Ignore the Brexiteers - June 23rd was NOT the UK's Independence Day

30/06/2016 16:55

If you weren't paying attention last week, let me break this to you gently. We Brexited. In the wee hours of Friday we left the European club and stumbled to our Bredsit. I said the worst part about the EU referendum was the horrible portmanteau 'Brexit' but I was wrong. The worst part was actually Brexiting.

During the Brexit debate, Leave campaigners Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage declared that June 23rd should go down in history as "our Independence Day." Like much of the Leave campaign, this was so farcical you'd be forgiven for thinking it had all been an elaborate stunt for a new series of Brass Eye.

When the votes were counted, Farage repeated the phrase again in a victory speech which somehow managed to be his vilest yet--did he really forget about Jo Cox when he said "not a single bullet was fired."? Actually, scratch that. His worst performance was in front of the EU, gloating, gurning and inadvertently (we can only hope) quoting Hitler. Yeah. Really.

Johnson, though, seemed almost apologetic in his 'victory' speech, all but admitting that he only campaigned for Leave to guarantee support from Eurosceptics in the next Tory leadership election, without thinking the public would actually side with him.

Still, even if leaving the EU does work out for the best (unlikely) and we do consider celebrating this day in the future (unthinkable), here's why 23rd June was absolutely not the UK's Independence Day.

The UK getting excited about independence?

Let's defer here to everyone's favourite ex-pat, John Oliver. In one of his banned videos, he pointed out that, while many countries celebrate their own Independence Day--the USA, Zimbabwe, Zambia--there's a significant difference: These countries are celebrating their freedom

Let's not forget that, before we became a bumbling, government-free land of small-island small-mindedness, we were once the world's foremost oppressive colonial occupier. Go us! Comparing the UK's rule and exploitation of these countries to the EU's treaty arrangements is like comparing apples with a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat.

The UK probably won't exist in a few years

At the risk of sounding like one of Morrissey's excruciatingly pun-laden blogs, we're hurtling towards becoming the Untied Kingdom. In the wake of the public's narrow decision, we're on the verge of being abandoned on all sides. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even Cornwall are becoming the UK's equivalent of the cool kids at the party, with little old England as the nerdy host who enticed them all over with the promise of a keg.

Nicola Sturgeon is seeking an independence referendum of her own, given the overwhelming majority of Scots voted to remain. Leanne Wood of Welsh independence party Plaid Cymru is pushing for the same escape route for Wales, even though Wales were more in favour of leaving. Cornwall, who were 56% pro-leave, also want assurance that their much-needed EU subsidies won't end once the UK's relationship with the EU does. This makes Cornwall the person who showed up to the party in fancy dress, not realising it was just a crap party.

We will still have to play by EU rules

Even if you were ecstatic when Nige declared 'Independence Day', Brexit is less a break-up than going on a break. And in this scenario, the UK is the stubborn, annoying Ross to the EU's sensible Rachel. Meanwhile, the previously-overlooked potential for unification makes Northern Ireland and ROI more like Chandler and Monica.

Boris Johnson has already said he wants to the UK to stay in the European single market. Considering the markets' reaction to the prospect of us leaving on Friday, this is a good thing. The problem is, Angela Merkel has made it clear the UK will not be granted free access to the single market without accepting several conditions, including the dreaded freedom of movement.

If not Independence Day, what was June 23rd?

The horrendous rise in hate crime since the votes were counted shows us 23rd June was less UK Independence Day and more UK Independence Party Day. The anti-immigrant sentiment long held by UKIP supporters is becoming more mainstream. Many are no longer afraid to hide their bigotry; they see the Brexit vote as confirmation that many share their views.

As negotiations with Europe begin, we have to ask ourselves if we want to be the United Kingdom of UKIP, or the outward-looking, tolerant country that at least 48% of us thought we were. Because the way things have gone since the referendum, financially and socially, I am far more than 52% sure that we are on the wrong track.