For many of us outside the UK, we may not be aware of what is happening over the pond right now. But fuck, we should be.
On Thursday June 23, citizens of the United Kingdom (comprised of countries England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) voted in a referendum asking a single question: “Should the UK remain in the European Union, or leave it?” And to pretty much everyone’s surprise – and by a slim margin of 52% – the country voted to leave.
And the world is reacting turbulently. 52% is a scary number. The rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – fronted by giant dickhead Nigel Farage, a man who draws many similarities to the walking tire fire that is Donald Trump – in recent years has brought to light Britain’s ignorant and genuinely frightening political underbelly. The message behind UKIP’s campaign is racism, basically, and represents growing mistrust of the EU’s governance over British laws (in particular laws concerning immigration and religious freedom), a rise in nationalism, an unstable and grossly divided government not unlike the one we have United States, and a media that gets off on fear-mongering.
The voter statistics alone show a large generational and educational divide. Educational hubs like London and Oxford, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, largely voted to remain, whereas rural areas in England and Wales voted in favor for Brexit. 64% of voters aged 18-24 voted to remain, with just 24% voting to leave. Voters aged 65+, however, were in favor to leave 58%-33%.
While the EU is not perfect by any means, it stands as a united front to create social and economic stability in a region with a violent past. Born in the aftermath of WWII, it seeks to protect the interests of its citizens as a whole, to break the cycle of Europe’s war-torn history, and stand for the notion that states are stronger united than on their own.
The perks of being a part of the EU are many; free travel between countries (meaning one time I was driving in Germany and all of a sudden, without looking, I was in the Netherlands), the use of a single currency, and looser immigration laws for EU citizens wanting to work across the Union. All of this is now likely to dissipate, and the scariest thing here is that we don’t even know what the full consequences are. This morning the DOW dropped 500 points. The British Pound is the lowest it’s been since 1985, lower than it was during the 2008 GFC.
I don’t know what this means for us. There are talks of global recession worse than 2008. All I know is that it was a stupid decision, based on fear, greed and a total disregard for the future of the UK. Imagine an operating room, in the middle of open heart surgery. The surgeon, with years of training and experience, is leaning over the patient, who is out cold, vulnerable. He makes a deep incision, then stops, looks up and strides out of the room. He walks straight out of the hospital, scalpel still in hand, scrubs still on. Once he gets to the street, he goes up to the nearest passerby – a total stranger, clearly not a surgeon – and hands the knife to them and says, “Hey, you should conduct this open heart surgery.” That is what the UK did. And now we’re doomed.