TweetBut what lies ahead, once Eurosceptic euphoria and Remainder rancour have subsided, is wholly unpredictable.
Leavers cannot always rely on inchoate patriotism... but will need forward-looking new narratives.
The days to come are bound to feel anticlimactic, but they are no less important.
“There’s electricity in the air across England” said the BBC weatherman, alluding to the stormy weather front that passed across the UK on the 22nd and 23rd of June. But it sounded like he was referring to the referendum, which has galvanised political and cultural life here for months, and was then coming to climax. At times of great change, even the weather can feel emotionally charged, and odd coincidences seem to assume significance. A friend in Kent told me Purcell's Fairest Isle was playing on Radio 3 just after he voted to Leave, and here in reliably Eurosceptic Lincolnshire, our local cinema was showing Independence Day: Resurgence.
Like almost everyone, including City banks and leading Leavers, I assumed Remain would win. I had considered the difficulty of shifting any status quo - the weight of warnings about the economy - the febrile cultural climate - and the faltering in Leave’s momentum after the shocking murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, an act frequently (and maliciously) linked conceptually to the Eurosceptic cause. On decision night, Iain Duncan Smith reported late “stirrings in the estates” of northeast London, a phrase which had a faint Agincourt ring, and when I went to bed after 2am, the Leavers were indeed ahead. But no major conurbations had declared, and I world-wearily assumed the numbers would turn around while I slept. I was amazed to wake up in a blazing dawn, to the equally dazzling news that with 307 of 382 areas counted the BBC had called it for Leave.
After that, things became predictable, even inevitable - Cameron's gracious resignation speech (like the Thane of Cawdor, “nothing became him in life so much as his leaving of it”), a no-confidence vote on Jeremy Corbyn, the threat of a second Scottish independence referendum, concern about the implications for Ireland - and, most enjoyably, frantic denunciations of democracy from losing-it Leftists - "boilingly unpleasant", and "a range of demons...a toxic swamp". It is hard to say who were most surprised - small-c conservatives, so used to being on the losing side of all battles, or leftists, so used to setting everyone’s agendas and moral compasses.
But what lies ahead, once Eurosceptic euphoria and Remainder rancour have subsided, is wholly unpredictable. These are so many known-unknowns. Who takes the Conservative helm (and, possibly, Labour’s)? If Boris Johnson, as most people think, will he be able to reunite his party, persuade MPs of all parties not to impede the exit process most did not want, and negotiate a good deal with the E.U.? How quickly will the markets recover? Will the economy shrink catastrophically? Can nervous interest-groups, from employers to farmers and academics, be reassured? What shoals will a shocked (and perhaps vindictive) E.U. strew in the way of the British ship of state? Indeed, what will happen to the E.U., now that its second-largest payer-in has fled? What will the S.N.P. do? Or U.K.I.P.? Could destabilising tensions return to Northern Ireland?
Further on again, there are more dilemmas. Removal of the E.U. as legislator means that domestic politicians will soon no longer be able to use “Brussels” as an excuse for home-grown failures. Yesterday’s victory margin was narrow, and the strongest support for Remain came from younger voters, the better-educated, immigrants, and of course the Scots and Northern Irish. Leavers need to work across all of these groups, partly by ensuring that post-referendum politics are not narrowly neoliberal, or reductive - on the N.H.S., education, workers’ rights, ecological issues, and the arts. Leavers cannot always rely on inchoate patriotism, or vague resentment of political correctness, immigration and “elites”, but will need forward-looking new narratives.
Britain has been spared the prospect of Turkish access and compulsory refugee quotas, and can extricate itself from the European Convention on Human Rights, but there will still be immigration - and proportionally more of it from outside Europe, of often alien culture, instead of Polish plumbers or Spanish secretaries who present merely logistical problems. Although Brexit was won mostly on the idea that immigration must be controlled, one theoretical outcome of Brexit could be accelerated Third Worldisation - with manual workers from Africa or Asia replacing eastern Europeans in Britain’s factories and fields, and Islam playing an ever larger role in cultural life. As well as training and technological innovation to minimize the need to import labor,, Brexiters need to start promoting an unapologetic national identity that is simultaneously free from E.U. interference and part of Europe’s imperilled classical-Christian-Enlightenment inheritance.
But it seems churlish to cavil about so electric a day. For one night at least, those who worked so long for this moment - and even those, like me, who only watched and dared not quite hope - could just fall into bed, consciences clear, honour satisfied. The days to come are bound to feel anticlimactic, but they are no less important - the first of a fresh future, the first steps on a long and hopeful journey towards a destination at last of our own choosing.- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times. If you thought this article had lots of letters, some interesting words, and even a few paragraphs, so does his last book. And a great review of said book is here.
Follow him on Twitter: Follow @DerekTurner1964 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out some other articles from Derek Turner:FLIGHTS OF FANCY
BREXIT - AND BREXISTENCE
British Tories taking on - and to - Trump