much. And the pound will be worth less anyway. Despite the racists voting for Brexit, Britain will still have a large immigration population and will continue to recruit. So, probably much to racist chagrin, we are as likely to have immigrants from the Carribean, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as we will Europe. Also none of the political classes seem to be keen at all in sending any current immigrants "home".

Basically, the big changes that some of those who voted Leave – and Remain – expect to happen, won't.

So keep calm and carry on. It will all seem better after a nice cup of tea. As long as we can negotiate favourable terms for tea importation. Maybe outsource such arrangements? The East India Tea company has a reassuring sound to it…

Bonus Thought: You Haven't Mentioned Comics Yet

Right now is a great time for Americans to spend money on Amazon.co.uk. I talked to Diamond Comic Distributors UK and they told me there are no plans yet to change the price of items imported from America, but they are keeping an eye on things and will let stores know the moment that changes. Brits are probably going to have to spend more on their American comics. British creators working for American publishers will see a small pay rise. But the price of wine will probably rise more than that to wipe them out.

As for travel, we're all of us masters at travelling to the USA. We have our ESTA renewed every two years and pay for it. Looks like was may have to arrange something similar for Europe.

I think the biggest difference we're all going to notice is that, for once, we won't be able to blame things on the European Union anymore. Will we cope? Over that. I'm not so sure.

So keep calm and carry on drinking.



About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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