The government of David Cameron and the British intelligentsia will ruin the United Kingdom if they stay the course of their post-Brexit rhetoric. The tone is abysmal. Catastrophic—like a family’s patriarch has unexpectedly died and the women left behind must abandon their estate. Think Sense and Sensibility, where the Dashwood mother and daughters are exiled to the English countryside following the master’s death. They are outcasts. They have no rights to inheritance. They have no future.
But the story’s ending is quite different than its beginning. The UK’s future can be great—better, apart from the European Union than being one of its members. But that chapter may never be written should sour grapes of doom and gloom dominate the post-Brexit narrative. As I often say: In business, perception is everything. Same applies to government, and the image that nations put forth. Too much of the story being written about the UK’s future, which no one without a time machine can predict, is negative. The narrative conveys no confidence that the islands can stand alone.
The propagators of this tragic tale are governmental, intellectual, and news media leaders who should know better. Their national responsibility is to illuminate what is and could be rather than what isn’t. As a journalist, my views are more liberal leaning. Hypothetically, if an Englishman, living in London, I almost certainly would have voted Remain. But following the Leave result, I also would have understood the importance of managing positive perceptions about the nation.
A post-EU UK is the destiny set in motion by the referendum, despite it technically being non-binding. The aforementioned Remain elite must accept this and act for the good of all by cheerleading hope, even if they have none. They must champion confidence that the UK will replenish its sovereignty rather than diminish apart from the government in Brussels. That is the majority’s will, no matter how narrow their victory.
I don’t advocate for Leave but, rather, for Remain supporters to—at the least—stop searing rhetoric that makes matters worse. To repeat: Perception is everything.
Grow a Set
Cameron is responsible for there being any referendum. He should man up, wear a set of balls, and take responsibility for the results. The only context his resignation as prime minister makes sense is his unwillingness to complete what he started. His inaction is shameful leadership, or lack of it.
The image that the government in Whitehall and 10 Downing Street should put forth is one of confidence. Of hope. Of promise. Confidence is catching. Look at Presidential-hopeful Donald Trump here in the United States. His charisma is infectious, and leads many of his supporters to ignore his obvious foibles and to accept the image of confidence—one who is exuberant and unapologetic about his beliefs.
As an American, I am stupefied by David Cameron’s pubic reaction. The first words from his mouth should have been: “The referendum is a triumph for democracy”. Stateside, we’re an arrogant lot when it comes to democracy—that the ways of our Republic are superior to all forms of government. But the United States could never hold a national referendum, where every vote counts. We are bound to national electoral and delegate ballots cast on our behalf. What is democratic about that?
Autonomy and Sovereignty
Cameron’s message should be: An autonomous and united United Kingdom is an opportunity; leaving the European Union isn’t separation but sovereignty. The islands have always stood apart from Europe, if for no other reason than geography. History tells us that the British Isles has been conquered but a few times, with the Romans and the Normans being most famous. A smart post-Brexit narrative would spotlight the economic and political conquest by a government in Brussels that usurps the UK’s autonomy and sovereignty.
Look at the manhandling and rhetoric blasting the United Kingdom, post-Brexit. The nation hasn’t invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally set in motion exit from the European Union, but already EU leaders ostracize the UK, by their words and actions. Concessions Cameron previously sought are void. His government’s representatives are unwelcome participating in Europa meetings. All this feeds into the negative narrative that the UK is fallen. That story benefits an EU leadership fearful other member nations will conduct their own referendums.
Instead, the UK’s intellectual and elected elite should spin a different story: cultural conquest; usurped autonomy; and EU bullying post-Brexit as proof of Brussel’s intolerance to any nation daring to stand up to the iron fists that pound the Continent.
Whether or not storytellers believe this rhetoric is immaterial. Someone must command conceivable narrative that realigns perceptions around what is good for the UK.
The problem with post-Brexit UK isn’t Leave but Remain. The shellshocked supporters writing the story of disaster must instead tell tales of opportunity that instill confidence for the future. Please pardon my being repetitive, but who controls the narrative and with what tone almost will certainly determine whether the country’s trajectory rises or falls. Perception is everything, and it starts with the economic, intellectual, and political supporters of Remain showing their confidence in Leave; even if they have none, or should by some strangeness there is second referendum with different outcome.
Confidence conveyed can keep Scotland, and also Northern Ireland, from holding referendums breaking apart from England and Wales and becoming separate members of the European Union. Confidence conveyed can convince nervous businesses and investors that the future is one of promise not uncertainty. Confidence conveyed can revive the Pound Sterling’s sudden loss of value in the hours after the BBC called the vote for Leave.
Here’s a cultural metaphor to frame the narrative: The village bicycle, kept in a common area, that many people share. This concept is oh-so Northern Europe. So Brussels. But there’s another definition from the popular vernacular; Village bicycle is Urban Dictionary’s Word of the Day: “Someone who is easy to engage sexual activity on a regular basis and has no problem doing it with with various different individuals”.
Whether you belong to the Leave or Remain camp, there must be a clear, convincing narrative of confidence in the country’s future: This week, the majority of UK citizens voted to stop being Europe’s whore. Even if the UK’s fortunes do decline for a time, the story should be one of liberation and independence. That England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are the EU’s cultural, economic, and political sluts no more.
Photo Credit: Craig Allen