Brexit for dinner tonight in the U.S.


EU-flagHere in the U.S. the slowness and lateness of the results of the British exit vote on the European Union, or “Brexit,” is crazy-making. It’s 8 p.m. Mountain time in the U.S.–doesn’t that make it 2024 already in Greenwich Mean Time?  How do you people in Britain take this molasses-like pace of election returns?  (If that were on the ballot, I’d definitely recommend a revolution.  Or at least several strong mugs of flip while you wait.)

I didn’t have strong opinions about the Brexit, although leaving the E.U. seemed like an astonishingly stupid idea from a U.S. perspective:  “Go ahead:  pull out of the E.U.!  There’s always Ireland when we need to move our European bases of operation to another English-speaking country .”  Also:  “Get used to standing in the slow line when you’re traveling in Europe, with the rest of us who don’t have E.U. passports.”

But then all of the pro-exit voters and leaders I’ve heard and seen interviewed in the U.S. media sounded like Donald Trump, plus the fact that both David Cameron and John Oliver have been urging a NO vote on this Brexit business.  I heard an interview on NPR yesterday in which a British retiree in Spain said he hoped that the U.K. would vote NO on the Brexit today, but admitted that if he were back home, he’d probably vote to leave the E.U.  Why?

Because he says there are too many immigrants in the U.K.!  “Yes,” says an immigrant to southern Europe, “there’s too many immigrants in my home country which isn’t even my home because I’m a f^(king immigrant!”  (He didn’t actually say that–that’s my paraphrase of his insane political position.)

Please, Great Britain, don’t disappoint your American and Canadian friends.  I don’t go in for this “mother country” business, as we are big, noisy countries with many mothers and fathers from all over the world.  But we in the U.S. look to you to be adults, if not in a parental relation to us.  Let the rest of the world continue to hate we Ugly U.S. Americans!  We’ll let Canadians (and Minnesotans) be the competent, welcoming big sibling to the rest of the world.  Think of the U.S. as the tweenager with quart of Jack Daniel’s and an AR-15 at the party–we need you to be responsible!  We can take being the a-holes of the world.  You have to be the grown-ups.  Please.

UPDATE:  mean to say in original post published a few minutes ago:  don’t you think people in the U.S. who live in Massachusetts or California or New York want to hold a Texit vote–that is, a vote to set Texas adrift into the Gulf of Mexico?  And don’t you think that Texans want that just as badly, except the part about getting any closer to any geographic feature that includes the name “Mexico?”  YES!!!  But we suck it up, and so can you.

24 thoughts on “Brexit for dinner tonight in the U.S.

  1. No intuitive framework for making much sense out of any of this. Upon a time, we would have been sympathetic to all of the declining Labour constituencies in the north, which think they can vote their way back into whatever it was they thought they once had with a primal scream. And appreciated the looming comeuppance for the City and Westminster and the luxurious southern countryside counties who are going to be dragged into something they can’t imagine by a political democracy provision that has never been matched by social democracy. But then when you place that on a 3000 by 1500 mile American continental template and think about the dynamics of the past decade, it’s hard to calculate. You think of Obama’s unguarded comment about “guns and religion,” which definitely didn’t go over well in Transaltoonia in the late spring primaries in 2008. And about the resonances between certain parts of the Trump and Sanders voter demographics these last six months. And the live-streamed, cable-enabled “Revolt” of the Democrats on the House floor yesterday. It’s getting “interesting,” in a Chinese proverb sort of a way. The voters in Gibraltarstan voted something like 19,585 to 282 to “Remain,” yesterday, speaking of Spain. I guess it would be a good time to stock up on pounds sterling if anybody is planning a research trip to Britain this summer, would be one way of looking at it.


  2. A really bad idea. This sceptered isle, smote upside-the-head by its own broadsword. Putin must be laughing his ass off. 1989-2016 is barely the blink of an eye in the scale by which serious parties like the one he grew up in, and countries which sprawl across multiple continents, measure time and change.


    • Let’s hope we can take the longue durée on this. Britain was already only a very qualified member of the E.U. OTOH, being bound by E.U. rules without the opportunity to help decide them (as Matt points out below) seems really, really stupid.

      At least it will be a good time for North Americans to travel to Europe! But tourism as a base for your economy suggests strongly that your economy is a thin and fragile one.


  3. I am so saddened by all of this. Wales will especially be hurt by this decision; we benefit from a lot of EU funding (education, infrastructure, recreation, Welsh language initiatives)…time to be Ok Britain, not Great 😉


  4. way to go Dave… Now you will have to negotiate a free trade agreement with every single fricking EU country you just tooled over within the next two years. The UK will be bound by EU rules but have no say in how they are made. Stupid people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • you will be like Norway, but without as much oil or a decent welfare state. Because Boris Johnson (BoJoe?) will slash it all to the bone. Austerity don’t you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s clear that yesterday’s votes were the cosmopolitans (and the Scots!) vs. the provinces. People who live in or near big cities tend to get it that immigration is a GOOD THING. Immigration is great for economies, and places that are open to new immigrants are economically vibrant.

    Nothing brought this home to me more than living for a year in California in 2014-15, and then returning to Colorado last summer. L.A. is so vibrant because it’s open–people from all over the world move there and bring their foodways, talents, and determination, and that’s what makes it such a rich urban area–rich in all respects. Colorado, with its hostility **even to U.S. Citizens moving in from other states** loses out because of its anti-immigrant attitude. It feels more provincial and more ethnically divided than California.

    Americans, pay attention. This is about xenophobia and isolation, just as Trumpism is.


  6. Hearing so many people who voted Leave say, after the fact, that they didn’t understand what they were doing. Ah, democracy: empowering the uneducated and ill-informed as much as anything else. Still the best system that we have but that’s not saying much, is it?

    I am eagerly awaiting the return of the Scots’ referendum to leave the UK. I predict that it will succeed if held within the next year or eighteen months. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Northern Ireland, too. Both regions voted strongly to remain.

    As a British historian, though, I can’t say that I’m too surprised to see that Leave won given the lack of strong leadership from the government on “Remain” (Shame, David Cameron!) and the wild lies on the part of the UKIP that went unchallenged. As you point out, though, this doesn’t bode well for hoping the voices of reason and moderation prevail against Trumpism in November.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think we can prevail, Janice–don’t count out the U.S. yet. There are way fewer white people in the U.S. than in Britain, proportionally speaking, and as we all know here in the U.S., black and brown people are the most rational voters out there.

    White people? Sadly prone to white tribalism (which I almost wrote down as “shite tribalism” just now, something our Scots friends might appreciate!)


  8. The outcome is saddening and terrifying. The former because of the blow to the European idea—say what you will about the neoliberalism and technocracy of the EU, the ideal of peace through interconnection and knowledge is an inspiring one. The latter because a Leave victory seems to have been unimaginable, even to at least some people who voted Leave, which seems to me a very bad omen for November.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the other huge factor in this discussion was wealth. The richer you were the more likely you were to remain; most leave voters were in the poorest economic categories. And wealth in the UK, like in many other places, follows the urban/rural divide and it tracks nicely against educational achievement (more educated means richer). This decision followed a decade of austerity politics where the wealth gap grew, unemployment wouldn’t shift, and the poor became more precarious than perhaps ever. If you disenfranchise a huge chunk of the population, you shouldn’t be surprised when they are desperate for change – any change. And whilst it is easy to say to such people that they are better in the EU, some abstract political entity might not be much of a comfort when you’re standing in the queue at a foodbank. At least now there might be some truth to the claim that ‘we’re all in it together’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel you. Working class people really are suffering in a lot of western countries- the US included- and perhaps the left does not take this seriously enough. What should we do to improve conditions for unskilled labor?


      • I support a guaranteed minimum outcome and I also would support make-work/New Deal-style projects for anyone who can do any kind of work at all. I think we should be a LOT more generous with our benefits, including cash relief, but that we can also expect people to do something for the help they receive. Right now in the U.S., people are encouraged to go on Social Security Disability because there’s almost no other way of getting cash on public assistance. I get it that most of these folks are unable to work in a traditional job, but signing on as permanently ill or disabled is undermining and destructive. People should be encouraged to play the roles they can in building community.


    • Speaking to the “leave” people near me, I think you have hit the nail on the head. They are desperate, UKIP put forward an ideal scapegoat (immigrants!), and it wasn’t the status quo.


      • Have you seen this? Brexiteers suddenly realize they’ll lose the massive cash infusions they get from the E.U.

        LONDON — On Thursday, 56 percent of all voters in the southwestern county of Cornwall voted in favor of leaving the European Union. It was a decision supported by a majority of the county’s members of Parliament.

        But only one day later, Cornwall residents were asking, “What have we done?”

        The county is heavily dependent on the more than 60 million British pounds ($82 million) in E.U. subsidies per year that are transferred to the region and that have helped finance infrastructure projects and education schemes. Now, county officials are panicking — fearing the worst for the county’s future and wondering why one of the most E.U.-dependent counties in Britain voted against the E.U. — and its money.

        Nice going, dipshits!


    • Feminist Avatar, it’s good to hear your perspective! I agree with you to some extent; but the Scottish poor voted to remain, as did something like 75% of nonwhite Britons everywhere. So clearly, white tribalism and xenophobia (in the non-metropolitan places where nonwhites and immigrants are very scarce) were strong drivers of the Brexiteers.

      Let’s also have a little historical perspective on globalism and the emergence of post-industrial economies in the West. Any man or woman now who is 50 or 55 was 15 or 20 in 1980. It was crystal-clear in places like the U.S. and Britain, which were busy electing anti-union, anti-worker pols like Reagan and Thatcher, that not pursuing higher education and getting a job in a factory or a mine was not a good long-term strategy. I’m a little younger than this, but I remember very clearly conversations in the late 1970s and early 1980s about the growing importance of post-secondary education and of achieving skills to compete for the jobs of the future. *Women* of this generation got the memo and got themselves into some kind of post-secondary education in record numbers, outstripping men’s enrollment in college in the U.S. (don’t know about Britain, but I’m guessing.)

      Somehow, non-whites and immigrants from all over the world see the U.K. and the U.S. as a places where they can better themselves. Why couldn’t white working-class British-born men? Their suffering is real, but I suspect that a great deal of it comes out of their sense of lost entitlement and of misplaced grievance for the modest successes of their non-white/immigrant peers.


      • “Somehow, non-whites and immigrants from all over the world see the U.K. and the U.S. as a places where they can better themselves. Why couldn’t white working-class British-born men?”

        This is exactly what the rank and file Leave voters were trying to accomplish by voting Leave.

        Because they responded, unfortunately, to the usual blatant campaign lies and scare tactics deployed by conservative politicians. Race baiting: invented in ancient Egypt (if not earlier) and still successful today!


      • Racism was clearly a huge part of this story but I don’t think we can blame that all on working-class men. It wasn’t them who ran the racist Leave campaign – they were amongst our most elite and well-educated – they just responded to it. I think racism runs fairly deep at all social levels and that it is only part of the story of why people voted like this. It’s also worth noting that as many women voted to leave as men; and that around 30% of BME voters voted to leave (and oddly over 50% of Sikhs voted leave??). That’s not that surprising as our BME communities are also often socially marginalised and disenfranchised.

        I also think that the disenfranchised from many of these poor communities have a right to their anger. Whilst it is true that women took up more opportunities in higher education than men, this was often because ‘women’s work’ (ie in the caring and service industries) required this level of training. (We should also note that until very recently places in HE were capped so not everybody could go even if they wanted to). Many men from these communities moved from heavy industry into construction and trade which also required apprenticeships and training, just not through HE. And this was a booming industry until the construction industry collapsed with the financial crash. At which point they were told to retrain again, but this time for the minimum wage service industry (shops, call centres), and this required not only moving out of a skilled work but changing their accents, and moderating their bodies and dress to be more amenable to customers. And these shifts were just expected of them and multiple times over in the course of a generation. Moreover those kinds of jobs barely hit a living wage, resulting in huge chunks of the population living below the poverty line at the same time as benefits and public services are cut. But in the meantime, the bankers who caused these events were not expected to change themselves or retrain (despite the fact they have a notoriously sexist, racist and generally hostile working culture); even those that lost their jobs went off with nice redundancies and then returned to the industry (often the same companies) within a couple of years. So yes, maybe it is true that migrants have managed to see opportunities in Britain, but I don’t think that’s because working-class men or women just sat idly by. Nor does it seem fair that one of the groups with the least power is the one constantly expected to transform, or at least if they are, it seems to me that we might expect they will feel pretty disenfranchised by that process.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think racism plays a part in this. No doubt the racists are the most vocal supporters of leave in the UK and Trumpism in the USA. How could racism not play a role in the politics of two empires founded on slavery and white superiority? But racism does not explain all of the 53% of the English voters who choose Brexit. Maybe racists make up 10 out of the 53%, maybe race was a secondary consideration for others? I think we really need to figure out what kind of work the word “immigration” is doing in this context.

        My guess is that it is more than a dog whistle to racists in and out of the closet. Immigration puts a face on the trade policies, the social welfare policies, the economic policies and the education policies that have screwed over poor and working people across the industrialized West. I think elites talk about globalization and non-elites see and experience the same phenomenon though immigration.

        I look at my wife’s home town and it was destroyed by the wave of strikes and lockouts that swept through southern Minnesota in the 1980s. Hormel and Heartland first broke the unions, then shut plants and final hired immigrant labor to radically alter the meatpacking workforce. That is reason enough for poor whites to be skeptical of immigration.


  10. ‘Tain’t funny, except in the ironic or perverse sense that people on the other side of the Irish Sea understand the word “funny,” but I can’t help wondering how this Brexit debate would have played out the last six-month down at _Cold Comfort Farm_, and whether or how many and which of those folks would have even gotten to a polling place.? It would almost be worth a sequel to think it through. Leave or Remain were pretty basic themes running through that whole piece of art as I remember it.


  11. Though I’m not a huge Crooked Timber fan, I recommend the thread there called “Brexit: the bloodbath.” Mix of Brit and non-Brit comments that I (from the USA) found informative.

    Liked by 1 person

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