I went to bed a European and woke up a Little Englander

Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union I feel as I felt the night my father died. I’ve had little sleep. I’m listening to sad music and struggling to make sense of the shock.

EU stars

What’s different is that I knew my father was close to death—and he died magnificently at 81, leaving a proud heritage. It was a beautiful ending. I didn’t see the vote to leave coming, although I knew it was possible. It is an ending, but not a beautiful and magnificent one; and more it is the start of turbulence and uncertainty that will continue for years and probably (not possibly) end with Britain much diminished.

The saddest aspect for me is that we, the old, have betrayed the young, yet again. The old voted strongly to leave, the young overwhelmingly to remain. We have already left them a poisoned planet, wide inequalities, huge debt, and unaffordable housing. Now we are denying them the future they wanted. James, my son who lives in Mexico, wrote of the betrayal he feels for his son, my grandson, who has a passport that would allow him to work, live, and travel in a beautiful and historical continent and now may not. Freddie, another son, thinks of becoming a Scottish citizen (on the assumption that Scotland will separate from the rest of the UK and stay in the EU). Flo, my daughter, will be working in an NHS that will probably be still further constrained because of economic decline.

I feel sorry too for many of the people who have voted to leave. Many of them were the poorest, least educated people in our society. Partly they were conned, promised a better life that is unlikely to be delivered. Partly they voted in anger, bitterness and disenchantment, which is understandable, but I fear that they haven’t understood the probable consequences. It is the poorest and least educated who are likely to suffer the most from us leaving the UK.

The referendum has exposed how we are divided by geography, age, education, class, and attitude. I live in a borough with one of the highest votes for Remain (perhaps the highest, putting Gibraltar to one side), and—perhaps tragically—I don’t know a single Leave voter, although they are the majority. I fear that our divisions won’t heal, not least because the elite (that’s me) won’t suffer but the poor will feel betrayed.

Then I remember that the prime reason for creating the European Union was to stop war. My father and grandfather fought world wars, which was not surprising because Europe had seen more than two millennia of nearly constant war. The European Union has stopped major wars In Europe. I hope that they won’t return.

I think of myself as a cheerful pessimist, although Lin says that I’m really a cheerful optimist. The future will “blossom regardless,” and I will remain cheerful and I do what I can to help Britain heal, keep us close to Europe and the rest of the world, and maintain us as outward looking, creative, tolerant, and welcoming.


5 thoughts on “I went to bed a European and woke up a Little Englander

    • The leave vote was a modal minority not a majority. Of the three minority data sets: remain, leave, and did-not-vote, the leave set got the most crosses (37%). The MAJORITY (63%) was the other two minority data sets, who did not vote to leave. The claim that the majority voted to leave is a pernicious lie. But only those who choose to vote have a right to be counted I (hope I don’t) hear you cry. Well, leaving aside the dubious ethics of that claim, spare a thought for the 4m+ who were actively gerrymandered out of their vote: they didn’t choose not to vote they were excluded. Include them (EU residents here and there) and that modal minority would most likely have been a plain old minority. Do not dignify the leave vote as a majority Richard. It is a falsehood perpetuated by tory mps and right wing press barons. Optimism (and probably pessimism too) is resisting not accepting.


  1. Yes. It is a shock but the result of a democratic process influenced by suspicion of an elitist, dysfunctional, corrupt, unelected and unaccountable EU process. Our National sovereignty and strong legal system is also being eroded.

    The consequences of the Vote will be extremely complex and difficult to manage, and we must have strong leadership to do this without serious economic fallout.

    I am sure a model can be worked out as EU exports to UK are so important to Germany & France.

    It seems like an earthquake, but we will recover and remain GREAT BRITAIN


  2. Dear John, Sadly that is precisely the kind of misunderstanding Richard was talking about. We’re constantly hearing this mantra about unelected EU bureaucrats, as if it were true. Commissioners are appointed by elected member state governments, and the European Parliament is directly elected. Indeed, as I live in a safe Tory seat, the only election in which my vote counts for anything is that for our MEPs. As for trade deals, we heard before, and are hearing even more loudly now after the referendum, that we will get no better conditions from the EU as ex members than we did as members. We flatter ourselves that our trade is so desirable, it is rapidly becoming less so as our economy declines, and we are no longer the world’s 5th economy, as we kept being told, but, thanks to Brexit, the 6th. The 27 will be more interested in making an example of us than in doing us favours.

    As for leadership, where do you see that coming from? And fallout, it is already with us. Have you tried buying dollars since the referendum?


  3. Pingback: “Brexit plus plus plus”: what might be the three pluses? | Richard Smith's non-medical blogs

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