Brexit – The UK’s Political Zugzwang

It doesn’t matter if and when the UK will leave the EU, there are bridges between the island and the continent that cannot be torn down. Ragna spent the summer in London and her friendship with Nina reflects similar feelings in a similar situation – although the Channel separates the two girls. A comment on the Brexit, with some distance.

“Very different visions of where the UK’s future should lie have been put under the spotlight by the vote to leave the EU,’’ writes BBC News in London. This is confirmed by the quotes of people who voted for Brexit – interviews show that the reasons for voting leave were various, but it is very debatable whether the problems behind them can be solved by the UK leaving the EU.  Most people voted leave “to make a statement”, to show the government their growing dissatisfaction. The government may now know that people are unhappy with the current situation, but will Brexit better it? And what exactly have people been unhappy about? Do they have specific ideas of how to make things better through Brexit? Many Britons have now started realising that Brexit might not be the solution to their problems, and – often having believed that Brexit was not going to happen – have started looking into what Brexit actually means after the referendum.

The ignorance determining this outcome also becomes obvious amongst the majority of people in countrified parts of the UK voting for Brexit, reasoning that they were unhappy with the migration situation. When asked whether they were affected by it, they mostly negated but said that this was a problem in London. But the majority in London voted to stay. Does Brexit represent a fear of the world becoming global?

Nina Mihalev, a London-based musician and writer, will give us an insight into current discussions, fears and reactions on the referendum amongst the people on site:


On the morning of the 23rd of June I opened my eyes to a Facebook status posted by my friend Amelia, 24, Margate, that said “Who wants to come live with me on a desert island?” I proceeded scrolling through my newsfeed to find hundreds of statuses portraying frustration, disillusionment and shock.

Life in the UK over the following week felt like the aftermath of a loud, terrifying accident that leaves your ears buzzing with white noise and your head spinning with the surrealism of its brutality.

Once the initial shock began settling into the inevitability of reality, more and more people found the words to articulate what they felt. Amelia Pettman, 24, a London-based painter, pointed out that even though Brexit will have undeniable consequences it has pulled “old and young, alike” out of their deep slumber of political indifference.

Tom Turner, 25, film industry professional from Bournemouth, said that although “the EU is not perfect, remaining and working towards fixing its imperfections made a lot more sense than leaving” – an opinion that was also expressed by the father of prominent leave-campaigner Boris Johnson. Stanley Jonson appeared on comedy show The Last Leg and turned around his son’s metaphor of the EU as a nightmarish taxi, driven by a driver who speaks no English by saying that instead of “leaping out of the taxi” he’d simply try stirring it in the right direction.

I spoke to Anna, 28, from London, and Jade, 50s, also from London; Jade said, “I am heartbroken, I feel so European.” Anna, who had been out of the country when the voting took place, exclaimed, “I’ve been back for four days and everyone I’ve spoken to is devastated, so who on earth voted to leave?”


The leave-voters were, indeed, rather quiet. Most leave-voters I managed to get a hold of seemed unable to articulate a reason other than immigration. In fact, only one of them, a gentleman in his 60s, expressed a different opinion. He blamed EU laws for closing down his favourite cheese factory and denying him the right to fish within UK waters. He claimed that us, young people, were so scared of leaving because we had never experienced uncertainty in our lifetime, whilst he, an old timer, had lived through war and social and economic turmoil.

 Initial breakdowns of voters’ demographics pointed towards elderly people shaping the majority of the leave group; therefore, the young remain-voters felt betrayed by the older generations. However, independent research shows that what really determined a leave vote had nothing to do with age and everything to do with life satisfaction or rather the lack of it. The JRF foundation, an independent research organisation, carried out its own research into the leave and remain-voters. Three main factors crystallised: income, education and where people lived. People with no qualifications, who struggled to make ends meet, were 70% more likely to vote leave, compared to people with qualifications who were 70% more likely to vote stay. Hence the ease with which the leave campaign managed to mislead so many people by promising a better life with a manifesto based on hyperbolic deformations of the truth, at best, and pure lies, at worst; and by turning immigrants into political scapegoats in a game of oversimplifying the politico-socio-economic problems of the country, thus putting certain politicians at the forefront of the heroic task of ‘saving’ the UK from them. The sickness had been identified and treatment proposed – closing our borders even at the expense of leaving the single market.

Nina in her hometown - London

Nina in her hometown – London

 A few days ago I was queuing up at passport control at Amsterdam airport. There were two lines, one for all passports and one for EU passports. I overheard a member of staff directing a confused traveller towards the EU passports line with the words: “It is in Europe, sir. At least for now.” Had we become the laughing stock of Europe? As my friend Rob Gerrard, 29, put it, “regardless of what side of the campaign you sit on, there is no denying that the cost to Britain will be far in excess of the annual £19 billion.”

 Now that the truth has unravelled, many leave-voters regret their votes; however, everybody, leave or remain, knows that the mere act of disregarding the initial vote would be going against everything that democracy entails and would furthermore affirm our status as the laughing stock of Europe.  Like in a game of chess where one player is forced to make a move but knows that every move will be unfavourable, we are stuck in a political zugzwang – every move is the wrong move.

Britons’ hope now is that EU leaders, in their negotiations with the UK, will see beyond people like Nigel Farage and remember that they’re not up against a handful of political representatives, but that they are deciding the destiny of a nation – a nation that is mourning the loss of unity and friendship; a nation that is mourning the uncertainty of its future.