Brexit and the Blue Pill

A developer's perspective of what the hell happened when Britain voted for Brexit against the advice of all experts

TL;DR The working class of Britain have had their revenge on the Establishment but the irony is _they will be the ones who suffer the most from it._

Bzzt, bzzt, bzzzzzt. My alarm vibrated and played it's normal slow waking chimes. I rolled over and checked the time.

5.10am... I checked my phone. What transpired a few minutes later, would be the U.K.'s ”Berlin Wall” moment. My heart sank. The unthinkable had happened. The UK was leaving the EU. Brexit was actually happening. My stomach began to churn, so much I felt physically sick. The vote results hadn't all come in yet because the last few were due around 6am GMT, but it was a sure thing.

No one had predicted it. It was always destined to be a narrow victory for Vote Remain as a worst case. Even Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) himself had declared earlier in the night that he had lost the battle.

Firstly, what the hell happened? How could a country, known for it's multi-culturalism, stiff upper lip, vote to reject it's European counterparts. We're supposed to be polite Brits. A nation responsible for playing a major part in liberating the European continent twice. Fighting the ultra-right nationalists of Central Europe.

For disclosure, I'm most definitely 100% in the Remain camp, however, in this article, I put forward the case as to why, as a software engineer with an incredibly logical and fact based perspective, I believe that leaving the EU will be a disaster for a generation and I hope to outline some of my reasoning for that in this blog post.

Brexit marries two of my favourite topics (aside from Software Development), Politics and Economics. I've spent much of my time over the last year reading up about economics. From reading Economics: A Complete Introduction to Yanis Varoufakis' brilliant take on economic history in The Global Minotaur. I've been intrigued by how economics, politics and society play and function as a single ecosystem, constantly in flux.

2015 Election

While anti-EU sentiment has been growing in the UK for a while, I personally believe that the ball for Brexit first began rolling when David Cameron won the election in 2015. With the rise of Nigel Farage's UKIP on the far-right, David Cameron, in an attempt to appease Tory backbenchers and also entice voters to give him a second term, promised an EU in-out Referendum. This was in direct response to those voters who had deserted both the Labour and Tory parties over ever increasing immigration figures.

I believe this to be a truly tragic mistake that Cameron himself believed he was never going to lose. He believed, falsely, that he could get a better deal with Europe that would convince the electorate to vote to stay in the EU. A monumentally risky gamble that failed to pay off. David Cameron should absolutely accept his part to blame for this wholly sorry mess.

Brexit Campaign

What preceeded, in the 6 months leading up to the EU Referendum, was a campaign of deceit, exaggeration from both the #VoteRemain and #VoteLeave campaigns and outright racism and xenophobia. From ridiculous claims that wleaving the EU could save the UK £350 million per week and effectively save the NHS. The worst part, that they had the guts to print this blatant lie across a 50 ft bus and then admit less than 24 hours later than the result was announced that they had 'made a mistake'.

Brexit Battle Bus

What we've seen unravel here in Britain has been a class war. The educated versus the uneducated. The old versus the young and the disenchanted, anti-etablishment and working classes versus the government

The Brexit campaign produced a new shocking tactic every week. Former Education Secretary Michael Gove claimed that Britain had had enough of them. No surprise then that 9 out of 10 economic experts claiming that Brexit could lead to very bad economic consequences for the man on the street were totally ignored.

Rats Fleeing a Sinking Ship

Many things shocked, but nothing more so than Prime Minister David Cameron announcing his resignation after the UK votes to leave. Cameron promised to see the vote through. To bring stability to a divided country at the very time it needed it. He lied - a perfect lie that would deliver a poisoned chalice to his successor according to one hypothesis in the Guardian.

“If Boris Johnson looked downbeat yesterday, that is because he realises that he has lost.

Perhaps many Brexiters do not realise it yet, but they have actually lost, and it is all down to one man: David Cameron.

With one fell swoop yesterday at 9:15 am, Cameron effectively annulled the referendum result, and simultaneously destroyed the political careers of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and leading Brexiters who cost him so much anguish, not to mention his premiership.

How?

Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.

And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legislation to be torn up and rewritten … the list grew and grew.

The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.

The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?

Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?

Boris Johnson knew this yesterday, when he emerged subdued from his home and was even more subdued at the press conference. He has been out-manoeuvred and check-mated.

If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over – Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession … broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished. Boris Johnson knows all of this. When he acts like the dumb blond it is just that: an act.

The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice.

When Boris Johnson said there was no need to trigger Article 50 straight away, what he really meant to say was “never”. When Michael Gove went on and on about “informal negotiations” … why? why not the formal ones straight away? … he also meant not triggering the formal departure. They both know what a formal demarche would mean: an irreversible step that neither of them is prepared to take.

All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.”

As if events couldn't turn even more bizarre, they did. London's former mayor, Boris Johnson (aka BoJo) and easily the bookies favourite to replace Cameron, backed out of the Tory Party leadership contest. Betrayed by his closest ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Johnson was the figurehead of the leave campaign (even more so than Nigel Farage) and his popularity with the public was widespread.

Several weeks afterwards and us Brits are left to choose between one candidate who wants to curtail our human rights in Thresa May and Andrea Leadsom who is strongly against gay marriage and stated that the disaster predicted for the sterling is not proven correct despite all of the present warning signs.

Note: As I write this we're left with the one that doesn't like that we have human rights

Even Christoph Waltz felt the need to show his displeasure at those who walked away from their duties. A situation they had brought upon the people of the UK. I think this is a perfect way for us to feel.

Feeling Like a Foreigner

Post-Brexit, we've seen an increase in racist crimes by five-fold. Many young people, like me now feel like foreigners in their own country. Where the majority want to leave the EU and many (although I have no finger on the proportion) are intolerant of migrants or people who are not native to the UK.

In technology, we meet and work with people from all cultures and religions and to witness your own country in this position, first-hand, is heartbreaking.

The Economy

Part of the main arguments against the UK leaving the EU, is that losing access to the EU free market, a market of 500 million for which we can freely trade without tariffs, would be catastrophic. Many experts warned against leaving the EU with their warnings ignored...

The following morning after the Brexit vote we witnessed the value of the pound against the dollar slump to a 31-year low. The weakness of the pound could be seen as an aide to economic recovery, especially in economies that are larger exporters. A weaker currency can mean products can be sold cheaper abroad where the currency exchange is favourable. However, since Britain has little manufacturing and is predominantly an importer a weak sterling is a bad thing.

Also, I regularly hear and see articles in the media that forecast greenshoots of recovery when they see the FTSE 100 gaining back lost ground, but since FTSE 100 represents mainly global companies they will be a bargain to foreign investors with a weak pound. These companies will be more shielded from much of the Brexit shock. Aside from perhaps building companies which have suffered badly since the vote to Leave.

It is better to look towards the FTSE 250 instead as it more closely reflects the state of investment and confidence in modern British business.

If things weren't bad enough. The Bank of England has been forced to inject £400m so far to shore up the stock markets. With them due to also cut interest rates to a further record low of 0.25% in order to stimulate growth with an additional cut business rates to 15%. Since many large corporations pay little in corporation tax anyway, I suspect this will provide us with little extra comfort.

Should the sterling continue to head south and in fact drop further than we have predicted, then Mark Carney, the Bank of England's governor will have little wiggle room left and may be forced to actually raise interest rates to prevent inflation. Unfortunately, this will mean a rise in various costs such as mortgages (as they are linked to inflation) and most everyday goods. This would further squeeze an already under-pressure underclass.

There is also one key fact. We cannot have our cake and eat it. We cannot be both within the European Single Market and have sovereign control over our borders. This has been categorically rebutted by almost any important politician who matters in Europe.

Things will get worse before they get a whole lot better.

Limbo

One other issue that is of great concern if we fail to 'have our cake', is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. If we fail to leave the EU in under 2 years upon enacting Article 50, which is incredibly likely, then we will be left out in the cold, outside of the EU without any trade deals in place and on WTO tarriffs. We would be shut out of the European Union market and without a say on how it operates.

A Nation Divided

What is most saddening about all of this though, is that the decision to leave the EU has been made largely by the elderly population. Many of whom will not be around to witness the repercussion of their decision to live life outside of the EU. Given also that many of the elderly population have not lived their entire lives growing up as part of the EU community, they remember what they would describe as the 'golden days'.

Statistics point to a nation divided with the less educated and elderly voting clearly in favour of leaving.

As a British citizen, all I can hope is that our international reputation, even as our parties and politics fall apart around us and our nation can begin to unite and heal anew under a new party, a new leader in a new horizon.

Morpheus, is it too late to take the blue pill please?!

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
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