When millions of us entered those low-fi plywood cubicles to vote in the referendum last week, after all of the political propaganda (none of it regulated by advertising standards), all the flaky statistics, oratory dramatics and confusion, it boiled down to a simple question on a piece of paper: should Britain remain in the European Union, or leave the European Union?
At 1am Ryanair celebrated a premature a win for Remain with slashed air fares to Europe. Cue a late night iPhone scroll of Air BnB. As the shock dawned we were out, on a knife edge vote, a great gloom descended on the capital. I rode the bus to work with other stony-faced Londoners of all creeds and colours. The post-ref mood in the capital, who voted Remain of course, is akin to being dumped after a marriage of 40 odd years by text. The only happy faces were on the tourists gleefully enjoying our tumbling pound as they queued for Madame Tussard’s wax-perfect world. There aren’t many days when the Prime Minister stepping down is the second biggest news story.
While the disappointingly weak Remain campaign went down like they’d been punched by Anthony Joshua, the fashion journalist in me can’t help but think the “Brexit” campaign was a branding success story – was the general public subliminally pushed towards an “exit”? “Bremain” never did roll off the tongue the same way. But the people have spoken (the ones who voted at least, and if you didn’t vote and you wanted to stay, then you have only yourself to blame). Time to respect the rule of democracy and make the best of it.
Talking of democracy, it’s true the EU is unequivocally flawed, as are most lucrative major organisations – we’re looking at you FIFA. The main problem for this Remain voter is the European Commission that signs off decisions made by the Parliament is unelected and unimpeachable, not exactly the hallmarks of democracy. In practice though, while the Parliament can only propose amendments to laws, these proposals are successful in more than 80% of cases. Even in controversial proposals, the success rate is almost 30%. The Liberal Democrat ex-MEP Chris Davies has said he had far more influence as a member of the European Parliament than he ever did as an opposition MP in the House of Commons. “Here I started to have an impact on day one […] and there has not been a month since when words I tabled did not end up in legislation.” Did we just throw the baby out with the bathwater?
If nothing else there’s been a mass political awakening among the youth. It needed to happen, the BBC commented in the 1999 European Parliament election that more votes had been cast for the reality show Big Brother. Our millennial Instagram feeds are a mosaic of anti-Brexit marches, political memes, mud-splattered and brain-spangled Glastonbury survivors, and Wimbledon with its frightfully British strawberries and cream, washed down with all-imported French champagne bien sur.
London has all the intoxicating merchant city charm of a modern day Babylon and is all the richer for its diversity, both culturally and financially. Worryingly the Leave result has seemingly legitimised underlying racism. There’s hope, but you won’t see it broadcast on the news. For every horrifying tale of racial abuse on the streets, there are five more anecdotes on social media espousing love and unity among my friendship group. A florist nearby is encouraging migrants to take a flower free of charge, the placard wants them to know that they are welcome here. It’s enough to warm the 100% British-waters sourced cockles of your heart.
No one knows what will happen next, the doom mongers say that the age of uncertainty is upon us. The Business Of Fashion wrote this week, “For fashion and luxury brands, which rely on discretionary spending for purchases that are largely emotionally-driven, growing global uncertainty can have a dramatic effect on consumer psychology, limiting the desire to spend money on what are aspirational products. Many of the same factors also impact international tourism — worrying for an industry where 50 percent of purchases are made by travellers, according to estimates by Exane BNP Paribas.”
The only thing we can say with certainty is that for artists this is a call to arms. The creatives will create, and we will publish them. Will people buy the wares? Goodness knows we could all use a little retail therapy. It’s a hell of a time to be alive. Let the healing begin.
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