Last night, the United Kingdom stunned the world by voting to leave the European Union, immediately plunging global markets into a downward spiral and leaving progressives around the world questioning how facts lost and fear won. The Leave vote shocked, horrified, and devastated young voters, Scots, and the Northern Irish, who overwhelmingly wanted to be a part of a cosmopolitan Europe.
The graphic below, a quote from a Financial Times reader, explains exactly why these groups are outraged by their invisibility and marginalization by political elites.
Tragically, only some groups of Britons mourn these three tragedies.
The results show clear demographic rifts (see graphics below) that have only been exacerbated by the hotly contested referendum, the type of split the far right revels in. The rhetoric of the UK Independence Party and Donald Trump are strikingly similar, and both were arrogantly gleeful in the aftermath of the results, even as financial markets plummeted and countries around the world cringed.
The age gap between the Leave and Remain camps is enormous – Remain won by a margin of around 45 points with voters under the age of 30, while Leave won by a margin of roughly 25 points with over 60s (known as “pensioners”).
Furthermore, in what appears to be the latest instance of England dominating Scotland and Northern Ireland, England (except for London) and its small appendage, Wales, carried the Leave vote. (The top right box shows Scottish islands.)
Although Scotland and Northern Ireland were mostly content to be a part of the UK as long is it remained in the EU, there is important historical context; the Scots have fought long and hard against English tyranny for their right to self-determination, and Ireland has been racked by decades of civil war and strife after a long history of English meddling.
Young people face an era of isolationism in which they will be trapped within the borders of the UK in an increasingly global world. The referendum will have a decades-long effect on British society and the economy, an effect that will outlive today’s pensioners and will have profound repercussions for young adults who are just beginning to form their career.
The UK will almost certainly face a painful choice in Leave negotiations – be forced to pay into the EU budget, meet European regulations, and agree to free movement of goods and people, or accept tariffs on trade with the EU and restricted movement of people. The former option would leave Britain in roughly the same place it is now except without a vote in EU governing bodies, and Leavers are already unsatisfied with the status quo. If the UK takes the second option, businesses will likely suffer and British citizens would lose the right to live and work in any EU country.
The worst outcome of Brexit is the total alienation of two countries and an entire generation within the UK. The young, the Scots, and the Northern Irish are sick and tired of being dominated by ruthless right wingers who prioritize seizing power over benefitting their citizens.
We can also see America splitting at the seams into partisan factions, and Donald Trump aggravating these hateful divisions within America and around the world, as he cheers on the UK’s greatest tragedy since World War II. The Brexit vote is a huge shot in the arm for protofascists like Trump and a huge blow for cosmopolitan liberals, diversity, and tolerance in the world. It shows that we cannot simply write off Trump as an amusing distraction – the forces of uninformed ethnonationalism are not to be trifled with.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.