Brexit Day is finally here, and there is apparently a lot of ennui about it

PM Departs for PMQs -  Wednesday 29 January  -  Downing Street, London

Brexit is here. Or it will be soon – as of Friday night, Great Britain will no longer be part of the European Union. While the formalization of Brexit never seemed inevitable – I still can’t believe British voters fumbled every time they had a chance for a political mulligan – it is here now and people seem strangely… fine? Granted, I haven’t been paying much attention to anything other than royalty, awards shows and tennis for all of 2020 thus far. But the conversations seem less heated? The New York Times tried to talk about how Britain is stepping into a great unknown and greeting it with a collective shrug.

Britain formally exits the European Union on Friday night, casting off from the Continent after nearly half a century and ending a debate that had convulsed the country for more than three years. Yet for all the gravity of the moment, there is a palpable sense of anticlimax. Now that Britain has finally reached this point of no return — one that millions of Britons had long either dreaded or dreamed of, marched against or eagerly prepared for — the prevailing emotion is neither sadness nor excitement. Rather, it is a characteristically British reflex: Get on with it.

In time, the British are likely to discover that getting on with it isn’t so easy. For the next 11 months, Britain will continue to abide by the European Union’s rules and regulations, while it decides what sort of Brexit it wants for itself. That will be hammered out in talks with the bloc’s leaders in Brussels over trade relations — negotiations that could prove as divisive and traumatic as the political fight over the withdrawal.

But that, for now, lies in the future. For most people, nothing will be all that different when the sun rises on Saturday morning. To a great extent, that reflects the endless, enervating nature of the Brexit debate. Since the day Britons narrowly voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the issue has divided families, cast a shadow over businesses, and paralyzed the government. Parliament, that venerable symbol of British democracy, became a gladiatorial arena, at once riveting and horrifying to those who tuned in to the daily combat.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised during the recent election to “get Brexit done,” British voters, exhausted and fed up, gave him the largest Conservative Party majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

[From The NY Times]

The NYT goes on to quote prominent Bremainers who all say basically the same thing: after three-and-a-half years, they’ve had time to grieve for the state of their country and now they’re ready for the Brexit drama to just be done so everyone can move on and begin to figure out what’s next. The Times also points out that Brexit has barely been on the front pages of any of the British papers in weeks/months, and that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit has been the biggest story this month.

So what’s next? CNN has a helpful explainer here – the big thing is that Britain now has to negotiate and sort out all of trade deals, treaties, financial regulation and more with the EU and with individual countries, basically. It will be boon times for wonks, diplomats, trade negotiators and crisis economists, I guess.

UK's Front Pages on BREXIT Day

UK's Front Pages on BREXIT Day

UK's Front Pages on BREXIT Day

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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43 Responses to “Brexit Day is finally here, and there is apparently a lot of ennui about it”

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  1. Mac says:

    Today the Senate is going to take a vote that will turn the US into an autocracy. By comparison, Brexit doesn’t seem so bad.

  2. Roserose says:

    I’m pretending it’s not happening. To really feel my feelings about this would mean I couldn’t go about my business today, I’m that sad. It’s just horrible.

    I’m an EU citizen who has lived in the UK for the last 20 years. I work in the NHS. I am ashamed of my country. And the UK IS my country, no matter what anyone says.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      I’m ashamed of my country too. My family thinks I’m mad because I get so emotional and angry if anyone speaks the name of our current president. Maybe I am because I seriously can’t be in the same room if anyone brings up something derogatory about OTHER politicians as a rebuttal to the troglodyte in charge. Unless you’re trashing this administration, I’m out. If you were here, I’d clink glasses with ya.

      • manda says:

        That’s how so many of us feel about our leader as well. I still just can’t believe the world has come to this. I thought we were better than this. It makes me so depressed. And I feel it for your country as well. It all makes me feel so powerless and, honestly, crazy–like, am I some sort of weirdo that I want us all to get along and I want us to have healthcare and let’s pay a higher minimum wage and why not have the gigantic corporations pay some taxes? I don’t think that stuff is that far out

  3. Tallulah Smith says:

    I’m from the UK and can ensure you a lot of people are far from fine about the turn of events. There is an awful lot of anger today.

    Don’t forget this vote swung on the smallest of margins and many feel the Leave campaign peddled a lot of misinformation and downright lies.

    It’s a really sad day for the UK.

    • Mac says:

      Brexit and Trump are the same crime. Putin engineered both.

      • Va Va Kaboom says:

        No, Brexit and Trump are the results of the same crime. Blaming Putin is just putting the responsibility on some foreign boogeyman, which is a huge part of how we got Trump and Brexit in the first place. Politicians, Corporations, Lobbyists, and the 1% engineered both while blaming everyone but themselves and their policies.

        People are hurting. Industries are failing, salaries are stagnant, infrastructure and social services are being drained. Banks get bailouts while devastating austerity plans sweep through the country. All the while the people pushing and making these decisions are blaming immigrants, welfare recipients, and in the case of Great Britain… the big bad bureaucratic boogeymen in Brussels.

        They’ve used all these people and groups to get away with abandoning citizens for decades. It was only a matter of time before people like Trump and the Leave campaign jumped on the bandwagon too. Sure Putin f@cked with us, but the truth is it was US… the call came from inside the house.

      • Libero says:

        Va Va kaboom
        Well-said. There needs to be a drastic shift in our parliamentary process and the first thing that needs to happen is the dissolution of the House of Lords and the monarchy.

  4. Eleonor says:

    My english colleagues here in France are desperate. A friend of mine is English and married to a French man, her father voted Brexit…she is beyond furious, she has stopped talking to him.
    I have Italians friends in UK and they don’t know what to do.
    I am sad.

  5. Eyfalia says:

    Please tell me the logic of this, the UK had an excellent trade deal with the EU, free travel and all and they don’t want that, so they leave the EU in order to make a good trade deal with the EU. Well, they will not get a trade deal like they had until today. Clever?

    • Roserose says:

      There is no logic. Some people are just that dumb, hateful and xenophobe. Don’t like hearing foreign accents.

      • Shirleygailgal says:

        my mum remembers the days when uk was strong and free of UK and believes the EU has hampered and hammered them with billions of dollars flowing into Brussels and very little in the way of benefits flowing back. So she voted Brexit …she thinks once the dust settles Britain will be in a better place

    • TQ says:

      Am an American living in the UK for the past 9 years. Brexiters don’t understand the realities of the unequal trade deals they will be forced to accept. The UK’s former US ambassador just said as much in a new Guardian interview:

      Nor do they understand how much of their everyday lives benefitted from EU subsidies — infrastructure, farms, low cost goods, etc.

      The sad irony is Brexit will hit low income Brexiters hardest in the pocket book. These are often folks who live outside of London and other big cities, many in the North of England where I am. They’re going to experience higher medicine costs, higher costs of goods, further loss of jobs, and the list goes on.

      A very sad day for the UK.

      • Mac says:

        Same thing in America. Trump’s most ardent supporters are those who are hurt the most by his policies.

    • L4frimaire says:

      I heard on a British podcast that this is all about deregulation and corporate tax cuts. A lot of protections under the E.U. will be chipped away at to get trade deals and the average citizen will pay the price.

  6. Anna says:

    Well, Boris is going to make a lot of his hedge funder (or something) happy today. Nevermind the other people who won’t be making a profit today.

  7. Veronica says:

    They’re doing exactly what most Americans will be doing today: watching a corrupt government set dangerous precedent that will have ramifications years down the line, then grimly examining what they’re going to do about it to ride the disaster out.

  8. B says:

    It feels a lot like the Millennium Bug.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Not to be pedantic, but the idea that the Millennium Bug wasn’t a legitimately huge problem is time dismissing how much work really went into fixing it. The only reason we didn’t see huge ramifications from Y2K is because programmers, engineers, and computer experts did their due diligence non-stop through the late 90s upgrading software, improving coding, and generally creating work arounds to address the issue. For a lot of industries, the panic was there. It just didn’t filter down into the general public because it was identified and addressed before it could become a social nightmare. Talk to anybody who worked in IT/programming at that time, and they’ll tell you some stories.

      So I wouldn’t call them comparable – if only because nobody is working to fix the coming problems as a result of these political decisions down the line. This will filter down to the general public. We will all feel it in the Western world.

      • La says:

        Thank you for this Veronica S! As someone who works in IT I know all too well the amount of 24/7 behind the scenes effort it takes to ensure business as usual for so many things people rely on.

      • B says:

        I wish I could be funnier and make some reference to a hangover and anti-climax .

        As an engineer who started working in the late 90s, we planned for it and got through it.

        I now see many companies put in place plans, after years of planning for what ifs. whilst it may not be code, we still need to plan and work through it. And technology will support that .

        But the sun will still come up. It’s not the end of the world.

      • Veronica S. says:

        LOL, you’re fine, I just misread the tone of your comment. I agree it won’t be the end of the world. History shows us democracy is the least stable form of government, and we have these stumbles every few decades. My concern is how often those stumbles come at the cost of human lives. I’m cynical and anxious for the worst because my country (United States) has a habit of hurting others when it’s hurting.

  9. Elisa says:

    What to say…hearing Farage’s idiotic final speech in the EU Parliament, I as a EU citizen am glad I never have to see his muppet face again.
    And: Domi Thiem is in the Australian Open finals!!

  10. Ariela says:

    No, we’re not “fine”. No, we’re not OK. I’m devastated.

    • fifee says:

      Me too. I can only hope that the SNP get an independence vote to get us out of this terrible union and back into one that works for the benefit of us all.

    • AlmaMartyr says:

      Devastated is right. I don’t feel fine, I’m still in shock from December’s election. I am so sad and so furious.

  11. Sarah says:

    I am neither sad or excited I am ANGRY. So angry that we have come to this with populism, xenophobia, misplaced nostalgia and lies. I’m in London for work today and I’m the train in realised I am inadvertently wearing the colours of the EU flag. But yes, the sun will rise tomorrow and part of my anger is that so many people just don’t understand what is being lost and that the tories will continue to chip away at society for the benefit of those who already have huge privilege. I am sad but today I’m more angry.

    • Mei says:

      Absolutely feel the same Sarah. I just completely can’t believe what we’re doing to ourselves. I’m just so sorry to the entire EU parliament for our disgusting MEPs and all our European (and non-European) neighbours who have dealt with the consequences of all the awful lies, bigotry and xenophobia.

      Not to mention the lower-income Remainers here in the UK who are going to feel all the worst consequences of this once our economy tanks and we don’t even have EU legislation to help. I’m SO f%*@ing angry.

  12. Sean says:

    Dark days indeed. The UK is leaving the European Union and America is taking its first steps into a dictatorship.

  13. Jolly says:

    Vive Little England!

  14. adastraperaspera says:

    Standing with my UK friends today.

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      Indeed, we may end up rejoining whatever the EU changes into once all the boomers who voted to leave die off. Did you see the video campaign that was project on the white cliffs of Dover with the WW2 vets?

  15. heygingersnaps says:

    It’s fitting that it coincided with Backwards Day, the UK is going backwards from leaving the EU.
    I am beyond sad & angry that it’s finally happening. As someone said on Twitter “Today is a sad day. Brexit is what happens when a false sense of superiority combines with a false sense of victimhood. We should be reaching out to our European friends rather than walking away from them. It is better to be internationalist rather than isolationist.”

  16. Horrible Histories says:

    Ok, now I want to see a true brits only campaign where people claiming to be of Iberian Celt ancestry try to kick out the people of viking, roman, french, and Anglo Saxon ancestry.

    I’m trying to think of the last time Britain truly went it alone. Before Britain was depending on the EU, it was depending on its colonies, and before it had its empire, it was the literal Dark Ages. I will watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail and pray for you all tonight.

  17. L4frimaire says:

    Kind of hoping the EU is a bit petty with the UK. My in-laws in Ireland think this is going to hit them very hard and just shows them, once again, the selfishness and ignorance of the British government. It won’t really hit until later in the year, when people need to apply for visas for work, study, extended travel, or European citizens have to leave the UK because they lose residency. Everyone is retreating into their own nativist, anti- foreigner bubble. Reminds one of the 1930s, and that did not lead to a good outcome.

  18. Jumpingthesnark says:

    It’s a sad day. Boris is prob going to sell off nationalized industries including the NHS to the highest oligarch bidders. I work in healthcare in the US, you don’t want our broken healthcare system. But I’m afraid the Brits will get just that. Very sad.

  19. grumpy says:

    Democracy prevailed: you might not like the result of democracy prevailing but if it had been allowed to be cancelled, that would be the tip of the iceberg. This time it might be something you would have been ok with, but what about next time? Unelected individuals with money and elected individuals who ignored their constituents tried to stop a democratic action, that is the stuff of civil wars and revolutions, that is why some Americans cling to their right to bear arms. Brexit had to happen because if not, we might as well be living in North Korea. Luckily we live in the UK where we can have votes and if people all want to rejoin the EU, democracy will allow it to happen.

    • heygingersnaps says:

      No, democracy did not prevail. Referendums are not legally binding, add to cambridge analytica interference, leave campaign’s blatant misinformation and most the media stoking anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment lead to this. The government should have spent the same amount of time researching the pros and cons of leaving the EU as they did when they were planning to join it but alas they’ve barely half assed the job but hey, hedge funders and the like have earned lots of money from this disaster.

  20. Thea says:

    As an American born and bred Brit, today doubly sucks. A win for fascism, racism, xenophobia, deregulation, etc. and a loss for everyone else.

    It’s been nonstop bad news since 2016. When will this nightmare end?

  21. L4frimaire says:

    I guess when we go to Europe this summer, the Brits will be in the same passport lines as the rest of us non EU visitors. Thanks Brits for making our lines longer. Already had to go through 3 passport checks at CDG last summer. You’ll add to the queues. It’s all good. 😁🇪🇺