The Brexit Nightmare By Reuben Abati

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What has the United Kingdom just done to
itself, its people and the future of its youth? It
is difficult to fully understand why a country in
taking a decision about its future will decide
on a false option that seems to negate long-
term interests. And this, just because a total
of 17.4 million people out of over 61 million
chose to vote against the United Kingdom’s
continued membership of the EU. More than
50% of these pro-Brexit voters are actually
between the age bracket: 50-70, thus an
ageing class of voters has taken a decision to
undermine the future of the younger
generation. Pro-EU Prime Minister David
Cameron said he was “courageous and
optimistic” when in January 2014, he tried to
justify the need for a referendum.
His words then: “I think the overwhelming
majority of the British people say they want to
be in Europe but they want some changes to
that relationship and they would like to be
given a say. It is not something that we should
be frightened of. It’s something we should
embrace.” Cameron is now a study in political
miscalculation and how over-confidence can
make a political leader misread the people’s
moods and expectations. He has been praised
for his “courage” in quickly accepting the
people’s verdict and for tendering his
resignation, but I guess he won’t possibly be
talking about courage. He must be full of
regrets for presiding over the United
Kingdom’s exit into a nightmare. Britain is
better off remaining in the EU.
But on June 23, 2016, the people of Great
Britain spoke and their verdict has been
accepted as the status quo, except a miracle
happens and the current petition by the pro-
EU protesters results in a second referendum.
As things stand, the people have rejected
continued membership of the European
Union. The implication is that the majority of
the people believe that the United Kingdom is
better off on its own. What is quite clear is
that this British exit (Brexit) is more about the
rise of xenophobia, bigotry and isolationism. It
is not new. Britain has always looked backward
and in-out in the course of its membership of
the EU, oscillating between its commitment to
a greater Europe and the need to preserve
British identity and sovereignty.
The British public mind has been driven in
recent years by loud, perpetual carping about
too much control from Brussels, and the need
to project Britain first. The ultra nationalists
nursed fears about their great country
becoming a colony within a EU empire. They
are uncomfortable with the apparent
globalization of British demographics, turning
Britain into a country of many racial colours,
with the influx of so many immigrants who are
empowered by EU laws to be free citizens of a
united Europe.
The call for a referendum on this matter has
now given the Brexiteers, who just want their
country to be left alone by outsiders, the
opportunity they have always wanted. PM
Cameron apparently underestimated their
resolve. The Leave EU activists campaigned
more vigorously, and deployed every possible
means including blackmail and sentiments.
They had the vibrant support of many political
leaders including former London Mayor Boris
Johnson, Michael Gove, and fire-eating UKIP
leader, Nigel Farage. In the event of an
intense campaign that divided the country
right down the middle, we witnessed the
mainstreaming of xenophobia and bigotry.
Labour MP Jo Cox who was murdered by an
irate Eurosceptic for her pro-EU stance will be
remembered as the symbol of how a
straightforward, for or against, political debate
turned into hate campaign and a national
referendum became an act of terror. There
are many lessons to be learnt from this
instructively low moment in Britain.
What has happened is actually a referendum
on the British establishment and the EU. The
EU faces a crisis requiring urgent introspection
and reform of its processes, if it must
continue to serve its purpose. Britain is not
the first country to avoid membership of the
EU but whereas countries like Switzerland and
Norway can hold out on their own, Brexit
comes at great cost to the British. At hand is
the triumph of emotions over reason, and the
triumph of right wing populism. In many
countries of Europe and even at the moment
in the United States, the ultra-conservative
political bloc seems to be in the ascendancy.
Questions are being asked about regional
integration and globalization. The basis for this
is largely the manner in which regional
groupings such as the EU disappoint the
people. This is made worse by the failure of
the leadership elite and sitting governments.
When people are not happy with their
governments or their circumstances, they are
ready to make any choice that looks like an
alternative. Opposition and anti-establishment
politicians understand this game too well.
All they need to do is to demonize the
establishment, tear the government of the
day into pieces, call names and tell the people
that the time has come for change. Those who
claim that they best know how to save a
nation, armed with populist rhetoric in an
election time, and have the best support of
the people, in the long run stand a better
chance of winning. Democracy in that fashion
is a play-field of emotions, not facts. It is the
same scenario that made Bernie Sanders so
popular in the recent Presidential nomination
process in the United States, and also led to
the emergence of Donald Trump as the
presumptive Republican Presidential
candidate. Political leaders who don’t want sad
outcomes only have to provide good
leadership and meet the people’s
It is also clear that democracy may not
produce rational outcomes in so far as it
awards triumph on the basis of percentages: in
Brexit, the difference is just 4%, 58-42, but
the rule of the game is that majority carries
the day, and as in most cases, the winner takes
it all. But should the economic and political
destiny of a people be determined in such
formulaic manner? Brexit has left the United
Kingdom in a more divided shape that it was
before the referendum. The entire country is
in turmoil. The taste of change doesn’t quite
seem so sweet anymore, less than 72 hours
after the vote. Young Britons may no longer
be able to move freely across Europe and the
experts have predicted rising costs and
expectations and greater economic hardship.
If Brexit stands, more than half of the
population will be thrown into a winter of
discontent, wondering why just about 1.3
million voters (17.4 million (for), 16.1million
(against) should have been allowed to mislead
a country. Many Britons will no longer be able
to find jobs so easily across Europe. Hyper
democracy has resulted in British

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