Nine days on from the vote to Leave, I thought I’d try to sum up what has happened that actually matters:
* The Vote. In the largest vote in British history, the people voted to leave the EU. The Leave results were in middle-class as well as working-class areas, deeply rural as well as urban areas (like Birmingham), and ran from the mountains and valleys of Wales to small coastal ports. As usual, only a minority (36%) of all 18-24 age voters could be bothered to get out to vote.
* The pollsters. The reputation of pollsters, pundits, academics and most of the media all took a mighty hammering, having once again offered almost no insight into the real mood and thoughts of the British people.
* The acceptance. The Leave vote was swiftly accepted by most who mattered, and the Prime Minister resigned in a dignified manner — staying in post for now but calling a swift Conservative leadership election.
* The threats evaporate, I. The Chancellor also stayed in post for now, while abandoning his earlier dire threats of a ‘punishment budget’ and ‘pension losses’ and general Armageddon. He cynically used the result as an excuse to formally abandon his 2020 spending targets (which everyone knew he wasn’t going to meet, anyway, so no loss there). We’re now also getting some clarity from EU officials on EU project funding – it’ll stay in place to 2020, and we can even apply for new funds that run to 2020.
* The threats evaporate, II. Obama, the Eurocrats, the mayor of Dover, the Argentinians, the Spanish all failed to carry out their various silly threats. Gibraltar was not invaded, the gates of the Channel Tunnel were not jammed open, the Falklands remain safe, the US special relationship is intact, etc etc. Other EU nations which want to leave the EU (over 60% of the French tell pollsters they want out) have noticed this.
* The threats evaporate, III. The UK stock market quickly rebounded and the FTSE actually ended this week on a 2016 high. The markets are probably considering that…
– exports and manufacturing will be strongly boosted by the lower pound ($1.33, down from $1.48).
– the value of the pound will bring in tourists in July-September, while encouraging British tourists to holiday in the UK.
– projects and new jobs that had been held up by the vote will be back on again soon, probably from early September.
– slightly lower house prices, and continued low interest-rates, may even incentivize first-time buyers.
– a small additional baby-boom of ‘Brexit babies’ is likely, next spring — ‘fear breeds’, in more ways than one.
* The threats evaporate IV. Gove has decided to stand for PM, cruelly ditching Boris Johnson. Gove’s own prospects have been fatally damaged by the treachery. Farage seems to be drifting somewhere between his own vast ego and a UKIP that will no longer have a core purpose once Article 50 is invoked. All this means that the left’s hysterical vision of a nation being led over to the far-right, by an alliance of their pet hate-figures of Gove/Boris/Farage, now seems to be even more ludicrous than it was before. Denied any real far-right against which to define themselves, the irrelevant far-left drifts further into a poisonous mix of anti-Semitism and rigid identity-politics.
* Theresa May: Predictably, Theresa May emerged as the leading candidate to be the new Conservative leader and PM. She ruled out an early general Election and accepted that Leave is now the only option. So she is now a Brexit-oriented candidate of some sort, though she didn’t campaign as a Leaver. As things stand, her opponent in the final ‘two-horse race’ is likely to be a Leave candidate.
* Behind the scenes, I. Potential Brexit negotiators have already offered themselves, from Tony Blair to the New Zealand trade-negotiating team (world experts in agricultural trade, apparently). Once strong teams are firming up, early sketches of an outline timetable for Leave will start to be verbally batted about, probably aiming to Leave by June 2019 (so as to not get Leave tangled up in the 2020 General Election). Calculations will be made on if we actually need to be in the Single Market, or if we can find inventive ways to take the 8-12% WTO tariff hit that would otherwise be imposed on our trade with Europe. Such as a revaluation of the pound.
* Behind the scenes, II. The mood of Eire is being quietly judged, on the likely prospect of their re-joining the UK after 2020 as some kind of 95% self-governing entity. Scotland’s rather silly knee-jerk suggestion of negotiating with the EU on its own was rebuffed by the EU, and the Scots will probably also come to the reluctant conclusion in 2020 that they’re much better off in the UK.
* Behind the scenes, III. The British people are still watching, waiting, and evaluating in their own quiet and common-sense way – much as the elite would like them to just go away. As I read it, they want to feel better off, safer, more respected, prouder, in a genuinely fair and democratic system — and they’re also willing to accept some hard times in the short-term, if doing so benefits future generations.