Lessons from Brexit

Mainly Macro:

Even if at some late hour Brexit does not happen for some reason, we will still have seen the country vote for and parliament approve a measure which inflicts substantial harm on its citizens. Anyone who still thinks otherwise should go through this Demos report on the opportunities and risks that Brexit creates, and ask whether the ‘opportunities’ are in fact things that we could have done anyway. Yes Brexit may force us to train more doctors etc etc. The disadvantages of doing it after Brexit is that the government will be more strapped for cash. [1]
In truth there are precious few opportunities that Brexit will bring, and an awful lot of costs. Those of us of a certain age have got used to losing votes of one kind or another, but in the past you could generally point to some group or class that gained from our loss. What has happened over the last few years has been something quite different: a democracy voting for things that will make almost all of the people worse off, to satisfy the interests or ideology of a minuscule minority. [2] The lessons we should draw from Brexit involve understanding clearly how this could have happened so to ensure it never happens again.
The referendum result went the way it did because of a perfect storm of two groups who had become disenchanted with the way society was going, or the way it had treated them. The first group, often forgotten by the left, were social conservatives who could be quite well off but who had probably not been to university. The kind of people who would react to claims that the Conservatives under Cameron were moving to the right by shouting ‘Nonsense. What about gay marriage’. The second group, the ‘left behind’, were the working class in once proud industrial areas that had declined steadily for decades. They were people who said before the referendum: ‘well it cannot get any worse, can it’.
The first group, because they were social conservatives, were naturally fearful of social change like immigration, although they were likely to live in areas that had seen little of it. The second group were more dependent on the state, and saw in the last few years their access to social provision steadily decline. Yet until recently neither group would have cared much about the EU either way, and certainly would not have been prepared to pay good money to leave it.