As Great British Cock-ups Go, Brexit is on a Par with the Charge of the Light Brigade

As own goals go, Brexit was a classic. Not since Lord Cardigan pointed his handful of troops at a heavily defended Russian artillery unit and gave the order “up and at ‘em, lads” has there been such a spectacular cock-up in the name of “defending British interests.”

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When Cardigan’s Light Brigade made its ill-fated attack at Balaclava during the Crimean War against Russia in 1854, the Brits did at least have allies – not least France and the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, the now infamous Charge of the Light Brigade ended in high British losses, and no gains.

On the first day after the UK voted in the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union, a similar picture of high costs and low returns is beginning to emerge, especially for the average Brit in the street.

One of the aims of the “leave” camp was to ensure British leadership for Britain. Well, if the immediate resignation of the prime minister, rows in his party, and a massive rift opening up in the only other party capable of forming a government counts as having “leadership,” the decision to leave the EU was a success.

Another was to secure Britain’s economic position. Again, the results are not so hot. During the course of the referendum count, the pound was losing value at an alarming rate and is still worth significantly less than it was 48 hours ago. The same is true of the stock market – with losses reaching the equivalent of 600 billion złoty. To put that into perspective, that’s about three-quarters of all the money that Poland will have received from the EU by the end of 2020. Anecdotal evidence suggests some British mortgage holders saw their payments increase by seven per cent overnight; and, as one Brit friend stated: “Let’s go somewhere cheap for beer – I’ve just had a massive pay cut.”

Another reason to leave? Well, Brexiters clapped along like wind-up monkeys to the tune of Nigel Farage’s hit “foreigners are bad.” Nothing doing there, either, as a result of the UK’s EU exit; the Central and Eastern Europeans, including Poles, who Mr Farage has vilified for daring to live in the UK, are still there and show no sign of going (or being forced to go) anywhere. On the issue of Muslims in the UK, the only effect that Brexit is likely to have is exactly the opposite that was intended. For example, before the referendum 83 per cent of Muslims declared themselves “proud Brits” (compared to only 79 per cent of the general public), and 77 per cent of Muslims “identified strongly” with Britain (compared to only 50 per cent of the general public). It would be no great shock if those patriot Muslims of Britain – a great many of whom were born there and are citizens – began to change their outlook as a result of half the nation effectively saying “we don’t like you.”

And, of course, the Brexit campaign was under-pinned by the sonorous, pseudo-patriotic bassline of “Britain, Britain, Britain”… by which the “leavers” obviously meant “The United Kingdom, the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom”.

And that one has turned into a real disaster.

The vote to leave the EU has in fact opened the door to potential referendums in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the populations of both quite likely to vote to leave the UK itself and go it alone, probably in Europe. So, far from building a sense of national unity and strength, the Brexit vote has all but smashed the country into its constituent parts.

In short, the vote for Brexit is already showing signs of wrecking individual finances, destroying the state’s economic standing, weakening leadership, failing conspicuously to deliver on a “foreigner” problem that didn’t exist in the first place, and tearing apart a state union that has existed for more than 300 years.

As the UK as a whole was coming to terms with the crisis it had brought on itself, British media found one “man in the street” kind of guy who voted “leave”. He told reporters that he had never expected it to really happen, and was shocked by the outcome.

He, and every single other person who voted for the UK to separate from the EU, will have no cause to complain when things begin going wrong for them personally. But every one of them will have a lot of explaining – and apologising – to do, to the other half of the population who wanted to stay but must now suffer for the “out” vote’s victory.

After the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, French Marshal Pierre Bosquet expressed his astonishment at the British, saying “it is magnificent, but it is not war… it is madness.”

Switching “war” for “expedience”, one may say the same about Britain’s exit from the EU.