It was inevitable, yet no-one saw it coming. Everyone was in denial, hoping against hope that common sense would prevail. But it didn’t, and here we are, over a week after the referendum, trying to work out what’s going to happen now that Brexit’s here.
At an informal get-together of expat Brits and Americans now living in Israel a couple of days after the result had become clear there was a general consensus. The British public is too stupid for its own good. The overriding motivation leading the average Britisher to vote to leave the EU was mainly resentment of those better-off than themselves, of foreigners in general and of a pace and way of life that seems to have left them behind. What they dislike most in the world are all those ‘experts’ who cautioned against leaving the EU. The bottom line here, in my opinion, is that this reflects the massive failure of the British education system.
The arguments against leaving the EU had been clearly set out by the Remain campaign, only to be derided as ‘scaremongering’ by those who opposed it. Of course, if there was any scaremongering afoot it was coming from the other side, with dire predictions of the UK being inundated by influxes of Polish plumbers and Czech waitresses. And that’s before the hordes of Syrian, Afghan and Sudanese migrants start absailing up the White Cliffs of Dover.
“There’s too many people here now,” I heard one interviewee complain on TV, standing outside a row of neat semi-detached homes, one of which was presumably his: “Now we can’t afford to buy housing and we have to wait a week to see a doctor.” He omitted to mention the thousands of medical personnel who now man England’s severely understaffed and underfunded National Health system. In the same programme an offended Polish carpenter declared: “I qualified in my profession in Poland, came to England to work, not to live on benefits, take home the same pay as my English-born colleagues, and still they won’t even speak to me on the factory floor.”
The sad fact is that as soon as the result of the referendum became known, the value of the pound plummeted, setting off turmoil in currencies and stock markets all over the world. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, as the saying goes, so anyone who had bet against sterling made a tidy profit. But what about all the poor sods, like the average British punter, who is left with a severely devalued pound in his or her pocket? It spells a bleak prospect for everyone, and especially for British expats living abroad and relying on a pension from the UK, of whom there are over one million.
The most telling image conveying the probable effect of Brexit on life in Britain was the picture I saw on Facebook displaying French wines and cheeses and all kinds of other delicacies stacked at one end of a table with a lone tin of baked bins at the other end. The message was clear – food and other products from abroad are going to become more expensive in England. The same goes for the holidays that British people have become accustomed to spending abroad, in search of the sun that somehow seems to avoid Britain in the summer. A wag pointed out gleefully that this means that there will be fewer British yobs on the beaches of Benidorm, and that is some consolation for those who can still afford to go. Thank goodness we still have music to soothe our spirits in this time of doom and gloom.
Scotland is talking about seceding from the UK in order to remain in the EU, while the Irish Republic, which is in the EU, may well benefit by becoming the location of choice for financial firms currently in London and seeking to continue to gain preferred access to the EU. The repercussions, implications and reverberations of all the changes arising from this momentous decision are too many and too complex to contemplate, and one can only hope that someone, somewhere is working hard to prepare plans that will help to make the process as smooth as possible.
Nevertheless, I’m very much afraid that dear old England, the country of my birth and the country which gave shelter to my parents when they were refugees back in 1938, the country which I love and to which I bear an immense debt of gratitude, is in for a rocky ride.