Gerry’s News Digest 188: Brexit, the Queen and the football fans (1st July, 2016)
Hi, this is Gerry, with my News Digest for Friday 1st July 2016. This is the last show before the summer break, and we have a summer competition for you. There are three prizes offered by melectronics, and they are wireless headphones to improve your listening pleasure. The 3rd prize is a JBL Everest 700 headset, the 2nd prize a JBL Everest 300, and the 1st prize a set of JBL Everest 100 wireless headphones. All you have to do to enter the competition is to email firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s “kontakt” spelt the German way: k-o-n-t-a-k-t) with the answer to the following question: When does PodClub start again after the summer? (Listen to the end of this show and you’ll find out!) Send your answer in by August 15th. Now on with today’s show.
When you hear this you will know the result of our referendum , of course. I do, too, but I’m recording this on the morning of June 25th, so just 24 hours after I learnt that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU by the narrow but decisive majority of 52 to 48%. In this show I plan to give you my view of how and why the result came out as it did. You know, I’m sure, that each electoral area  of Scotland voted to remain in the EU. In Northern Ireland there was also a majority to remain but the province was divided down the old sectarian lines with the Nationalists (majority Catholic) voting to remain, and the Unionists (mainly Protestant) voting to leave. Wales, to many people’s surprise, me included, voted narrowly to leave . London voted heavily in favour of remaining. And some other big cities voted to remain, but only by very narrow margins . The rest of England, however, voted clearly to leave. Demographically, it seems that older people and poorer people tended to vote to leave while, the young, the well educated and the wealthy voted to remain. I’ll return at the end of the show to some of the possible consequences of the vote, but I’d like to start with two events this past month that were not directly concerned with the referendum campaign but which, in my opinion, may reflect some of the character of the English, because it’s always been the English who’ve been the leading Eurosceptics.
The Leave campaign framed their argument  in terms of what sort of country we wanted to live in. They talked about taking back control of our country, re-establishing the freedom to make our own decisions, our own laws, to control our borders. The campaign was successful, so what kind of country do the English want to have?
As it happens, we had a weekend in June which provided some hints  perhaps. First of all, it was the official celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. I don’t know if you saw any of the pictures from the different events. The weekend started on Friday with a special service of celebration in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Queen is not only head of state but she’s also the head of the English church. The Queen, it can be said, has a sort of divine mission. This sounds very mediaeval, and at occasions like the service at St Paul’s Cathedral Britain can look like a country lost in the past. So if Friday could be said to have celebrated the Queen’s service to religion, on Saturday it was military service that was the focus. Her Majesty’s armed forces played and marched for her in the ceremony known as Trooping the Colour . More pomp . More tradition with regiments that have existed since the 17th century. It’s continuity that these official occasions remind us of. For many people, this long national history is very important. The third day of the weekend, the Sunday, was more about voluntary service. The Queen is patron  of more than 600 voluntary organisations in Britain and the Commonwealth, and members of these were invited to a celebratory picnic – in the rain as it turned out. But the very  fact that people were willing to have a good time in the rain to honour the Queen was, for many, a positive indication of British character.
People here believe Britain has a unique culture – the home of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and so on. People are very proud of this. Politicians talk about it all the time. It’s difficult, therefore, to accept any relinquishing  of power to a modern institution such as the EU. I think that Switzerland, too, has a sense of being special and unchanging. Most other countries in Europe are either relatively recent creations or have been remodelled through revolution.
On the same weekend that the Queen was celebrating in London, football fans from England, Wales and Northern Ireland were celebrating the start of the European Championship in France. All the home nations  except for Scotland qualified this time. It was the first time ever for Northern Ireland and the first time since 1958 that the Welsh team had qualified for an international championship. Football, though, is a strange sport, and football fans are a strange breed . Is there any other sport where the fans need to be segregated ? Is there any other sport that’s quite so tribal ? But, there do seem to be differences between the English and the Welsh fans. You can quite rightly accuse me of bias , as a Welshman, but why was there trouble with the English but not really with the Welsh fans? What is it about the English fans?
The trouble in Marseille started when some of these fans set themselves up in bars in the old port and proceeded to chant  insults at the French and any other Europeans that they could think of. There seems to be a certain type of English man who likes nothing more than to go abroad and have a good fight. He also doesn’t like being pushed around or told what to do. The trouble in Marseille didn’t start with the Russian fans – that was later – but with the police. The French police are, I think it’s fair to say, not the most people-friendly police force. They use weapons and methods that British police are just not allowed to use in this sort of situation – tear gas  for example. Rather than contain the English fans, the French police seemed to be looking for a fight as well. And so the situation went from bad to worse.
When it came to the referendum the vast majority of powerful people in Britain and abroad advised, warned and threatened the English people with grave  consequences if they chose to leave the EU. Perhaps it was the wrong tactic. They fought back.
I remember reporting when it all started that the Remain side looked stronger. But somehow things began to change as the campaign went on. A lot of journalists commented that it was one of the dirtiest, mean-minded  campaigns that they could remember. It was marked by lies and exaggerations on both sides – threats from the Remain side about how much money families were going to lose, exaggerations about how much the EU cost us from Leave, the threat by the Chancellor of a punitive  budget if we voted to leave, threats from Leave about 80 million Turks coming to live in the UK, etc. There was a lot of shouting, a lot of emotion. But the lies and exaggerations had their impact. And once UKIP had made immigration the main focus of the Leave campaign, the tide began to change . Interestingly, neither Boris Johnson nor Michael Gove (the two main Leave campaigners from the Conservatives) nor Gisela Stewart, the German immigrant Labour Member of Parliament, who was the Chair of the Leave campaign, ever promised to reduce immigration, but they all talked about taking back control of our borders. Immigration was the one topic that I kept on hearing mentioned towards the end of the campaign. And that was in Wales which has much lower levels of immigration than England. But remember, the big cities, with most immigrants, voted to remain.
Two days before the vote I was in my local town and had a long discussion with a Leave campaigner there. He was a doctor at the hospital. His main concern was the anti-democratic and sinister structure, as he saw it, of the EU. But I noticed, as we were talking, passers-by were making comments like “Good for you” or giving him the thumbs up . I sensed that it was going to be close. And there were still people saying that they couldn’t make up their minds .
On the day of the vote, suddenly everybody was talking about it. Bethan who cleans our house was telling us that her family was split 4-2 for Remain with her husband still undecided. The same day a young man I know came to help me with some heavy work in the garden. He told me that he was voting Leave because he believed that the EU is a vehicle for multi-national corporations – part of globalisation.
And as it turned out, it looks as if the Leave campaign succeeded in gaining the support of people who feel that globalisation, as embodied by the EU, has passed them by, has destroyed their jobs and has impoverished  them. These people, the traditional working class, traditional Labour supporters, turned out  in record numbers to vote. Usually, it’s very difficult to motivate people like them to vote. It doesn’t usually matter if they vote or not. But in a referendum, every vote counts. And the people who live in so-called deprived  areas, in social housing, in a country where austerity has been hitting the poor harder than the rich, hit back and shocked the world.
What next? Well, the referendum has certainly not settled anything. Just under half the country is very unhappy with the result at the moment. The expectations of the other half may be unrealistic. The Conservative party is going to need a new leader; the Labour party, too, probably. And the Labour party is going to have to think very hard about its disaffected  supporters who voted Leave. The whole ruling elite – the politicians, business leaders, trade unionists, economists, scientists and other experts are going to have to think about why their advice was not heeded , because nearly all so-called expert opinion was on the Remain side.
The Scots are unhappy. The Nationalists there always said that they would demand another independence referendum if they were outvoted on Europe by the English. The peace in Northern Ireland looks shaky again. Britain has always had open borders with Ireland except during the Second World War. How is that going to work in future with Ireland remaining in the EU? Gibraltar isn’t happy – they can remember what it used to be like with a border to Spain that was regularly closed.
And what about the rest of the EU? I’m afraid that Brexit will be a bit like removing a big stone from the bottom of a wall – there are many other stones in that wall that will now be wobbling . I’m sure that opinions in Switzerland will be as divided as they are here. If the EU collapses there will be many a Swiss who will cheer, but there will be others who will shed a tear . I admit that I will share their fears and disappointment. I’m sorry if this show has gone on for rather longer than usual, but June 23rd was a historic day.
The PodClub shows start again on August 26th, but my next News Digest is not until September 9th – so things may have begun to sort themselves out by then. Thanks for the messages after the last show. Käthi asked me a question about postal voting. No time to answer it today, I’m afraid, but I’ll try to get back to it in the autumn. The PodClub app has been improved, and with it the Vocabulary Trainer. If you use it you should find that it’s become more user-friendly. And don’t forget to enter the competition! If you’ve got anything to say about Brexit or anything else for that matter you can write to me via the website: www.podclub.ch. Or use Twitter: my Twitter address is @Gerrypod. Have a great summer! Thanks for listening, and take care!
 NB The question was: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
 NB The referendum was organised not according to the London parliamentary constituencies but by local authorities (counties and boroughs).
 to vote narrowly to leave: to vote to leave by a small majority
 margin: here: a small difference (for example “the ~ between success and failure”)
 to frame their argument: to present their case
 hint: indication, sign, a small piece of information to help you understand or answer a question better
 NB It’s called this because each regiment in the army has a flag that’s called a colour, and they march (or troop) past the Queen with their flag.
 pomp: formal ceremony with special clothes, special traditions, etc.
 patron: here: a famous person who supports an organisation and allows it to use their name
 very: here: actual, true, real (used here to emphasise that this simple fact is important)
 to relinquish (something): to give (something) up (e.g. a right or power)
 NB The home nations are the countries that make up the United Kingdom, i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
 breed: here: group, a particular type or kind of person or thing
 to segregate: to separate one group of people (e.g. genders, or a racial group) from another group
 tribal: here: a word used to describe the behaviour of different groups of people who hate each other
 bias: when you are not neutral and you favour one side over another (OK for fans but not for referees!)
 to chant: something half way between speaking and singing
 tear gas: a gas that makes affects people’s eyes and breathing (such as CS gas, CR gas or CN gas)
 grave: serious
 mean-minded: nasty, hateful
 punitive: something to punish (you)
 the tide began to change: it changed direction, it began to go the other way
 to give the thumbs up: to show support, agreement
 to make up (your) mind: to decide
 to impoverish: to make (somebody) poor
 to turn out: here: to come out of (their) houses
 deprived: poor (lacking things)
 disaffected supporters: supporters who no longer like and are no longer loyal to (the Labour party)
 to heed advice: to listen to (and take) advice
 to wobble: to shake
 to shed a tear: to cry (a bit)