It’s hard for many Londoners to understand why Brexit happened. Maybe its because we live in a one of the world’s most truly international cities, the hub of so many European and global businesses, and we see the benefits of an international outlook and pan-cultural cooperation every day at work and in our communities. Maybe its because we live in the shadow of Westminster and are familiar with a wider spectrum of political thinking than other regions. Maybe it’s because we’ve already had Boris as a leader and Christ on one of his bikes, did the rest of you think you were missing out??? I don’t think its because the rest of England is stupid, or racist – though this is an actual conversation I had in the northeast:
Them: We were forced to leave the club because some darkies showed up.
Me: Wait – what??
Them: Yeah, it was a shame.
Me: You seriously can’t use the word ‘darkies’.
Them: What are you supposed to call them then – coloureds?
But then things get reported in the papers like “Cornwall votes for Brexit then pleads to keep EU funding;” and we put our faces in our hands and think what part of leaving the EU wasn’t clear? And Nigel Farage says, “The side of my bus said let’s keep the £350 million a week we give the EU and fund the NHS instead – it didn’t say we’d give them the whole £350 million;” and we put our faces in our hands and think of course it didn’t say that, did anyone actually think it did? And the pound drops to its lowest level since 1985 and people are shocked; and we put our faces in our hands and think but literally every single economist in this country and outside of this country said the pound would drop, how has this come as a surprise?
Advocates for remaining a part of Europe included the country’s brightest politicians, economists, scientists, business leaders, manufacturers and artists. Advocates for leaving included UKIP, the BNP, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. That’s why we Londoners thought this was a no brainer.
Is Europe going to stop trading with the UK? Of course not, we’re countries not 10 year olds – but losing guaranteed access to Europe as a marketplace and having to negotiate deals is not necessarily going to work in our favour. Are big job creating tax paying businesses going to pull out of the UK? Why wouldn’t they, if the UK is a European hub – because a European hub should be in Europe, duh. Will the UK be stronger? Well we’ll be the only fish in a tiny pond, so kind of – but as opposed to a big fish in a glorious pond, which is much better in my mind. It would be a bit like if Texas left the United States, which is what’s being proposed on Twitter today. The rest of the world is still going to view the other 49 states as the powerhouse, and Texas will be reduced to being just Texas. But maybe Texans would think of themselves as better off through independence. I don’t know, are Texans as stupid as the British?
Narrow minds, and national identity over our place in the world as a whole, are not things that factor into day to day London life. It’s a city where diversity is celebrated; where people are curious of other cultures, not afraid; where politics are important and present. Where we see in practice every single day how being a part of Europe makes us stronger as a nation. Are there problems in the EU? Huge ones – but they could be overcome. Is the EU going to succeed? Possibly not as it is – but it’s not doomed to certain failure. The London I live in doesn’t run away from problems, it comes together and tries to fix them – look at the way the city unites in the wake of tragedy like 7/7 or Orlando, for Pride, or to protest injustice. The UK I’ve just witnessed leave the EU saw a problem and bailed. It’s not even a selfish move – it’s a shot-ourselves-in-the-foot selfish move.
In so many ways, London is not the UK. Today, 24 hours after Brexit, there are calls for London to secede, and today I wish that was a thing that could plausibly happen. But only if we could relocate the House of Commons, mind – maybe to Cornwall.
Because we Londoners know Boris. He’s less the saviour who will surely lead us to greatness, and more the buffoon who will almost certainly lead us to global insignificance.
Good luck everyone.