A Few Thoughts Post-Brexit
In no particular order, as I’m writing them off the top of my head:
1. So, the pound has crashed to a 30 year low, trading was halted on the Japanese stock market, other markets are plunging, David Cameron is resigning, Scotland wants another independence referendum, Sinn Fein is pushing for Irish reunification, Nigel Farage went on TV and said, basically, “Hey, remember when we said we were gonna put that EU money into our health service? We lied,” and the EU is saying to the UK, you want out, fine, but let’s make this quick. Yup, welcome to Brexit!
2. If you want an inside view of this mess, I suggest Charlie Stross’ take on it. His opening line is “Okay, so the idiots did it; they broke the UK,” which as far as I can see is entirely accurate.
3. From the outside, I wish I could say it looks totally unfathomable, but it doesn’t, because, hello, Donald Trump is the GOP nominee for president over here. The same bigoted, emotional, don’t-need-to-know-facts impulses that powered the Brexit vote to 52% put Trump into general presidential race. The irony is that some of these UK voters are apparently surprised that they carried the day. News folk over in the UK are now telling us that a fair number of people who voted “Leave” didn’t really think it was going to happen, so what was the harm in voting for it. Cornwall, which voted to leave, is now saying the UK government must replace its EU subsidies. Good luck with that, Cornwall. Maybe get in line behind the NHS for that money.
It should be noted that all the horrible things that are currently happening because of Brexit were called by the very experts that Michael Gove asserted, correctly, alas, that voters were tired of. This does seem to suggest that perhaps, for future reference, experts might be listened to from time to time. Also that a protest vote is still a vote, and as Nader voters learned (or, sadly, didn’t), you shouldn’t protest vote if you’re not willing to live with the implications of your protest, the implications, having been outlined to you by, you know, experts.
(This is where a few Nader voters spin up and whine that nuh-uh, they totally didn’t throw the election to Bush. Dudes, sit the fuck down, already.)
4. To make this about the US for a moment: Could the same bigoted, emotional, don’t-need-to-know-facts impulses that pulled Brexit over the line actually put Trump into the White House? They could, sure! It’s not likely, because a) the Democratic advantage in the Electoral College, b) Trump to date running the most incompetent general campaign in the modern history of US politics, but there still are relevant lessons to be learned from Brexit. First and foremost, that it won because the people who voted for it the most were exactly Trump’s demographic here in the US: Older white folks from economically shaky areas — and they turned out in force, voting in substantially higher numbers than, say, the younger UK voters, who were overwhelmingly for remaining, but who didn’t vote anywhere near the numbers of older voters.
Which is the second thing, of course: folks, when it comes to politics, if you don’t vote, what you think kinda means dick. Here in the US, the people who love Trump are gonna show up on election day. 100% sure of that prediction. We know they will because they already did. And you can say, yes, but there’s not enough of them overall, and I will say to you, fuck you and your complacent ass, I want him to lose in a goddamn landslide. I want him electorally nuked from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Everyone needs to vote. It’s really that important.
With that said, it should be noted that Trump is currently blathering that he thinks that the Brexit, which is plunging the British economy into a trench and giving the global economy a haircut, is perfectly fabulous. He literally just said that he thinks Brexit is great because the pound dropping means more people will come to his golf course, which I think is the 21st century’s gold standard entry in the “fiddling while Rome burns” sweepstakes. So maybe, perhaps, the combination of economic implosion and Trump’s smug wanking about it will be the thing that convinces any fiscal conservative still holding out on Clinton to pinch their nose and vote for her in November, because she’s not in fact a raging cauldron of economic stupidity? Maybe? But probably not? We’ll see.
So yeah: Trump could take it. Brexit shows us how. Don’t get cocky. And vote, for fuck’s sake.
5. To get personal for a moment, over on Twitter I was asked whether or not, as an American, Brexit was actually going to have an impact on my life. Yes, it surely does! For one thing, I sell books in the UK, through my UK publishers (Gollancz and Tor UK), and I get paid in pound sterling, which is currently being punched in the throat, in terms of exchange rate. For another, the UK economy is likely to plunge into a recession, which will make it harder to sell books there, so that’s not great either. I also sell in other territories around the world, particularly in Europe, and Brexit is a destabilizing force there, which is likely not good for me. And of course the US economy is itself likely to get some buffeting from it, too.
But wait, there’s more! I like many Americans have retirement stock investments, which look to take a 2008-sized pummel. I should also note that 2008’s global recession was pretty terrible for publishing, the field I’m in, and writers in particular got it high and hard, so if things go south in general, that also makes things more difficult for folks in my field.
So, yes, directly and indirectly, Brexit is going to have an impact on my life, as an American and also as a working writer. Thanks, UK.
The good news for me, such as it is, is that last year I signed long-term publishing contracts with Tor (for printed/electronic books) and Audible (for audio). Those contracts basically act as an economic hedge for me, which is a thing I entirely intended them to be when I signed them — not against Brexit, to be clear, but against general instability in the publishing world. But they work for Brexit, too, as well as any knock-on economic fallout that might come from it. So, yay, go me and my fundamentally fiscally conservative nature.
6. But let’s be honest, if the world economy goes to shit, my contracts aren’t going to save me any more than they’re going to save anyone else, they’ll just slightly delay my fall into the abyss. The best case scenario at this point is merely that the UK is screwed for a while, and the rest of the global economy routes around it. The worst case scenario is, well, a bit grimmer, economically and otherwise. I’m hoping for the best case scenario (sorry, UK). I’ll be financially planning for other things.
(However, people in the US, etc — please do not panic about your retirement accounts just yet, unless you are, in fact, just about to retire. The whole point of retirement accounts is you sock money away in them and then let them do their thing. There will be ups and downs. This is a down. There will, hopefully, be more ups to come.)
To my friends in the UK who have to deal with this directly: My sympathies. May the pain be relatively brief. You can come camp out on my lawn if you need to. To my friends in the US: Fucking vote in November, already.