Fear and Loathing in Britain Brexit Is an Act of Deliberate Self-Mutilation

Britain's vote to leave the EU was a gut decision, an emblem of a country in retreat. The island nation is getting smaller and smaller.

A British expat in Hong Kong watches the British pound fall after the Brexit vote on Friday.
DPA

A British expat in Hong Kong watches the British pound fall after the Brexit vote on Friday.

By in London


Brexit was a decision based on gut instinct rather than reason. The predominant sentiments in play were nostalgia, fear and a vague hatred of the establishment. On top of this comes a fear of foreigners that was deliberately stoked by Brexit strategists during the campaign -- and that's what makes this decision both sad and depressing.

It's also a lashing out against "the powers that be" in both London and Brussels. The British have followed a patriotic whim. All the flags, the drumming, the pledges and promises of the Brexiteers worked in the end -- and that's what makes this day so frightening.

Brexit has come to pass largely because of voters in England and Wales. A majority of voters in London and several electoral districts in southern England voted to remain in the EU, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is now possible that Scotland may soon hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. It is a possibility that the United Kingdom could break apart. The economy is already in tumult.

Brexit Referendum

Remain in the EU
Leave the EU

The negative ramifications of a Brexit vote were predictable -- and were widely discussed prior to Thursday. But none of the warnings prevented the British from voting to leave. It is no less than an act of deliberate self-mutilation.

Britain has now become a little more foreign to us. The British voted against pragmatism and for risk. That's part of what makes this morning so surreal.

England in 2016 is a divided, uncertain country. It is difficult to believe what has happened here in the past several months. A relatively small, relatively unknown group of activists, gamblers and egocentrics managed to incite and drive a country out of Europe against the will of the prime minister and against the advice of economists, friends and allies around the world.

The Europe that woke up this morning is a weaker one. It will take years before Britain's exit from the EU is finally completed. Until that time, the Continent faces a period of uncertainty and tumult, as does Britain.

Brexit is a democratic decision that cannot be changed. Now Europe needs to learn a lesson from it -- it has no other choice.

Christoph Scheuermann is DER SPIEGEL's London correspondent.

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debbie_cordwell 06/24/2016
1. rubbish
It is a positive step to force the EU to reform. The future is bright.
prescott123456 06/24/2016
2. Hilariously funny article
Oh deary me. You just don't get it do you. This article is a perfect encapsulation of why ordinary (not elite) members of the British public voted to leave. Condescending, patronising, disdainful of the 'less educated' this article has it all, it could be straight out of The Guardian. It is time you understood that British people do not have the same mentality as Germans. We do not bow to authority, we think for ourselves, we are not subservient to a self loathing, 'liberal' elite. You can now fund the EU project that you and France love so much. Eventually the arrogant EU 'leaders' will realise it was they that destroyed their own creation. One of the reasons we were told to stay was that if we left you would all be at war with each other. Is there any signs of that happening this morning I wonder.
Mr Grumpy 06/24/2016
3. You still don't get it do you
I am educated, well traveled, a business operator and a collaborator, and about as far from racist, inward looking and separatist as you can get. This is and was about Democracy vs Tecnocracy. The EU structure and means of doing 'business' is flawed, and creates the problems it now blames on the British for rejecting. Get real. Change yourselves before its is forced on you by your own people.
pethairs1 06/24/2016
4. Independance day
I am so happy today and feel like we have won the world cup (as if). I love Europe and in particular Germany which I visit often to meet friends. I despise the EU project and fear for Germans as Merkel is going to open negotiations with Turkey to let them join the EU. You will have to take them and not us. Britain will never be on its knees and will bounce back. Going to party tonight and going to Dortmund tomorrow to see my friends who are really happy we are out as it make help them get Germany back and not have to pay for the likes of Greece with bailouts and get their frozen wages increased.
Michelle 06/24/2016
5. English sadness
I am absolutely devastated by the results of the vote. I am British, but as with all my friends, we see ourselves as European. I am saddened for the consequences this may lead to for all the countries and people of Europe and hang my head in shame for the British people who have brought this about. I am truly sorry.
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