If you have never noticed that most (but not all) post titles here are song titles or lyrics, rest assured that today it was a difficult choice between what you see above and "Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before." Because I know you're going to be truly shocked to hear this, but the UK's vote to exit the EU is yet another example of people over 50 voting to destroy an institution that, having benefited from it for decades, they no longer wish to pay for. There is some interesting exit polling data here that ultimately boils down to a tale you're tired of hearing. Old people wanted it, young people didn't. Dumb people wanted it, people who have Fancy Book Learnin' didn't. Repeat until we're fighting over a conch shell.


It's impossible to read voters' minds based on election results. Vote totals are like an ancient oracle – everyone agrees that they are saying something but exactly what is, even if few are willing to admit it, ambiguous at best. It is hard to tell if older British voters are ignorant of how much they as individuals and as a group benefited from membership in the EU or if they simply no longer consider the benefits to be relevant to them personally and therefore no longer care to pay for others to enjoy them. If they are retired on fixed incomes, perhaps they simply no longer respond well to arguments about The Economy writ large. If they don't care to leave a 20 mile radius around their homes, maybe unrestricted travel within a group of 27 nations has lost its appeal. Or perhaps they're at that point of decay at which fear of a changing world, dislike of anyone and anything Different, and good old fashioned nativism trumps anything approaching a rational analysis of costs and benefits.

Ironically, if the UK is anything like the USA, the Eastern European immigrants that so vex older British people are the only ones who will accept the pitiful wages offered to wipe their ancient asses in hospitals and retirement homes across the country. At this rate, god knows their children will be neither willing nor able to care for them as they age. We've already got two jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet.

49 thoughts on “EXIT ENGLISH”

  • schmitt trigger says:

    Is it only me, but I got this gut feeling that Trump traveling to Scotland precisely on the day after the referendum was not a coincidence?

    I know what you are thinking…how would he have known for sure that "Leave" would win?

    This is the key, he didn't.
    But in his own delusional and fact-free world he believed that it would, and that is what matters.

  • @verbal I dunno, as the diet of rich people improves, they have become less fatty. Give me a pulled prole sandwich any day.

  • Breaking Gnus says:

    Disappointing G&T. You seem to have broken down the voting demographic in a manner which fits your point. What are your sources for this over 50s garbage? I voted in and I'm well aware of how much initial benefit there was from membership. And then, instead of just brokering trade agreements, these officials started to enact laws and apply them to all member states. And then came enforced and unequal contributions not directly offset against any visible return.
    At the core of this organization is an inefficient snouts-in-the-trough bureaucracy, the disintegration of which could well give rise to the reconstruction of something robust, beneficial and workable.
    But stick to what you know; which apparently isn't the voting breakdown.

  • I'm leaning with Breaking Gnus; it wasn't only the "Get off my lawn!" set who voted for the exit–it was also the young and self-righteous who were "going to SEND a MESSAGE!" (apparently the message that they're stupid because now they've got major regret) by voiting to exit. Then there were the ones of any age who had no idea what they were voting for, but someone on the teevee said it was good, so they voted that way.

  • The Leave vote didn't pay attention to arguments about the economy because they didn't care about that. It was, mostly, a vote against immigration.

    There were only two real voices talking to them about that. 1) You're a bunch of bigots. 2) Seal the borders.

    Guess which one they listened to?

    Remain would have done much better addressing those concerns directly.

    They could have laid out actual plans for better integration of Poles (honestly, a lot of this was fed-up-ness with uncouth Slavs; not so much brown people). Maybe something along the lines of Norway's classes for migrants. They could have taken steps to alter their social welfare laws so you had to have been resident in the UK for some years before eligibility. Smarter people than me could think of many and better suggestions.

    They could have shown actual plans for taxing corporations on global profits (yes London would have a fit) so that some of the benefits of the global economy actually reached the people who are not, through no fault of their own, corporations.

    And so on. Instead (as this post comes close to doing?) the Remain camp didn't seem to have much to say except, "There's lots of benefits. If you don't see them, I haven't got time to be bothered with you."

    So the only "solution" was in the Leave camp.

    It's important to address people's real concerns. Not doing that got us Leave. Not doing it in the US could get us the Dumpsterfire for some of the same reasons.

  • seniorscrub says:

    So one of the reasons for my retirement planning once again hinging on my developing a taste for Purina Cat Chow is because the Brits didn't like an influx of Poles????

    Yep, makes perfect sense.

  • Not your usually insightful analysis here, Jerry. You greatly oversimplify the data and its meaning.

    Yes, Brexit was carried by older voters outside London (Scotland and N. Ireland). But the real question is, why didn't young voters turn out? Turnout among 18 – 24 year olds (8% of the population and the largest age bracket) was only 36%.

    Could it be that the younger voters, and those with less education, don't really see the EU as relevant to their lives. They're trapped in the Precariat and they don't have the skills to take advantage of the EU's liberal migration policies. More importantly, they see what EU austerity has done for young people in Greece and Spain — killing all hope of stable employment for an entire generation.

    Given that the elites on both sides of the issue were less than credible, I'm not surprised that their response to "should I stay or should I go" was a massive shrug.

  • It seems like the ultimate goal of the Baby Boomers is to spend every last penny indulging their bucket lists and leaving a flaming pile of shit for their kids and grandchildren. I understand it's not all members of a generation but there are certainly over half with absolutely no sense of obligation to anything but their own hedonism.

  • @Nunya; had an infuriating conversation with my father, a leading-edge Boomer, just this past weekend. He and my mother were planning a trip to a casino/resort about a hundred miles away and he was whining to me about the tax on gasoline and how it's personally crippling him and blah-blah-blah welfare queens and takers. The guy is collecting income from 4 different streams–US military, federal gov't, Social Security, and 401k, and he's whining about "takers" (3 out of his 4 sources are thanks to the current workforce).

    He just didn't want to be told that the tax on gasoline is non-partisan–you use the gasoline, you pay the taxes. He's retired, so it's not like he has to commute hundreds of miles every day; his driving is pretty much recreational. He kept shouting, "It's NOT FAIR!" The way he sees it, as a senior citizen (receiving handouts from other people) he shouldn't have to pay taxes. That's so typical of many Boomers I know.

    BTW, he and my mom plan to vote for Trump because he'll "stop the immigrants" (…they're both children of immigrants…)

  • Breaking Gnus says:

    You could be right mothra, although those figures are an extrapolation of a meager number of exit polls. There are no exit polls at most polling stations so it's all a bit 'finger in the air'. Having said that, it's a different finger to the one I'm directing at the result :)

  • Voting for Brexit to get rid of a few Polish plumbers is like buying an Airbus to get the bag of salted peanuts and the little can of Diet Pepsi.

  • And what about deep root diverse European cultures ruled by Belgian based bureaucrats and all the rest? EU bad news from the get go. The Brexit? A lobbed loft gone wrong. We can stay tuned for further developments.

  • Interrobang says:

    @Major Kong: I think your analogy is a bit flawed…it's entirely possible that someone might do that and still actually want the Airbus… ;)

  • Shocking! Absolutely shocking I tell you. Who could have foreseen that the people who lead the charge and bullied everyone into abandoning their own currency in favour of the Euro, wanted everyone in the Shengen Zone and battled tooth and nail to prevent the Dublin treaty from being adopted would dare leave the EU. Nope didn't see that coming at all.

    Nope who'd have expected the most Euro-sceptical country in the union to jump.

    Isn't this the site where 18mos ago we were cheering on a Grexit? Especially given how a neo-liberal economic ideology has taken root within the EU bureaucracy.
    So what changed?

    Are Greece, Italy, Spain, etc. freed from the shackles of EU neo-liberal enforced austerity? Hardly.

    Oh yeah. White people. God forbid that a group of white people look at a situation and make a logical conclusion that something is rotten and want to get away from it.

    No one said dick about Scotish Nationalists wanting to free themselves from "fetters" for sovereignty and self determination.
    What changed? White English speakers.
    How dare they look at the overreach of the EU, and want to cut ties.

    Of course EVERYTHING has to boil down to white English speakers are aging, scared, racists. Yup. Gotta be that.
    Obviously it was ONLY the white people who voted for Brexit. Not that the Leave campaign won Birmingham. Out of the 16.5M people who voted Leave, in a country that has a fairly good racial diversity you seriously believe that only white people voted Leave or consider themselves "English"?

    The EU would have been fine if it had been among economic peers. If you're a plumber in the UK and you want to live and work in Germany that had comparable living and wage standards is fair enough. Then you get a flow of skills and people.
    Enter into the mix someone who comes from a shitty economy, then you start seeing an imbalance. With the influx driving down wages. What, should British plumbers go from a high wage country to low wage Poland, because that will some how improve their bottom line?

    Last time I checked, there are lots of complaints about the special "skilled migrant" visas being used to drive down IT wages on this site.

    So perhaps a bit more thought than: White English speaker therefore racist.

  • Really, Brexit, like the rise of Trump, is symptomatic of the moral failures of the political classes.

  • Xynzee, I believe the references to racism are from the words and communications of many of the proponents of Leave themselves. I've certainly watched and read them. Pretty fucking clear what they are talking about in their Youtubes and such. (I'm talking about produced pieces, not just sound-bytes carefully edited for effect.)

    That the EU, the IMF, etc. are rotten, corrupt, and in serious need of reform is not really in question. Their behavior towards Greece and other poor nation has been horrid. EU Environmental regulations tend to be more cumbersome than effective. Money and Power continues to concentrate with the elite, at the expense of the worker.

    But Brexit isn't “I'm pulling this car over right now,” it's ”You kids didn't shut up so here, Imma drive straight into this goddamn lake!” And if this was about reform, or justice, or fixing things for Europe, it would have been carried out in an entirely different manner. It wasn't. It was sold with scary, false propaganda by a bunch of slime-balls in an effort to take over power from another group of slime-balls.

    In the end, it's like when Hitler fucked over Stalin with Molotov–Ribbentrop. Assholes screwing each other over, and who pays for it? Well as usual, pretty bad for Poland, Ukraine and the Balkans. But Europe in general too.

  • So not only are old people unable to understand the consequences of their political folly, the ones that are are unable to click on hyperlinks in articles to gain a better understanding of the author's point.

    We have a number of 1st world political problems coming to the fore:

    1) I've got mine, so fuck you baby boomers who won't go quietly.

    2) Political elites of the same generation who can't build a substantive case for their positions, probably because there isn't one with concrete benefits to the unwashed masses.

    3) Unwashed masses who were sold a bill of goods on free trade and are bound and determined to take it out on the only class of people in worse economic shape than themselves, with a willingness to ruin their kids' future in the process.

    So neo-liberalism is going well. But hey, if it means a unified Ireland after all these years, I can live with the Brexit, I guess.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Having watched "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" last night, I consider myself well-informed. Economic arguments among the Brits weren't catching on, so the pro-Brexit faction pivoted to racism. That worked.

  • Looking at how the EU is strangling Greece literally to death maybe there is something there. An entire country's sovereignty is null and void and subject to some bureaucrats in Brussels. Sounds like a winning system for a very few. Oh right, that's the whole fucking point isn't it?

  • Why does anyone think they will be allowed to leave? New World order will not allow it. We can revisit this in a year to see?

  • Also, for extra points, can anyone explain why we are paying for John Kerry and his entourage to be over there involved in ANY EU discussion?

  • It's a horrible result. My initial reaction here (NSFW language, if anyone reading this blog cares): http://blog.iainroberts.com/2016/06/on-stupidity-of-david-cameron.html

    It's also a triumph of post-factual campaigning. Leave campaigners had said the UK spends £350 million a week on EU membership (it doesn't) and should spend it on the NHS instead (it couldn't). It was one of their key slogans, written in huge letters on the side of the campaign bus. Only hours after the result, they were repudiating that claim.

    There are many great ironies here, not least that Cameron won the election last year by offering experience, competence and stability.

    @quixote: In fact the Remain campaigners were talking about better integration, tweaks to benefit rules, and so on and so forth. That didn't work because it was a complex and nuanced message, no match for the build-a-wall simiplicity of the other side.

    @xynzee: I'm not entirely sure what you're saying about Scottish nationalists. But FYI, the Scottish National Party supported Remain, as did Scottish voters by a 62-38 margin. Scotland is now agitating for independence, so that it's not forced to leave the EU against its will.

    On the other side, people voted Leave for all sorts of non-racist reasons, such as believing the £350m claim above. But it is clear that virtually all the racists were voting Leave.

  • Breaking Gnus says:

    @cromartie – those figures are totally unreliable; there are exit polls at a tiny percentage of polling stations. Let's not forget that exit polls had Remain leading beyond the voting deadline. And our beloved author makes another gaffe too: 'yet another example of people over 50 voting to destroy an institution'. Really? The UK has voted to leave the institution not destroy it. If the EU implodes as a result of the withdrawal of one member, it was clearly never far from doing so.
    I'm 47 btw, so not quite in the demographic being denigrated.
    However, if I want sanctimonious or high and mighty, I know who to call.

  • @Talisker, thanks for the link. Ian Welsh has been pretty good on this as well: http://www.ianwelsh.net/

    As a USian, my opinion obviously means less than zero, but after the way the EU (and the IMF and ECB) whacked Greece I don't think I could've voted remain even in the face of the obviously racist and frankly dishonest honest leave campaign.

    I sure as hell hope this is not a preview of November.

  • I have learned to love things like this where a bunch of indignant people insist that they made the right call. It's great because… let's just see how it turns out. It won't be a matter of opinion three years from now whether or not exit was the right call.

  • And yet, it was the young people hitting Google the morning after the election to ask "What is the EU?" pushing it to the #1 Google search in the UK. So, maybe the dumb voters weren't the old ones who had watched their economy eviscerated by the Thatcher/Reagan globalism, the ECB, and the IMF.

  • @geoff: You're welcome. :-)

    The Greek situation is awful. No one comes out of it with any credit, including previous Greek governments. But it doesn't directly involve the UK.

    Greece's current troubles stem from its membership of the Euro, which the UK wisely did not enter. So the ECB's treatment of Greece is nothing to do with the UK. Conversely, the EU is in no position to bully the UK the way it has Greece.

    The UK leaving will do nothing at all to help the Greeks. In fact it will probably hurt them, because the EU will become even more inward-looking and dominated by Germany than it is at present.

  • @Talisker, yes, I know that their situation is very different (esp. with the UK very wisely having kept its own currency, and being the second(?) largest economy in the EU), but any organization of states (i.e. the EU) that will immiserate one of its own members (Greece) in order to service the ill-considered loans of international banks seems questionable at best. (Not to mention profoundly undemocratic.) On the other hand, the UK seems quite capable of destroying its economy (and people) through austerity (and all that goes with it) all by themselves.

  • Townsend Harris says:

    SeaTea1967 wrote "It won't be a matter of opinion"

    You seriously underestimate the abilities of Fox/Murdoch.
    For his viewers, Rupert can make *gravity* a matter of opinion.

  • @Townsend Harris: Murdoch isn't needed, although his papers certainly won't help. More than two centuries on, historians are still arguing over whether the French Revolution was a good idea. The 20th-century Chinese leader Zhou Enlai famously said it was too early to tell.

  • It was a vote against London. Look at the electoral map. I figured that remain would win in a squeaker with the dividing line being the traditional Pleistocene highway that divides the north and south. That line has divided England culturally since at least the time of the Roman invasion. Sure, Leeds would vote leave, but Brighton would vote remain. Instead, it was London versus everywhere else.

    The English economy is horribly unbalanced. Think of the US with NYC doing well, but the next largest city being Milwaukee, and it's doing about as well as Detroit. Nine out of ten of the poorest areas in northern Europe are in England. (The other is in Hainaut, Belgium.) London and its financial sector have starved the rest of England. There is no investment outside of London. There is extremely limited job creation. There is a fraying social safety net and a constant squeeze of privatization which means further reductions in service, increased costs and more profits going to London. Then there are the immigrants who are willing to take jobs at lower wage rates than locals and are preferred by employers since they came to England to work and are so already selected for their work ethic.

    I'm sure racial resentment played a big role, what with Slavs being a different race and all, but if you don't live in London or one of its colonies, like Oxford, London is the vampire. Granted, it is the vampire that stands between you and starvation, but that has never kept anyone from sharpening a wooden stake. There was no referendum to eject London, but I could see one passing. Instead, there was a referendum to leave the EU, and the biggest beneficiary of EU membership has been London as its financial capital. Yes, a lot of England gets subsidies from the EU, but that's mainly welfare, not something that actually brings in jobs and offers local growth.

    The EU has not been covering itself with glory lately. They have no idea of how to handle the immigration crisis. There are maybe a billion people worldwide, mainly young single men, who would love to get into the EU. Meanwhile, Greece, Italy and Spain are on the front lines doing sea rescues and running internment camps without any EU help. The Greek crisis was handled poorly as well. Germany has been exporting austerity through its control of EU banking and the euro. Meanwhile Greece is stuck on the euro standard which has replaced the gold standard as a mechanism for enforcing poverty. Germany is doing just fine with the EU as is the lebensraum to the east. France just ignores the EU until it is absolutely forced not to. They take a passive-aggressive approach.

    I'm sure a lot of this is just racism and parochialism on my part. I had reservations about the currency union. Like many, I considered it an economic strait jacket. It is. I had fewer reservations about the union. When the EU mainly consisted of the developed nations, it made some sense. Then it started slapping its name on cheap steak knives and get rich quick courses and devalued its brand. I read 'Le Defi Americain', so I understand the motivations behind the EU. It is basically a good idea, but the implementation lacks a feedback mechanism to provide more transparency. It may not be pretty, but we can watch the Republicans screw up our legislation and budget. In Europe, this is much less visible.

    If I remember the commentary on Article 50, it can only be invoked subject to the democratic processes of the nation that is withdrawing from the EU. The referendum was non-binding and had no timing specified. That means that the UK's democratic processes are now in play. Those who run the EU would prefer precipit action in hopes of using the UK as an object lesson, but time is on the UK's side, and there is no speed principle of democracy. Where I live, referendums tend to take a year or more to take effect. While the UK government and people digest the result of the referendum there will be other crises for the EU to screw up on, so there will be object lessons for both sides. I have no idea how this is going to resolve, but as a student of history, I am definitely going to learn something.

  • Eric Morris says:

    When i read the first sentence i was really hoping you were channeling Strike Anywhere. God that album is fantastic. Nice work.

  • Damn Kaleberg, well said. I've been arguing with a lot of my hot-headed liberal friends about why the leave vote was more complex than just British KKK members hijacking the country's sensibilities, but I never even thought about it from the London economics angle. Thanks for that.

  • There's a passage in "The Road to Wigan Pier" in which Orwell explains why British socialists didn't support the dissolution of the Empire. They realized, as did everyone else, that without the Empire Britain would be small, damp, cold island where everyone would have to work very hard and live chiefly on herring and potatoes.

    From what you say, Kaleberg (and very well said), it appears that this actually happened to most of the green and pleasant land except for the Home Counties. And they seem to care as much about the rest of the realm as they did in Orwell's day.

  • @Kaleberg: Of course there is a London / Not London divide, but it's not as bad as you make out. There are prosperous areas in the north of England. The "9 regions in 10" thing is seriously misleading: http://blog.iainroberts.com/2014/12/inequality-and-misleading-statistics.html?m=0

    You say Leeds voted Leave, but in fact they voted Remain, as did other northern cities such as Manchester. (Also, you seem to have forgotten Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland exist, and the latter two voted Remain.)

    The real geographical divide was between urban/rich and rural/poor.

  • Ah, Ed. Poking the boomer bear again. You crazy kid. It only ever ends one way:

    An immediate and passionate rejection by even the boomers who would usually agree with you, with copious justifications for this particular example, completely ignoring the larger trend you refer to (boomers pulling the ladder up, everywhere-all-the-time).

    Yes, the EU has massive problems. Anyone and everyone knows that. It's almost as if modern capitalism is top-heavy and democracy is inefficient. Who would have guessed? But outlining those massive problems WAS NOT WINNING THE DEBATE SO THEY WENT FULL TRUMP.

    Yes, some voted to leave for good reasons. Many, many more voted for stupid reasons. If anyone actually believed that the fucking Tories and UKIP ever had any plans for the ££ going to the EU apart from immediately trousering as much as they could is a fucking idiot. Anyone who trusts English conservatives to put the will of the people over the will of London bankers is a fucking idiot. 'Divide and conquer' has always been the conservative way. After this vote, Britain is divided. Europe is divided. The U.K. may very well soon be divided.

    The problem for those running Leave isn't that the EU isn't democratic enough, it's that it is a framework under which democracy can actually break loose given the right circumstances. The conservative elite will never, ever allow those circumstances to come to pass.

    TLDR: The boomers will die knowing they are right about everything, and there is literally nothing that will change that fact. Sad, but true.

  • Just for the suicide-inducing lols, watch the Aussie election result next week.

    Aussie boomers (ha! pun not intended) are convinced that these unsure, BREXITish times need a steady hand on the wheel. This is expected to lead them to voting in droves for… Wait for it….

    A weak, rich-as-shit conservative PM who is completely beholden to the crazy right wing of his party, and has promised a divisive referendum/plebiscite to these same right wingers, post-election. This plebiscite will (I repeat, WILL) lead to violence from crazy xenophobic arseholes. We can hope none of out public figures are murdered in the street, I suppose.

    Sound familiar? Fucking boomers, man. They'll be the death of us all (no, really. By completely failing to deal with climate change on their watch, they may well literally kill us all).

  • As I approach middle age I am finding it more and more difficult to put on my shoes and am also starting to realize that governance is fucking difficult, be it of an international coalition, a kingdom, a corporation, a voting precinct, or a household. Nowhere in the history of anything has it gone as intended. Only in the last century or so are some of us starting to try methods that don't involve beheading the opposition. And the whole peaceful diplomatic negotiation thing isn't very popular with either the masses or the ruling class. We're still always about one bad market closing away from yelling “Off with their Heads!”

  • Clive Hamilton says:

    I am a Brit living in the US.I am over 50. Here is a very short analysis of Brexit.
    1) The Prime Minister, Cameron presented the idea because he thought it would make him look cool.
    2) The binary options (in or out) we oversimplified. Simple majority vote was a bit silly for cataclysmic change.
    3) The Idiot Elite on the Leave side argued by telling lies, mainly.
    4) The Idiot Elite on the Remain side, mainly scratched their asses for 5 months.
    5) The Idiot Elite on both sides really did not engage transformatively with ordinary folk.
    6) End product – a gigantic protest vote.

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