In defiance of most predictions, the UK has opted to quit the European Union, prompting David Cameron to stand down as PM. Reaction from Neil Cross, Rawdon Christie, Noelle McCarthy, Bryan Gould, Andrea Vance and more
Paul Brislen: A victory for old Britain
Fog in Channel – Europe cut off. I blame Morecambe and Wise. And Yes Minister. In fact, you can add in The Good Life as well. As a kid growing up in the 70s in the UK all I ever remember hearing about the European Economic Community was mocking and laughter. They want to ban our bangers, shrieked the odd headline (and some much, much odder ones as well). It’s almost as if it were part of a 40-year softening up process which has culminated in a decision to have nothing more to do with the place they call The Continent.
I grew up in the North mostly where they don’t care for London or its big city ways. I can only imagine what they thought of Brussels. If London is Kings Landing to my wintery Deepwater Mott home then Brussels must surely be Dorne – a place known only for being elsewhere. A place where decisions are made that have no basis in reality and no impact on our lives.
Except of course they were and they did. Money flowed into places that had never seen a penny of investment from London in the decades following the war. Cardiff is now actually a place you might want to visit (if only for a day) predominantly off the back of EU money. Cardiff, along with most of Wales, voted to exit the EU. I’m struck most by the breakdown by age. If you’re 65 or older, 60% of you voted to leave. If you’re 25 or younger, 60% of you voted to stay. I think that says the most about the result.
Paul Brislen is a British-born, Auckland-based communications adviser
David Capie: A seismic vote towards an inward-looking Britain
This is a seismic decision that’s frankly quite hard to process. It is certainly the biggest change to impact Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and it’s hard not to think this has significance beyond Britain or Europe; that it says something about state of the liberal world order and notions of “the West” that we have largely taken for granted for the last four decades. Europe will be a weaker actor in world politics because of this and even if you don’t believe the predictions of the huge costs to the British economy, it’s certain that the United Kingdom is going to be more inward-looking and consumed with its own affairs (like actually staying united) for many years to come.
From a New Zealand perspective, it’s striking to me how unsettling and concerning this seems, considering we had precisely the same reaction when Britain decided to join the European Economic Community 43 years ago. Obviously, because our export markets are so diversified today, we are much less vulnerable for economic reasons than we were in 1973. But New Zealand’s broader foreign policy positions are anchored in a commitment to being an open, outward-looking economy. We have strong inward migration and investment, celebrate multiculturalism and actively seek closer economic integration with neighbouring states. It’s hard not to feel that we are part of a shrinking number of countries that believe that’s the best way to go, and I find that worrying.
British born David Capie is director of the centre for strategic studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Rawdon Christie: Boris Johnson’s manipulative power trip has prevailed
The only time I can remember audibly shouting “NOOO” at the TV has been while watching some England sports side disappoint in yet another contest that they should by all rights have comfortably won. Until today. And I am still sitting numb, trying to desperately figure out what is GOOD about this monumental decision Britain has made (sorry, Scotland – you’re excused).
I’m trying to figure out how Boris Johnson – a man who I not long ago admired and liked – has manipulated half the British public into supporting him on his power trip. I’m trying to figure out why ANYONE would listen to UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who strikes me as little more than a vitriolic xenophobic extremist. I’m trying to figure out why so many of the values I was taught under the British education system have been compromised in a misguided act of nostalgic patriotism.
Britain will be weaker, Europe will be weaker. I can’t see where anyone wins. Except Boris – and now we wait to see what his plan is. Because I really, really hope he has one.
British-born Rawdon Christie anchors TVNZ’s Breakfast
Neil Cross: The first domino of a long, chaotic process
The Remain camp ran a cack-handed campaign that calamitously misread the national mood. Many Britons feel disenfranchised by what they perceive to be an uncaring and distant metropolitan elite. They were hardly likely to respond well to a campaign driven almost wholly by fear– let alone to persistent accusations of racism.
Remain could have sold its cause as the more patriotic and optimistic alternative – because ultimately that’s what it was. I can’t help but think of this as the beginning rather than the end of something – the first teetering domino that sets off a long, chaotic process that will not end well, either for the European Union or the continued existence of the United Kingdom as we know it.
But here we are. I and nearly 50% of my fellows will have to pick ourselves up, accept the result, reassert our belief in a country that we love and hope to God we were wrong.
Neil Cross is a British born, Wellington-based screenwriter and novelist
John Daniell: French nationalists will be stirred
For three years we lived in a small, pretty village in the Pyrenees – largely white, middle class and elderly; retired school teachers and civil servants, people who had lived in the bosom of the French state. Forty per cent of them voted Front National. Pressed on what they might be afraid of, the general consensus was “foreigners”. They weren’t talking about New Zealanders.
From the right angle there’s something engaging about the kind of unconsciously self-destructive, would-be patriotic berserker dans le style de Basil Fawlty who, appalled at the thought of Johnny Foreigner telling him what to do, it’s easy to imagine makes up a fair chunk of the Brexit vote. The British establishment misjudged the bloody-mindedness of its own citizens, a fairly serious cock-up given the institutions touting in favour of Remain. You can just see Basil thoughtfully smoothing his moustache and looking forward to kneecapping best intentions: “Oh, so the chaps in the City think it’s a good idea, do they? Right …” But this will all be very unfunny if it sparks off a domino effect across the continent. The EU has its faults but it is a vital institution now in danger of being outflanked by political opportunists. In France, uncertainty has been ceding ground to fear for some time. Never mind the trade implications and potential for passport hassle, there were bullet holes from German guns in the walls of an old building outside our village. The foundations of modern Europe seemed so solid that it was impossible to understand how a couple of generations ago neighbours could have been shooting at each other. We might now have come slightly closer to understanding.
Writer John Daniell lived in France for 17 years
Miles Davis: Big finance’s scaremongering swayed me towards Brexit
After months of the most odious, divisive, fear-inducing political rhetoric I can remember the UK has decided to opt out of the EU. I swayed several times, firstly wanting to maintain the supposedly closer ties with mainland Europe then remembering how many times the UK was stitched up by the Germans and French voting against us seemingly in every major decision affecting Britain. I finally settled on Brexit.
Britain traded with Europe for centuries before the EU and did not have to fund an additional parliament of bloated bureaucrats to do so. The Europeans will still buy our goods and we will still buy theirs. We will be able to pass our own laws and pay the price for our own mistakes rather than those made by others. The scaremongering of big financial institutions were so obviously self-serving it helped sway my decision. The interests of the money men rarely complement those of the working man (or woman). Brussels will miss dipping its hand into the UK Treasury but after some panic-selling the FTSE will once again settle down. You can have a united Europe without all the red tape and legislation that weighs down the EU and there is little doubt that other countries will now also look at their continued membership. The downside for me will be the inevitable political mileage that Scottish and Northern Irish republicans will seek to gain in order to achieve their gains. Hopefully sanity will prevail and the Kingdom will remain United. Time will tell.
Miles Davis is a British-born, Auckland based sports broadcaster
Bryan Gould: Ordinary people have admirably refused to be bullied
I have contested the issue of Britain’s membership of what was the Common Market and then grew into the EU for a period of over 45 years and was always on the losing side. It is amazing and wonderful that ordinary people have refused to be bullied and patronised by their supposed betters into betraying their own experience and judgment. The result is a new start for both Britain and Europe and a new and better prospect for both.
Bryan Gould is a former UK Labour MP and Waikato University vice-chancellor
Kevin Hague: An alliance of jingoism and resentment
Declaration of interest: I was born in England, and have dual citizenship. I have been watching the Brexit unfold, aghast at the prospect that my British passport is now more or less worthless. Of course, it’s not all about me. But try as I might, I can’t see anyone whose best interests are well served by the UK withdrawal.
From this distance the result seems to have been driven by an awkward alliance between an ugly, jingoistic nationalism and resentment towards Cameron’s government (elected by just 24% of eligible voters) or towards a two-speed economy that’s left the regions behind (sound familiar?) The torch of internationalism burns dimmer tonight.
Kevin Hague is a UK-born NZ Green Party MP
Oliver Hartwich: Promising opportunities in the long term
Brexit means a period of profound uncertainty over Britain’s relationship with Europe. It is already spooking the markets. However, long term there are good opportunities for both Britain and New Zealand. Freed from EU regulations and bureaucracy, Britain could once again become a liberal, free trading and fast growing economy. And New Zealand and Britain could develop an even stronger trading relationshhip based on these shared values.
German-born Oliver Hartwich is executive director of The New Zealand Initiative
Noelle McCarthy: A disaster for Ireland, north and south
The people have spoken –and they’re morons. As the daughter of a country that has the EU to thank for everything from better roads to decent food, the very notion of a Brexit feels like lunacy. Nobody knows what the consequences will be, but for Ireland, it’s not looking pretty. The UK is her biggest trading partner. It’s terrible for Irish exporters if the pound keeps dropping, worse still if the exit deal they negotiate means tariffs in the near future. And the timing is rotten – the Celtic Tiger was behaving, the economy was growing, now along comes Brexit and Ireland’s economic recovery is in jeopardy. Cheers, neighbour. And what about the 400,000 Irish in the UK waking up this morning, not sure what Brexit means for them and their future? Will they lose their tax credits, or have to apply for new work visas they won’t get anyway? Will they have to come home, and put more pressure on a strained Irish jobs market ?
The saddest thing of all though is the prospect of the border reopening between Northern Ireland and the South. Loss of freedom of movement between the two states isn’t just an economic blow, and a pain in the ass for workers, it’s potentially the end of an era of reconciliation, healing and openness. An era that was celebrated by the whole Island, and our neighbours across St Georges Channel when the Good Friday Peace Deal was signed in 1998, ending decades of bloody war in Northern Ireland. No wonder they voted to stay, nobody who grew up during The Troubles would ever want the checkpoints back. Martin McGuiness is calling for a border poll now, on a united Ireland. What an irony it would be, if an Ireland long-divided, was pushed back together by Brexit. Not that the unionists would be having a bar of it. What a mess in general.
Noelle McCarthy is an Irish-born, Auckland-based broadcaster
Liam McIlvanney: The United Kingdom is finished
In 2014, David Cameron was delighted to avoid becoming the PM who “lost” Scotland. Two years later he has become just that. Scotland will go. The United Kingdom is finished. It is very difficult to envisage a set of circumstances in which Scotland – which voted en bloc to remain in the EU – stays in the UK. As a supporter of Scottish independence, this should make me happy. It doesn’t. Winning independence on the back of the UK descending into a quagmire of insularity benefits nobody. This is a desperately sad day for the United Kingdom. Brexit will have enormous consequences, not just for Scotland but for Ireland (Sinn Féin has already called for a new border poll) and for the whole European project. It also means, on a less momentous note, that NZ has just voted to continue basing its flag around the emblem of a state that is not only 12,000 miles away but will shortly cease to exist.
Scotland-born Liam McIlvanney is a professor in the English department at the University of Otago
Anita McNaught: a wake-up call for complacent Eurocrats
I not only voted for Remain, I had assumed – as I turned the light out on referendum night – that Remain had the numbers. But the Brits are angrier than I realised – though I knew they were angry. Now Europe is in real danger of unravelling; which became my primary reason for voting to stay in, ultimately. The EU is dysfunctional, sure, but not as dysfunctional as the plethora of European states trying to go it alone, with no robust mechanism for dialogue and resolving disputes.
And in the UK, where a lot of the Brexit vote came from the poorer regions and less affluent communities, the EU is seen as serving the interests of the global elite: immune from austerity policies, in a metropolitan bubble with their international banking jobs and foreign cheap labour “slaves”. And you can see the voters’ point.
But a part of me is quietly delighted that complacent Eurocrats got a wake-up call. They didn’t take the popular mood seriously – and that mood is not confined to the UK. Now they will have to.
But NZ could benefit from this, in the medium term. Potentially. There’s barely a Brit around who doesn’t want to see more Kiwis working in the UK and fewer Romanians… Brexit campaigners kept coming back to the “Australian-style points system” as the new criteria for immigration.
Irritating that Trump keeps getting a mention in these stories today, though. He’s a different, uglier Zeitgeist.
Anita McNaught is a dual NZ-UK citizen and journalist based in Britain
Tze Ming Mok: I want money back
I spent thousands of pounds over the last eight years on working visas, marriage visas, Indefinite Leave to Remain, the goddamn Life in the UK test (Charles II hid in an oak tree I tell you), am about to get my incredibly expensive UK citizenship and UK passport, and now it’s only going to get me access to ONE COUNTRY? Fuck you UK Home Office, I want 27/28ths of my money back.
Some radical Lexiters (left wing Brexiters) explicitly think that it’s worth taking a gamble that the left can turn the economic crisis that they knew would result from a Leave vote into an opportunity for progressive social and institutional change. Sort of a “we must destroy the village in order to liberate it”, or a Leninist “heightening of the contradictions”. I’m reminded of a line that always stays with me from Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia (which they might consider a reactionary work I suppose, but a humanist one), which does not paint Bakunin in a wonderful light: “At last, the happy moment.” / “There’s going to be a storm.” Or as Littlefinger (and Boris and Gove and Farage) might put it: “Chaos is a ladder”.
Fucking idiotic on many levels, especially since a vast amount of the energy from the left over the next few years will need to be spent on campaigning to retain EU directives and laws that protect workers rights, like the European Working Time Directive.
Also: Suddenly, loads of my friends seem to want to move to New Zealand. They do know we’re not in the EU either, right?
Tze Ming Mok is a London-based New Zealander
Maty Nikkhou-O’Brien: The great post-war European project now under threat
There is a real risk of contagion in continental Europe. In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National party has already called for a similar referendum or “Frexit”. The Brexit earthquake exposed fissures between the young and the old, the centres and the regions, those that have benefited from globalisation and those that see it as a threat. It is clearly an expression of protest against a political class seen as aloof and unconcerned. This malaise and deep sense disenchantment persists in other continental European societies and, indeed, it appears, in the United States. I think the EU will have to, somehow, reinvent itself, and connect directly with member state citizens so that it may bridge the democratic deficit that has plagued it for so long. And even though victorious Brexit leaders now talk of a smooth exit, the EU may feel it necessary to dissuade other member states from similar referenda by flexing its muscles [and punishing the British].
Immigration and the refugee influx have been a lightning rod of contention. And recent terror attacks close to home have only enhanced a sense of insecurity. “Taking back control” has been the Brexiters’ mantra. Unending war in the Middle East has fuelled this problem. And it behooves European leaders to make a concerted effort to address the root causes of long-standing conflict in the region. Because ultimately, the great post-war European project itself – designed to overcome centuries of European enmity – is under threat.
France-born Maty Nikkhou-O’Brien is executive director of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs
Giovanni Tiso: Wait till a eurozone country starts getting ideas
I’m not remotely qualified to comment on British politics or the referendum specifically, so I won’t. However I have some first-hand knowledge of the brewing of the kind of political sentiment that might have led to Brexit in another European country, and that’s the next thing we need to be worrying about. Do you think Britain exiting the EU is going to plunge us into a global recession? Wait until a country that is in the eurozone starts getting ideas.
Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement is leading in the national Italian polls, and has just elected the mayors of Rome and Turin in local elections held this month. One of the movement’s historic core planks is a “referendum on the euro” – because in countries that belong to the monetary pact, it’s the currency, not the union itself, which is the bugbear: it’s the currency that gets blamed for the loss of sovereignty, the loss of security, the rise in inequality, the inability to govern the pressures of the markets and of globalisation. Before we moralise, as we most certainly shall, on the evil of a xenophobic vote in Britain, we must ask ourselves what it is that makes masses of Europeans so vulnerable to the crass, racist populism of the likes of Nigel Farage. Especially if it’s true, as I’ve heard it claimed today, that the parts of Britain worst hit by austerity are also the ones that voted to leave in greater numbers. And if a better, progressive answer to those questions isn’t possible, we must urgently ask ourselves why.
Giovanni Tiso is an Italian-born, Wellington-based writer and translator
Andrea Vance: A constitutional crisis awaits
As a political journalist, this is going to be an incredible story. As a European – a Northern Irish one – I’m deeply anxious about the impending constitutional crisis. Another bitter Scottish indy referendum seems inevitable, and I dread the divisions that are likely to be stirred up in Belfast and the return to border checks.
On the bright side, yay for the return of duty free allowance. If you’ve not expired in the immigration queues.
Andrea Vance is a Northern Ireland born political reporter for TVNZ
Glenn Williams: What kind of terrifying parallel universe it this?
Just woke up in my tent at Glastonbury. What kind of weird parallel universe is this? It’s like a news real on a cheap TV disaster movie.
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My initial thought is this: genuinely terrified. The generation that grew up with parents who fought in a fractured Europe during WW2 have now voted to take the continent back on a journey to the brink. Last year our biggest worry was that a Greek default would start an EU collapse but it turns out it was a baby boomer sleeper cell of xenophobic terrorists living in our midst all along.
I’m going to lose myself in a field somewhere, all right?
Glenn Williams is an NZ-born broadcaster and shopkeeper based in London
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