Britain’s Completely Batshit Week Since Brexit, Explained For Americans
Please send help we are on fire.
Buzzfeed, 3 July, 2016
Hi America! While you’re all eagerly awaiting a divisive, bitter national vote in November, we just had one! As you might have heard, just over a week ago Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a referendum.
BuzzFeed / Via buzzfeed.com
This came as a bit of a nasty shock to lots of people, because most had predicted a victory for the pro-EU side. Think of it like Texas voting to leave the US, except with tea and complaining instead of barbecue and guns.
But what’s happened since then? Here’s a quick summary of our political situation:
The referendum campaign had been full of warnings from experts about the dire economic consequences of leaving – which senior anti-EU politicians dismissed as nonsense.
But then as soon as the result became clear, this happened to the pound.
That’s…not ideal. Also we managed to wipe about $3 trillion off the value of the global stock market, which is a pretty impressive achievement for a small island! Go UK!Obviously, it’s at times like this that you want a strong, stable government in place.
So naturally British prime minister David Cameron – who had said he would’t resign as a result of a Leave vote – immediately announced that he would resign as a result of the Leave vote.
That’s because the referendum was largely a result of a big internal battle between different factions of the ruling right-wing Tory party (imagine the Republicans, but if they spoke like Benedict Cumberbatch.)Basically Cameron promised a referendum in a cunning plan to try to placate his EU-hating enemies, campaigned for a Remain vote, lost, and now he’s resigning, leaving his enemies to take over the party and the country. SO THAT PLAN WENT PRETTY WELL.
Speaking of plans, it turned out that nobody had actually made one for what we’d do if we voted Leave.
The prime minister’s people said the Leave campaign should have made the plans, and the Leave campaign insisted the prime minister should have made the plans. With the result that nobody did.It turns out that navigating your country through a moment of deep geopolitical crisis is a lot like trying to organise a party over WhatsApp with your flaky friends.
Also, pretty much immediately the people who had campaigned for Britain to leave the EU started admitting that the promises they’d made in the campaign weren’t actually promises.
To recap: We have an economy in freefall, a resigning prime minister, a public who voted for something that they’re now being told they won’t get, and nobody is sure what we’re actually supposed to do now that we’re meant to leave the EU.
See, in order to actually leave the EU, we have to do something called “invoking Article 50”. This is very complicated and confusing, but on the plus side it sounds cool.
Except that Cameron has said he won’t invoke Article 50 while he’s still prime minister – that’s a job for whoever replaces him.
Andrew Winning / PA WIRE
His actual words were reportedly “Why should I do all the hard shit for someone else, just to hand it over to them on a plate?”
And the EU has no power to force the UK to invoke it, even though European leaders want us to leave ASAP.
Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
So Article 50’s not going to be invoked at least until there’s a new prime minister, and even then it stillmight not actually happen. So we’re kind of in EU limbo.
This positive and decisive attitude from our rulers towards the future of our nation is represented by this dog on a roundabout.
OH, AND! It is possible the Scottish government has the power to veto Article 50, but again, no one is quite sure. But it’s either that, or there’s a good chance Scotland will vote to leave the UK entirely.
HBO / Via giphy.com
As Scotland voted heavily Remain, first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (whose party campaigns for Scottish independence) has said she will try to keep Scotland in the EU, either by blocking the UK’s exit or by pushing for another Scottish independence referendum.
Sturgeon is Daenerys in this metaphor, because she does seem to be the only one with a plan, even if it does involve pulling apart a 300-year-old kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon does not have dragons though, as far as we’re aware.
OH AND ACTUALLY ONE MORE THING, Northern Ireland might also be screwed – as is evidenced by the fact that they’re running out of application forms for Irish passports.
(In this situation, getting an Irish passport = the British version of marrying a Canadian if Donald Trump wins.)Northern Ireland also voted strongly for Remain, largely because of the supporting role the EU played in the peace process, and because it’s the only part of the UK to have land borders with the EU (with the Republic of Ireland).It turns out that century-long violent disputes that have only recently reached a wary peace don’t respond well to potentially having militarised borders added into the mix, especially when people cross them every day to go to work. More here – it is complicated.
So, to recap again: The economy is on fire, the prime minister’s resigning, nobody bothered to make a plan for how to leave the EU, everybody wants someone else to take charge, and the UK might split up entirely.
NBC / Via reactiongifs.com
Good luck to the next prime minister!
So who will be the next prime minister?
Well, the Tory leaders of the Leave campaign were former London mayor Boris Johnson (a man so posh that his full name, we shit you not, is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson) and Michael Gove (that guy who hates experts, who once fell over amusingly).
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
Look at these two fine examples of English manhood.
Everybody expected Johnson to run in the Tory leadership race with Gove supporting him, and probably to win comfortably. Everybody, that is, except Michael Gove, who had other secret plans.
To give you an idea of exactly how petty this whole mess is, Cameron and Johnson are old “friends” who both went to the same exclusive private school, and then Oxford University.
Some people have ~speculated~ that Johnson only campaigned for a Leave vote in the first place as a way to force his old chum out of office and take over the country. It’s like a terrible cross between Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, except it is real and it is happening to us.
BUT WAIT! On the morning when Johnson was supposed to announce his leadership campaign with Michael Gove’s support…Gove announced that HE was running for leader instead.
He said: “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
Gove also went to Oxford University at the same time as Cameron and Johnson, by the way.
By this point, actual British political news was basically indistinguishable from a random word generator.
Anyway, Johnson realised that he’d been comprehensively played, and quickly announced that he wouldn’t run for leader after all, making absolutely everybody lose their shit.
To recap: One old university friend pushed the country to a constitutional and economic crisis to gain power from another old university friend, but got stabbed in the back by a third old university friend, at which point he decided not to bother after all.
GOOD TO KNOW IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.
This means that the new favourite to be our next prime minister is Theresa May…who actually campaigned for Remain.
Chris Radburn / PA Images
Theresa May is pictured here doing her best impression of a supervillain.
This is all made more fun by the possibility that whoever does become the next prime minister might call an election immediately, which would in effect be a referendum on the aftermath of the referendum.
MEANWHILE. You’d think that the governing party tearing themselves apart would give the opposition party reason to celebrate, right?
BBC / Via giphy.com
You see, the opposition – the left-of-centre Labour party – is currently led by this guy, Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn was previously a fringe figure on the far left of the party, before being unexpectedly elected leader on a massive groundswell of grassroots support, especially from young people.
Jonathan Brady / PA WIRE
Yes, he is absolutely 100% a British version of Bernie Sanders, except with a beard and a fondness for root vegetables. Oh, and he actually won.
But now, with the prospect of an election in the next few months, the Labour party establishment are terrified that they’ll lose with Corbyn in charge.
Daniel Leal-olivas / PA WIRE
Also, they basically hate him, and lots of them think that he secretly wanted Leave to win even though the Labour party officially supported Remain.
As a result, over the weekend after the referendum, almost every single person in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned one by one.
The “shadow cabinet” sounds like it should be a powerful object hidden in the cellars of Hogwarts, but it’s actually just the senior members of parliament from the opposition party who follow the different government departments.
The idea was that this would force Corbyn to step down himself. Except he didn’t. He just kept appointing his increasingly small band of loyalists to the shadow cabinet and insisting he was going to tough it out.
So now Labour MPs are in open warfare with their leader and are probably going to force anotherleadership election, while Corbyn does his best to carry on like nothing’s happening.
And since Labour party members voted heavily for Corbyn last time, he could well win again. Either way, it all might end up splitting the century-old party in two.
In conclusion: The UK voted to leave the EU. The economy kind of melted. Nobody has a plan for what to do and everybody wants someone else to take responsibility – but the governing party is too busy stabbing each other in the back, while the opposition party is too busy being at war with itself. The UK might split up entirely. And we might have to vote on all this again in a few months’ time.
HBO / Via dorkly.com
And all this has happened in one week.