They say a week is a long time in politics. One minute is a long time in world economics. Within a minute of the result of the EU referendum result becoming a certainty, the pound plummeted on the stock exchanges of the world, and is still in freefall as I write. Many people think this is an irrelevance because they don’t realise that the pound, in a world of many currencies, is central to the UK’s economic survival, if there is in fact still a United Kingdom.
Not only will this fall result in an immediate rise in petrol prices for everyone, with its knock-on effect on food and transportation prices, it will undermine any efforts to reduce the UK’s trade deficit and lead to increased austerity. The pound, and with it the UK’s standing in the world is already much reduced compared to what it was before voters went to the polling booths last Thursday, their ears full of the lies and confusion sown by the Leave campaign.
The week before last, I went to a wedding in Norway, which, despite not being in the EU, is a part of the Single Market, with freedom of movement and adherence to EU law. Those at the wedding were of all persuasions and nationalities, because what better way is there to celebrate real love than with multi-national and multi-orientation friends? It appears this was a last moment of multicultural innocence before the world changed.
And politics? What about politics? While the economy and the nation shatter more quickly than you can say current account deficit, politics, despite appearances to the contrary, is actually in stasis. The parties may be in turmoil, but no-one, not a single politician has actually put his or head over the parapet and taken charge of the situation. Not the Prime Minister, not the Chancellor, not the Leader of the Opposition (and it pains me to say that), nor those swaggering men of the Leave campaign who promised to the millions of confused and disenfranchised that the world would change for the better on Friday morning if the referendum would won.
What they didn’t explain, of course, was that their campaign was based on lies, something they only admitted in public on Friday morning whilst at the same time hailing that day as Independence Day (independence from whom? From the UK itself which sets EU laws in consensus with the other member states, from the duped British electorate?). By the time they were calling Leavers bitter, by the time the first racial abuses and attacks had happened and been glossed over without the government even condemning them, it became apparent that the referendum had not been an exercise in true democracy, but a simple power play for those wanting to take the power of the prime ministership for themselves (and for a more complex and ironic representation of them have a careful read of my rewriting of Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and The Carpenter).
And here’s the rub – the referendum is only advisory. The legislation which set out the terms of the referendum, which allowed it to be called, makes it clear that any outcome of the referendum only becomes legally binding if voted into law by Parliament, a vote into law which has to be ratified by the local parliaments in Scotland, Wales and England. Further, any withdrawal from the EU has to be legally effected by the formal triggering, in writing or express public statement, by the government of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. And with the government now rudderless, Article 50 may well never be triggered. This is why I have started a petition calling on Parliament to exercise its constitutional right not to pass the referendum into law, a petition which uk.gov has not yet made public, but which you can support here.
Britain, once considered by many the cradle of democracy and tolerance, is now nothing but a laughing stock to the rest of the world, a nation of bitter people, isolated, marginalised, a hotbed of racism and intolerance. And that’s sad. We are all people, the billions of us who share this fragile planet, this beautiful blue oasis in the darkness of the immediate universe. We are the world, and we are doing our best to destroy it and ourselves.