Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Post-Brexit reactions


When something goes against expectation adjustment takes longer. Here are some post-Brexit themes, as reported to me by friends.

One reaction is angry denunciation of Leavers by young Remain daughters, of the “how could you have done this to us” variety, mixed in with some invective about “having to live through this longer”. A moment’s thought would reveal that on that argument the opinions of young people should always be preferred at elections, because they will live longer.  The counter argument is that older people are more experienced and have made far greater contributions, typically about 40 years of paying taxes as opposed to roughly 6 years for the young. Of course, this counter-argument, like the original argument, misses the point.

Democracy is based on the fiction that individual voters are equal in their ability to judge the direction of national policy. Not so. Among the voters there will be a few who are well versed in constitutional matters; a few skilled in trade negotiations; a few who have good track records as investors; a few who have worked in employment tribunals, trade disputes, and businesses. Most will not have that knowledge base, nor the intellectual ability to research and evaluate these matters.

The one-person-one-vote is a principle based on an untruth about human abilities, but it seeks a greater truth, which is that a nation will work best when all are consulted and their opinions are given equal weight. I believe that this optimistic view is the lesser of evils, and that as a democratic citizen my vote should count no more highly than that of the voters I met last Thursday, some of whom asked whether the top or bottom line of the ballot paper represented the “Out” option. Better to have a nation which votes together than one from which large numbers are excluded. Much as I would like to set entry barriers, such as having made at least a year’s contribution to taxes, the divisive nature of such proposals restrains me from championing this policy.

One friend, hearing the torrent of dismay from his daughter wondered why so much emotion and apocalyptic terror was being vented. I can only assume that the Leave option was seen as an attack on international cooperation. That is, they assumed that leaving FIFA meant that no-one would ever be able to play football again. This particular friend had some specialist knowledge, as an advisor to the motor trade on employment law. To his surprise, a trade poll of these car salesmen showed them to be in favour of Brexit, despite their reliance on German cars for a living, very probably because European employment law broke an English common law principle: innocent till proved guilty. Currently, the moment an employee makes a complaint, employers are guilty until they win the case, a step which costs them at least £8000 to mount a defence. Car salesmen responded by saying they would back Leave, despite being reliant on German car producers. He thought it surprising, and unseemly to bet on this inside knowledge.

Another friend asked me whether I had anticipated the financial and social upheaval. In fact the market position is now very much like before, apart from the very important 11% drop in the value of sterling. There have been reported cases of immigrants being abused and graffiti posted on social centres, but these seem to be isolated incidents.

Friends abroad worry about the future of the country, and assume that everyone is regretting a moment of madness. The world is very international, they say, missing the point that Leavers saw the EU as a cumbersome cartel, originally designed to protect French farmers.

Most friends assume that I voted Remain, and that I share their sense of shame about the result, unable to look Europeans in the eye. This is the Received Wisdom. A neighbour the evening asked diffidently which side I had backed, and then confessed he too had canvassed for Leave, but that is a minority.

Apart from one couple, none have shown any sign of liberation and optimism. Our history as an independent trading nation is forgotten. It as if we had been allowed to drive after a long suspension of our licence, and are looking around seeking someone to give us permission to set a destination of our choice.


  1. What strikes me about the Remnants is that their arguments were never about the actual existing EU. Instead they were about (i) a platonic ideal of the EU, or (ii) Europe, properly so called - the land of Mozart and Beethoven, blah, blah, or (iii) a pipe-dream reformed EU, or (iv) NATO - no war for seventy years, etc, etc.

    Since none of them gave me any good reason to vote for the actual, existing EU, I thought Leave had far the better of the argument.

    Also, I must admit that trying to frighten me just got my back up: cowards in office pointing at bogeymen can have no idea what poltroons they seem to be. Or "wankers" as our chav friends probably call them.

    Anyway whenever I was told that we'd be cut off from "Europe" I'd just say "Thank God, no more Wagner." Or even "I prefer cricket to handball anyway."

    Now that they've proved themselves to be a bunch of emotionally incontinent children, I can see more clearly why their campaign failed, even though they had so much on their side: inertia, a near-unanimous Establishment, Mr Blair's shonky voting rules, and even a handy assassination to exploit. And still they failed.

    What a shower: or in chav-speak, "tossers".

    P.S. While People of That Sort were at Glastonbury, revelling in European culture, ho, ho, I was listening to some Rossini opera.

  2. And today some Haydn. First, courtesy of the Nourishing Obscurity blog, his Farewell symphony. Then I think his Sunrise Quartet. Let 'em keep their sodding Glasto.

  3. The Conservative candidates list doesn't contain a single Englishman.

  4. Stead Steadman7 July 2016 at 22:04

    I do not live in the academic world and it is only on the second-hand information of friends of mine speaking about their wives that I could be said to know anyone at all who voted Remain. On the glorious morning of the victory I was attending a conference in Oxford and seemed the only one (apart from two visiting Norwegians) not to share the gloomy despondency of the adacemic and student body. And on the final day, the lady making the closing remarks almost broke down in tears at the calamity and frightfulness of it all. What was the conference about? "Viking Poetry in Perfomance". No heroic verses from her on that occasion.