Brexit Wound


If you punch a random stranger today there is a 51.9% chance they deserve it!

That Tweet from @_GregJamison  summed up how a lot of people felt the morning after Britain voted to leave the European Union. The aftermath of the referendum result is immense.

The pound has been pummeled, losing around 10% of its value against the US dollar before lunch. It was the worst one-day fall in the British currency on record, TWICE as bad as the fall on “Black Wednesday” in 1992.British markets tanked. The amount of money that was wiped out on the FTSE 100 alone hit £125 billion ($171 billion). That figure is equivalent to more than 15 years of the UK’s EU contributions. The FTSE 100, which contains many big multinational companies, fell 8%. The FTSE 250, which features companies with predominantly sterling-denominated revenues, fell nearly 12% at the open, the most dramatic drop in its history.

The biggest losers were the banks and homebuilders, some of which fell by more than 40% in early trading. Barclays, one of Britain’s largest banks, dropped 35% at the start of the day.

In Scotland, where 62% voted to stay in the EU, they want another referendum on Scottish independence. In Northern Ireland, where 55.7%  voted to remain, there’s talk of a referendum on unification with the Republic of Ireland. The British Prime Minister has resigned and the next PM will be an unelected one.

An age breakdown of polling shows young voters overwhelmingly supported Remain, while older people backed Brexit, leading to claims that baby boomers were “screwing the younger generations over yet again”. 75% of people aged 18-24 claimed they voted for Remain. In comparison, just 39% of those aged 65 and over backed a vote to stay, causing commenters to say it was “infuriating” that “young people.. have a future without the EU and it’s one they don’t want”.

Britain is broken, battered and bewildered. This is not a United Kingdom.

On my breakfast show on BOB fm in the Home Counties on the morning we got the result, I asked people to call in and tell me how they were feeling. All of the calls came from people who were delighted that Britain had voted to leave the EU. I was amazed though with how little they understood about what it means for the country and their reasons for voting to leave.

One lady told me she voted to leave because crime was going up. When I pointed out that the latest figures showed crime is at the lowest levels ever in Britain, she dismissed this and told me that crime HAS gone up, “because of all the muslims”. Immigrants were blamed by another person who told me her children couldn’t get a job or buy a house because of them. An intelligent sounding lady said she wanted Britain to have more of a say in what goes on. When I asked her if she voted in the European elections, which we have every five years in Britain, she said, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that!” My favourite caller told me she was sick of the EU telling us what shape our vegetables should be.

The impression I got was that a lot of people voted to leave because of fears over immigration, bordering on racism, and a massive misunderstanding of what the European Union does and what it costs. This could be because in the run-up to the referendum, the leave and the stay campaigns where light on facts and some of their numbers were inaccurate.

It didn’t help that during the run up to the vote, TV and radio stations in Britain were forced by law to be impartial. That impartiality forces them to give equal airtime to both sides. They have to be careful not to challenge a claim made by either side too robustly in case they’re accused of not being impartial. On the day of the actual vote, during the time the polls are open till the time they close, you can’t even go on the air and encourage people to vote, not even in a small way by saying something like, “nice weather for a referendum”, because a high turnout could favour one side over the other. There’s a penalty of £5,000 or six month in jail if a broadcaster breaks this rule.

So a largely uninformed public voted more on feelings than facts and as George Carlin once said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

When I got off the air on Friday, I found myself listening to talk radio stations. That was unusual for me, I usually listen to podcasts or watch rolling news on TV. As things were changing so quickly, podcasts were out of date. I needed live news but for some reason, TV didn’t feel like the right place to get it. Sat at home in front of a 42” plasma screen that I didn’t even switch on, I listened to the radio through the Tunein app on the iphone in my pocket. Was that because I was alone and needed the company of a trusted friend telling me everything was going to be alright? I don’t know, all I know is, what I heard was brilliant.

We don’t have many talk radio stations in Britain but BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 4, LBC, and talkRadio did a great job. There were explanations, opinions and facts. In the evening, Stephen Nolan on 5 Live took calls from confused listeners with specific questions which he fielded to a panel of assembled experts. It’s not the kind of radio that wins awards but it was exactly the kind of programming that I needed that night.

Towards the end of the evening, I switched to another talk station and was surprised that they weren’t talking about Brexit at all. The show opened with a 20 minute interview and plug for an obscure Kung Fu movie, including an interview with the people who made the film. The presenter said that people have been talking about Brexit all day, it’s boring.

For at least 51.9% of people who voted that day, he was probably right.

Craic on!

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If you enjoyed this Craic, please click “like” and tweet a link. If you’d like to talk to me about it, call me on +44 1438 422106 between 6am and 9am (UK time) this week on BOB fm.

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