A Very British Goodbye

Perhaps the penny has dropped. All 50 of them. In just a handful of hours, Great Britain leaves the European Union. Plagues of locusts, pestilence, and lepers wait patiently in the wings.

From where I’m sitting, though, all looks rosy. No marauding gangs of mottled malcontents seething in the streets. A distinct lack of killer bees, no super-gonorrhea—shame. The local sozzlers sink into the same cider-sodden slump.

To mark the occasion? A new 50 pence coin commemorating Brexit bearing the phrase, “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”

My first thought: how novel. I haven’t held a coin between my fingers since the Millennium Bug.

The Brexit Coin, as it is now known, has enraged those still unreconciled to a reality ticking away its final hours.

Remainers are cheese-melting. And I’m beginning to worry. They’re raging about . . . heptagonal slithers of metal popular with men named Harold who still buy news printed on paper.

The detractors took to Twitter. So brave. They’ll refuse to use the coin. One said it was a symbol of “pure populism,” and can “only serve to divide further.”

Another chirped that the coin symbolized colonialism, fascism, and ableism. Or something.

Sir Phillip Pullman, a grown man who pens fantasy novels about armored polar bears, called for “all literate people” to boycott the 50 pence piece. The offense? Its (admittedly saddening) lack of Oxford comma.

So, all is well and good here. Nothing has changed. People on Twitter are still beguiled by lunar cycles. At 11 p.m. London time on Friday, we leave the European Union.

Not that some will notice. They’re still fighting the referendum. It’s been four years, yet hardcore Remainers refuse to clamber down from the trees.

It’s not about that. Those who tangled so vociferously against Brexit have been unknotted by its simplicity. Brexit is done. What was once the preserve of the nutter, the pub bore, the mustard-of-trousers is now the will of a majority. Populism, it appears, is popular.

Which explains the meltdown. Democracy only counts when they win. Yet they keep losing. Now, all they have is this impotent rage—an identity rendered, in a matter of hours, meaningless.

Still, they cling. To have voted Remain means one is open-minded, international, and can say “garçon!” without the reddening of cheek.

Nigel Farage summed it up. His farewell address to the European Parliament a moment he’s worked three decades to realize.

A scene that crystallized our desire to leave. A jovial goodbye, a waving of the Union Jack, stung by an astringent humorlessness from the dignitaries at the EU to which we are all too accustomed.

Farage promised that we won’t be back. And we won’t. The European Union has learned little from Brexit. They dare not allow the Italians or the French, their own referenda: they know the likely result.

They used to laugh at Nigel Farage. They’re not laughing now.

The fanatics put up a good fight. The philosopher-kings had two elections, three dead Brexit votes, and four years convincing themselves they are right and that the wrong will be overruled.

They took us to court. They demanded a second referendum. They warned of economic catastrophe.  All of which led to naught.

Nope. Boris Johnson’s crushing win put paid to all that.

And now we are done. Democracy still works. Why bother voting? That helpless cry seems so silly now.

Not only does voting matter—it has changed history. We have left the European Union against the counsel of virtually every sinew of power—the establishment, the media, the banks, the think tanks, the judiciary, celebrities, experts—the little people have won.

The psychology of this victory is tremendous. Had the establishment got its wish, the majority would never have voted again. What would have been the point?

For the last thirty years, the majority has not mattered. You think unlimited immigration, sending good jobs abroad, and unfettered globalism was the wish of the many?

Those were the desires of the philosopher-kings. They knew, and still know what is best for us.

Which is why, even as the hours dissolve into minutes, they still cannot quite believe what is happening to “their” country.

Democracy is alive and well. Brexit is a victory of the ordinary over the elite. The many over the very few. And it tastes better now than it did on the morning it first broke.

This is just the start. Those Remainers will morph into Rejoiners. Every economic flutter will serve as “proof” to head back. You think it is over? Not quite.

Just cast your eyes to President Trump’s impeachment trial. His high crime? He beat Hillary Clinton. Democracy counts only when the right people win.

Or at least it used to. It might have taken four years, but the wrong people this time have won. And the wrong people must again win in November. Or this very British revolution will count for nothing.


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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

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