Brexit Aftermath: Flipping the Bird at the Elite?

30/06/2016 09:31 | Updated 30 June 2016

You can look at the vote to leave the EU as a senseless act of sabotage by the disgruntled. Or it might be an angry act of vengeance, by those who had to shoulder the burden of change globalisation has thrust upon Western economies and societies for quite some time.

"Globalisation didn't create a lot of losers, but the ones it did were concentrated in the countries that were the driving force behind it," writes Matt O'Brien for the Washington Post. Overall, the West has profited from globalisation, but a close-up shows that some parts of society didn't join the ride.

The working classes in the West had to look on as manual labor was either offshored or replaced by automation. Those working in the factory had to adjust to deindustrialisation, which was ruthlessly enforced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

They sought refuge in the service industries, in hotels and restaurants, in pubs and bars, behind the till at supermarkets, as nurses, cleaners or delivery drivers. All the while those in the higher echelons of society were seen to be having a ball.

Resentment started to simmer.

Fast forward to the noughties and now more migrants start arriving from continental Europe. Lower wages in Eastern Europe and high unemployment in Southern Europe are driving them to settle in the UK in search of a better life.

For the working classes in the UK, who already had to adapt once, this means they are being asked to compete for jobs and income again, not with workers overseas, but with those coming to the UK from abroad, moving in next door.

This view might be lopsided and it doesn't take into account that migration from other non-EU countries always had been high. But the newest migrants were just seen to be the last straw, as they came equipped with unconditional all-access passes with an EU stamp on them.

It's not hard to imagine then why the EU is seen to be the main villain in this hurtful structural adjustment process. It rules afford the free movement of labour, which upped the pressure on those who were already feeling the heat of competition.


More infos & graphics on the Brexit by Statista

At the same time those fiddling about with other people's money in the City had created yet another financial bubble, the one that burst in 2007-08. But they of course were bailed out fast with public funds (and paid their bonuses nevertheless).

Who then would feel the squeeze when governments had to pick up the bill, having to make ends meet by cutting down on expenses? Not the gamblers!

Those in need of the state taking their side when the going got rough were in effect abandoned. Instead governments decided to prop up a system gone berserk. When actually fundamental repairs were necessary, they opted for more grease to keep the grinding noise down.

To add insult to injury, those who by definition should have stood by the marginalised weren't speaking up on their behalf. Labour was already New Labour and had become part of the problem, in the view of those counted out.

Left without anybody to voice their concerns in the political arena on their behalf, many made friends with murky demagogues and took the referendum to drop a loose cog into the motor of the machine, just to make it sputter.

This is just one possible explanation for what caused the Brexit, but this nexus surely is one of the main drivers of anti-elitism, expressed in the vote to leave. Also, resentment is climbing up the ladder into the middle classes, who can still compete, but whose wages haven't increased in real terms for the past 30 years.

The decision to Brexit is one of the most irrational collective decisions in recent history, because those already feeling the heat have turned it up even higher, proving to be their own worst enemy. It was a destructive move, but it wasn't a bolt out of the blue either.


More infos & graphics on the Brexit by Statista