Last week I attended a Brexit forum event by the NBCC (Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce) in London: Brexit: What next? There were inspiring speakers, but they all had to admit that they still had no idea what was really going to happen. Of course, the role of Mrs May and her parliament came up more than once, and because her and her cabinet are constantly in the spotlight it seems that they were responsible for the Brexit vote. Is that really the case? Who are the people behind Brexit?
I walked through the streets of London and could already clearly feel the atmosphere of Christmas with the beautifully decorated shop windows. Did I pick up on any anxiety because of the Brexit scenario that hangs over everybody? No. In the underground it was the same. Of the 14 people in my row, 10 were on their mobile phones. Were they concerned with news developments on Brexit? No – they were mainly playing games or looking at social media messages or WhatsApp.
Brexit is the result of a referendum. The people have spoken and amongst them are persistent advocates, opponents and people with regrets. During the post-forum drinks stories came out about how some fishermen viewed it. I spoke with two entrepreneurs, each of whom was married to an English partner, and both had parents-in-law who were fervently in favour of a hard Brexit.
Were they aware of the consequences? According to both entrepreneurs, they did not want to hear about the consequences at all. Fishing waters were discussed and both parents-in-law were adamant that fishing waters belonged to England and that the EU should stay away from their fish from now on. There was no mention of the fact that the fish caught in UK fishing waters consists of herring and mackerel, two species of fish that the British do not eat. But for haddock for their beloved Fish & chips they knock on the door of the EU and want to keep it that way because haddock is completely absent from those same fishing waters. Will their daughter or son-in-law run into problems with their passports and residence permits after a hard Brexit? Probably not – it won’t go that far. If it were not such a dire scenario for both the British and the EU you could almost laugh about it.
The people behind the Brexit, those who voted or not (which ultimately also had a great impact) are the inhabitants of the UK, the people in the streets, in the subway, in the beautiful Christmas decorated shops. The ones responsible for setting up a referendum without giving the right information on what the consequences would be for the outcome are Mrs. May and her parliament. Who is to blame?