Nobody wanted this.
Britain just voted for the void, and this was not supposed to happen.
Somehow, we ended up with the wrong result. The EU referendum was a ploy, a piece of political footwork, a clever little move in the long, slow, measured game of internal party politics, and they fucked it. David Cameron called the referendum to appease his party's Eurosceptics, to slow down some of Ukip's baleful momentum, to push him over into victory in last year's general election. More than anything, he did it to cement his own personal power. He wanted to get on with introducing the kind of policies he wanted; all he really wanted was to reshape the country in his own plummy image. This wasn't real politics, just politicking; they told us that we were choosing our nation's destiny, but it was a hologram, a closed and capsuled false reality. The battles they told us we were fighting were all happening somewhere else, for other reasons. At no point was it ever really considered that Britain might do the unthinkable thing and fling itself carelessly into the future. The chess-players had the full weight of the establishment and English inertia behind them; and in any case, besides a few crusting old nationalists, nobody actually wanted this. Not even many of the frontline pro-Brexit politicians, most of whom were all also just fixated on their careers. It was a tool, a means to other ends, nothing more. None of this was in the plan.
Which might be part of why Leave has ended up winning. People do not appreciate being instrumentalised; nobody likes being fucked with by someone who thinks they're so much cleverer than them. And political possibility doesn't really work the way that the pollsters like to think it does. Leave was always a minority position, from the moment the referendum was proposed until a few short weeks ago; as an actual proposition it was always stupid and misguided, and not something very many people really cared about. But as the day came nearer it turned into something else: not an option among options, but a reality waiting to happen.
Expect a lot of awful guff in the hours and days to come, as the professional explainers try to explain what just happened, with all their deep insight into the mind of some dissipating cartoon of a Brexiter. Already it's starting. Vague prognostications on Real, Ordinary Decent People squaring off against Out Of Touch Elites and Condescending Experts. Terrifyingly focused accusations that politicians didn't do enough to address that caricature's Perfectly Reasonable And Not Racist Concerns About Immigration. Both of which are true, in a way. But all these very not racist concerns about immigration and all this nebulous disdain for elites didn't come from nowhere. It's been shown, repeatedly, that migration is not actually putting people out of work or wearing down public services. Outright bigotry had its role, but people are Concerned because newspapers have been screaming at them for months and years that they have every right to be concerned and they shouldn't let anyone say they don't. Because the politicians who watched over decades of immiseration, happy to let anything halfway decent on this little island sink into fallow fields or be blotted out by shiningly inaccessible housing developments, were also happy to let the country's most precarious and unrepresented people take the blame. They let this happen. They might not have wanted it, but they let it happen.
Of course the vote for Brexit wasn't really about the EU, but it wasn't really about elites or migration either. It was a vote against, against the whole thing, against life as it's lived, against the slow aching misery of life in general and life in 21st century Britain in particular. The British electorate looked up and down at the shit and decrepitude, the sheer quotidian hideousness of it all, and said No. Anything is better than this; nothing is better than this.
It's hard to blame them, entirely, but it was also absolutely the wrong choice. Nobody wanted this, and nobody wants what's going to come next – but it'll happen anyway, because the heat death of the universe now has a popular mandate. Things are going to get very bad. Making concrete predictions is pointless – there's no way to really know yet if Cameron will stay on after so spectacularly undoing himself, if Boris Johnson will finally sink those hidden claws into everything he ever wanted, if we'll see an independent Scotland or a united Ireland or a return to the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.
There are some things, though, that you can say with certainty. The far right are triumphant now, and it's not impossible that they'll start enforcing their victory with fists and bats. Whatever passes itself for the British economy is already starting to spasm to death, pension funds are moulting value, savings accounts are desiccating with the currency. If we do actually leave, now or in however many years, families will be torn apart and friendships will be surrendered to geography. There's no way things can go well from here on. Britain will not suddenly turn itself into a global trading power again, because we have nothing the rest of the world wants to buy. We will not enter a golden age of heroic popular sovereignty, because the same class of grasping bloodsuckers has always ruled this miserable rock and always will. We will not reunify and soldier on together; this is a fresh laceration, and everything that happens now will only slice it open further. People didn't really vote for these things, the false good or the real bad; they voted for a No, and that's what we've got. A black hole hovering over the British Isles. Good luck.
To see all our articles about the EU Referendum, check out Europe: The Final Countdown.