Tragic Kingdom

True to Uranus-Eris and the age of the internet, it would seem quite a few of my fellow Brits sleep-voted on Thursday. Certainly the morning-after regrets are bitter as we all wake up to the nightmare that is Brexit.


The Leave campaign: not at all racist, honest guv. Billboard illustrates an apparent line of migrants entering the UK, sold as a reason to leave the European Union. Photo by Reuters

The first twinges of horror undoubtedly occurred as Nigel Farage swiftly backtracked on one of the best-known campaign promises. (Admittedly, you’d have to be daft to believe the present government would give any extra money to the National Health Service.)

Next came the startling discovery that frantic Googling on the question “What is the EU?” had actually hit a spike just after the polls closed. As if that wasn’t enough, some Leave voters have said they didn’t understand the implications of Brexit and would now choose Remain. And now a petition calling for a second referendum — ironically started in May by a Leave supporter, just in case — now has over three million signatures.

Three days after the event, and we’re already beyond Monty Python style farce, into something so much more surreal it hasn’t yet been named.

So as we enter this brave new world and begin to clear up the debris, what exactly are we facing? As yet, no-one really knows. But there are some worrying indications.

Firstly, this is about much more than a quiet little divorce between the EU and the U.K. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar all voted overwhelmingly for Remain (in Gibraltar’s case, it was 96%). That means we’re looking at another independence referendum in Scotland, and Spain eyeing up the little rock to its south.

The consequences for Northern Ireland are a tad more serious: the Good Friday agreement was ratified on the back of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Where the border with Eire existed only in theory, now it’s suddenly more concrete.


A message to Glastonbury Festival-goers. Photo courtesy of Linda Rock. Click to enlarge.

Speaking of the ECHR, this handy little document — alongside some important workers’ protections, such as the 48-hour week and paid parental leave — will cease to be effective the moment we’re out the door.

Further, there has been a rise in racist and xenophobic incidents. I’ve heard a few people suggesting the Leave argument was much more complex than simply fears about immigration. I’ve thought a good deal about that over the past few days, and have finally reached this conclusion: bullshit.

Certainly, the EU is very far from perfect. It is a capitalist organization that serves big business as fervently as does the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — with some notable exceptions. But forgive me if I display skepticism at the idea of a campaign run by the likes of Farage and Boris Johnson centering on the delicate ethics of how best to eradicate world poverty, or to help developing nations. On the contrary, both campaigns have been criticized for their negative focus. Even the murder of an innocent and kindly MP seems, in the end, to have taught this nation nothing.

The apparent somnambulism at the ballot box speaks volumes about the level of consciousness of the entire referendum; as do the absurd afterthought reactions. It’s as strange an event as any involving the Drumpf. And frankly I am running short on patience, because it’s evident how little thought was given to the likely consequences of a result we may all now have reason to sorrow over. And despite the regrets and petitions and protests, there would seem to be no turning back. The sleepers have been rapidly and sharply awakened; and all Europe is feeling the jolt.


16 thoughts on “Tragic Kingdom

  1. Lizzy

    Excellent piece, Amy – telling it like it is. Only time to write briefly, but yes, am also very concerned about Northern Ireland and ECHR, among other things. Here in Italy – devastating impact on many young Italians – so many of whom seek a brighter future in the UK, as the job market is so bleak for most of them here.

    1. Amy Elliott Post author

      Thanks, Lizzy. Yes, the final link in my article (very well worth 25 minutes of anyone’s time, by the way) is a talk by a professor who’s an expert in the EU. One of the (to me) more troubling statistics, in light of Brexit, he cited was the three million EU citizens living in the UK and the two million UK citizens living in the EU.

      To quote one of the latter, a friend who lives in the Netherlands with her husband: “I have never felt like a guest here. I have felt like a citizen of Europe. Now I am a guest, and this is no longer necessarily my home.” Reading this made me so sad for her.

  2. Lizzy

    Thanks Amy, will check it out. I received a very depressed email on Friday from a dear Italian friend of mine who has been working and living in the UK for some years, saying “I feel totally upset and a bit unwelcome today.” While for us expats living in Italy, it will mean going back to ancient horrors of Italian red tape, that I thought I’d seen the back of.

  3. Lizzy

    On another level, think it’s not a bad thing to have ones roots shaken up, especially in a world where so many are forced to leave their homes, families and countries.

  4. Amanda Painter

    Regarding the people who seemed not to know what they were voting for (I read a story that shocked me Friday of an interview with a man who honestly thought his vote would not matter, and so he voted “Leave” and now regrets it), a friend of mine commented elsewhere:

    “It’s as though people thought voting in a referendum was akin to ‘liking’ something on Facebook.”

    I think that has terrifying implications, because it feels so accurate — esp against the context of the writing Eric has been doing lately about the internet. It seems to me a very clear illustration of the “glamour” (Uranus) and backhanded (Eris) nature of the Aries (identity) conjunction: getting caught up in nationalism, in the fervor of “taking back what is ours,” in the feelings of “I don’t count, so I’ll take my ball (or golden apple) and go home.”

  5. pam

    Amy –

    What does the Brexit chart suggest?

    All is not lost perhaps. The MPs can refuse to implement the referendum (social unrest tho?). Scotland may effectively block brexit. If Brussels demands that Britain exit before negotiations that seems impossible. Alternatively perhaps it might be worth the Uk leaving Europe if the shock of it raises consciousness and changes legislation in Brussels for the better.

    Re referendums – I was in Grenoble for 3 days at the WE and having a coffee on the way to my ‘stage’ had a conversation with a guy who said people calling for referendums are looking for a rational decision and referendums provoke strong feelings so they aren’t rational. I also read (in the guardian on thursday) a comment by a guy who said he found this referendum was very badly conceived, his country has had several and it is always polled to see what the ways of voting are and the final question reflects this so that people are voting yes or no and not on the basis of some unrelated issue that makes them vote yes or no.

    Also, if people have voted out on the basis of sovereign frontiers that is obviously not going to change so you could argue that the referendum is void on that basis alone. What is interesting is those trying to force Britain out at speed. And Angela Merkel talking about preventing the others leaving; I didn’t have a vote but if at a later stage you do not have the freedom to vote to leave that gives pause for serious thought doesn’t it. Of course if Mme Merkel is thinking along the lines of reform that is different isn’t it.

    I was shocked. My fellow stagiaires didn’t seem to think it was irretrievably catastrophic in any direction tho I have to admit I was so phased that I didn’t retain what they said.

    Several people have said to me too that it must be strange to be European last week and English this week, but said humourously. Others said probably the UK will come to regret this decision, or, the English never do what is expected. And others have said that probably now is not the moment to drag up Joan of Arc again?

    Perhaps Angela Merkel’s other comment is a good one – not to rush into anything…

    (O I found another reference to women of stature, and quality (The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway pg 459 and then 464 the mathematics of love (love doesn’t count costs, only value…). It is a cracking story all round (imo))


  6. pam

    Amy – if professor Dougan is correct – what on earth was Mr Cameron thinking of to even put the idea of a referendum forward.

    With regard to trade, perhaps the UK can keep all the stds of the EU so that trade is still

  7. Amy Elliott Post author

    Hi Pam — Thank you for all your contributions and links. I think that over the next few days and weeks we will just have to see what happens. There really is no telling at this stage.

    Interesting that Britain’s various natal horoscopes have a bunch of 22-degree and 23-degree placements.

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