There was a surprise victory for EU quitters, but where are their smiles?

Demonstrators hold up pro-Europe placards in Parliament Square as thousands of protesters take part in a March for Europe, through the centre of London on July 2, 2016, to protest against Britain's vote to leave the EU, which has plunged the government into political turmoil and left the country deeply polarised. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • There seems little doubt that many of the 17 million who voted Leave were prompted by dislike of foreigners.
  • Three days after the vote a group of young males cornered a Muslim girl on the street and shouted at her: “Get out, we voted leave”.
  • Among the immediate reactions to the Leave victory: The pound sterling dropped like a stone, as did the stock markets.

For a victory celebration, there weren’t many laughs. Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage appeared before the media after winning the referendum which will take Britain out of Europe. They were wearing what one newspaper called “coffin-lid faces”.

Their victory, which will have incalculable, life-changing effects, was a total surprise and will lead to Britain’s greatest constitutional convulsion of modern times. The Leave-ites won, not big but they won, so why were they not cock-a-hoop?

My belief: They were scared stiff. They did not expect victory and they had no concrete plans for the way ahead. Indeed, in no time at all, they were casting doubts on two of their own much trumpeted claims—that they would reclaim a supposed £350 million which Brussels takes from us each week and give it to the National Health Service, and that they would immediately cut back on immigration.

Nick Cohen in The Observer recalled two lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem: “I could not dig, I dare not rob, therefore I lied to please the mob”.

There seems little doubt that many of the 17 million who voted Leave were prompted by dislike of foreigners. They saw brown and black faces, and burkas and turbans on their streets and they heard languages they didn’t understand. They listened to the lies of professional racists that immigrants were getting free housing, full benefits and taking their jobs. And they believed them.

And if you think I’m extrapolating too far, three days after the vote a group of young males cornered a Muslim girl on the street and shouted at her: “Get out, we voted leave”. And a Polish family, here three years, received a card saying, “Polish vermin, go home”.

CAMERON SUPPORTED REMAIN

There was also, I suspect, an even stupider reason for voting to quit. The Leave vote was strongest in northern England, which is dominated by the opposition Labour party. My guess is that some of these people, seeing that Cameron supported Remain, concluded that Labour must therefore go for Leave.

The feeble performance of Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did little to counter this perception. Although the party was committed to Remain, Corbyn was half-hearted in his few appearances and speeches. The result is many Labour MPs have turned against him and, as I write this, he is facing a challenge to his leadership.

The Conservatives have even bigger problems. With Cameron on his way out, the chances are that the leadership will be dominated by nationalist right-wingers, with Johnson a likely premier. This is a most unpalatable prospect for many one-nation Tories.

Among the immediate reactions to the Leave victory: The pound sterling dropped like a stone, as did the stock markets; the UK’s credit rating was lowered to “negative”. the White House reaffirmed President Obama’s recent warning that Britain would “go to the back of the queue” if it wanted to renegotiate a trade agreement; one major bank talked about relocating 1,000 employees from the city of London to Paris; the separation of Scotland from England turned from possibility to probability.

Writing on the referendum here last week, I rather complacently remarked that “I’m prepared to guess that the good guys of Remain have won”. Well, I wasn’t the only one to get it wrong. But I also added that if they lost, I would be dusting off my passport. Oh dear!

I am not as travel-happy as in days of yore, but already my friend in Tokyo, Mitsuaki Iwase, has invited me to Japan, pointing out that Scotch whisky is much cheaper over there. And there’s always the Loughrans’ original home, the island of Ireland, which would surely make me welcome. I would be a returning immigrant, after all.

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More than 100 British football fans aged under 18 have been banned from attending football matches in the past three years for offences such as throwing missiles, running onto the pitch, fighting and shouting abuse.

Nobody was banned for breaking wind, but that is what caused a Swedish footballer to be red-carded.

Adam Lindin Lunjkvist, aged 25, was playing for Pershagen SK against Jarna SK, in, perhaps appropriately, the bottom tier of the Swedish league, when it happened. Karsten Linde, striker for the opposition team, said: “I was standing a good distance away but I heard it loud and clear”.

Adam said, “The bench couldn’t believe I was sent off for farting”. Admitting the offence, he said, “It was one of those days. Every time I pushed my body, I farted a little. It’s natural, everybody does it”.

The referee decreed Adam’s flatulence to be “unsportsmanlike conduct”.

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Last word on Europe, overheard from a young woman on a northern city street: “Does it mean that everybody who voted Leave has to go out but the others can stay here?” Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh!

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