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Europe: The Final Countdown

Everything I Learned Watching Frustrated Remainers at the ‘Fuck Brexit’ Rally

Overall, the tone was that the general public of poor, old, and uneducated people didn't seem to realize just what they'd voted for in the EU referendum.
June 26, 2016, 3:00pm

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

As the nation awoke to Nigel Farage welcoming "our independence day" on Friday, the feelings that built up inside the Remain-ers soon exploded like a Mentos-n-Coke experiment of the soul on social media. In one sense, the campaign was definitely over, so beyond furiously retweeting Jonathan Freedland, no one really knew what they should be doing. But like after the death of a celebrity, the basic human drive to action in the face of overwhelming emotion still remained.

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Which was why people started coming up with things like Saturday's Fuck Brexit Rally.

"Tomorrow lets [sic] take to the streets at the Houses of Parliament," the invite said, "to peacefully come together and show strength in the face of a decision none of us can truly predict the outcome of." This wasn't a march—no official permission had been sought—so everyone found themselves stood in the middle of Parliament Square, marooned on an island, much like Britain's citizens.

In the shadow of the mother of Parliaments, many of these dangerous supra-nationalists had arrived with the flag of a foreign power who they wanted to see dominate our newly sovereign nation-state. Much like Eastern Ukrainians seeking "protection" in the form of invasion by Putin's Russia, the 12 stars on blue symbolized to them a cultural non-negotiable. When would JC Juncker's troops come and liberate them from the tyranny of the majority? Soon, surely…

This man opened the bidding. Before the meeting had really got underway, he stood in the midst of the throng and gave a five-minute improvised monologue about why we needed the EU. "Integration," he shouted. "Diversity. Dialogue. Openness." People clapped each buzzword in turn. Yes, these were all good things.

He said he was a middle-class intellectual and he was now angry—he was no longer prepared to be apologetic for knowing better. He told a story about the NHS which was supposed to be positive and support his position.

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"I injured my calf the other week, and I had to wait in A&E for four hours"—his point being that he was cool to wait for four hours if it meant that the migrants could all still come and share in our long wait times for public services. London, he said, was heavily Remain, yet heavily EU-migrated to. So surely we could all learn to live together?

People cheered. Then a megaphone with the amplifying power of a sparrow sucking a Strepsil was handed round in the center of the circle, and about 15 people took it in turn to rock the mic with their thoughts on the Brexit fuckmageddon.

Overall, the tone was that the general public had made a terrible mistake. That the Leave campaign was based on lies. And that insufficient people had truly understood the question. The attendees had, of course. But, the implication seemed to be, poor and uneducated people must not have a say in Britain's future. That's not democracy—democracy is the one where a country is run by midwives, teachers, NGO workers, semi-professional artists, and secondhand-book dealers.

There were plenty of people cussing out the older generation too. The elderly had voted Out, but then, the selfish bastards were going to die soon anyway. Once again, democracy had been betrayed because ultimately democracy is a system based on how many years you have left to live.

This guy was a sort of anarcho-syndicalist who'd somehow failed to find any fire-poy work at this year's Glastonbury. But he was too chill to be angry, about that, or indeed the EU, and besides, seemed to want the inverse of a Euro-federalist superstate when you got down to it.

He was carrying six GoPros all stuck together, and said this was for a 'virtual reality' film he was making. He might not have needed all that—just whip out your mobile and take a picture of anything in Britain since Thursday, and the lens will naturally filter the virtual reality sense that the entire country is listing at 35 degrees to where we'd left it.

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Back up front, a cider punk with a blonde ponytail was on the mic. "I voted Out," he said, "because I'm a conspiracy theorist." He said this as though conspiracy theorist was a vocational specialty, like 'quantum theorist.' He started explaining about Di and Dodi 97, and people began booing. He still wasn't too fussed.

There were plenty of calls for a new referendum, and cheers when it was announced that the Downing Street petition had passed a million. "Best of three?" was the general sentiment. Jean-Claude Juncker engaging in a World Series of thumb-wars with Farage would be the only logical end point here.

Four percent obviously refers to the pro-Leave majority. 70 percent, seems to refer to quite a large number.

This woman said she was a third-generation migrant, and her family had all voted 'Leave' and thereby screwed her—because any children she had would apparently now have to be born in the UK if they were to be UK nationals. She was pissed off with them—you would be too if you had to give birth in Britain.

Blame was heaped on David Cameron for being irresponsible enough to call the referendum in the first place. It would be wrong, the logic went, to consult the people once every half a century on an institution that had grown its own Parliament, President, and currency since we last checked in on it.

It was Pride day, so many people had come out to see this show as an amuse-bouche to cheering on a squadron of topless men in PVC dog bondage masks. It is now very possible to be out and proud, but sadly to be Out and proud would still be social death in tolerant London.

An hour after it began, the protest was in wrap-up. A few stragglers stuck around to chat. Many more began drifting up towards Trafalgar Square and Pride.

Fuck Brexit may be a slogan with an unclear meaning, but it felt like we'd not seen the last of this sort of thing. Not because the decision will ever be reversed, but because we now find ourselves at exactly the sort of culture-war crossroads we've so long rolled our eyes at America for.

For all the kind words and fine example, Jo Cox's working class Yorkshire constituents still voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. If there's heart to be taken for them, it's simply that the anti-Brexiteers are no longer the fabled and feared "establishment" we've heard so much about. Through our new looking glass, they're now the insurgency. And politically that's the only place to be in 2016.

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To see all our articles about the EU Referendum, go to Europe: The Final Countdown.