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Anarchy in the UK: Talking Brexit at Brit’s

 “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Johnny Rotten famously snarled at the end of the Sex Pistols’ last concert, and a similar sentiment was the chaotic refrain all across the United Kingdom Friday as England woke up to the results of the so-called Brexit vote. 

England’s move to leave the European Union sent shockwaves across the world, and in Minneapolis at Brit’s Pub Saturday morning, sports fans gathered to watch the Wales-vs.-Northern Ireland soccer match and the England-vs.-Australia rugby match, and to discuss the ramifications of what British writer Laurie Penny called “a referendum on the modern world.” In words and pictures:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Simon Calder. “I was born in Reading, a little bit south of London, and I moved to Minneapolis in 2011. All of the British people I’ve been communicating with today and last night are overwhelmingly ashamed and disgusted to be represented by the victory speech of [UK Independence Party head] Nigel Farage talking about ‘decency’ and declaring [Friday] ‘Independence Day’ for the United Kingdom. Obviously there’s a parallel with Trump over here, and losing sight of what ‘greatness’ means and what it means to be great, as in ‘Great’ Britain and [Trump’s campaign slogan] ‘Make America Great Again,’ is very disconcerting. There might be good reasons to leave the EU, but I was in England last month and there was a lot of xenophobia and I feel that so many of those [‘leave’] votes were driven by that. 

Almost 60 percent of people in London voted to remain, and I was just there a few weeks ago and it’s one of the most wonderfully multicultural places in the world.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Tony Mayhew. “I’m from Oxford originally; I’ve been stateside for 27 years. I was back three weeks ago, just before the vote. There was a lot of chatter about it in the pubs and in the homes where I was. I’m from the southeast, where they’ve benefited a lot from Europe, and I was really surprised on how the vote turned out. Usually the large cities and the southeast vote pro-conservative or pro-Europe, and that wasn’t the case. I would’ve voted ‘remain,’ because I think there’s a lot more benefits of being in Europe than not. They live in a bubble in the southeast, very affluent, yet all of ’em voted to exit. I think what really swung it was that the southeast has really gotten the brunt of the immigrant stuff. Typically they would’ve voted pro-Europe, but I think that tipped a lot of communities in an ‘exit’ slant.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Barbara Melvin. “I’m from London. We’re visiting, we’ve been here almost a week. We did a postal vote before we left, we voted ‘remain.’ We’re shocked, absolutely shocked. A lot of people voted on the fear of immigration, which is quite sad, actually. I think that the news media put fear into people, but these people are coming here to live, and work, and some are only fleeing their countries because they’re in a war zone, and eventually, when peace comes, they go back. So I think that part of it they got wrong. We’ve been in the European market since the ‘60s or ‘70s, and now we have no idea what is going to happen. All we’re seeing is the pound is down and the stock markets are down, and we go back the 11th of July, and we’re disappointed and shocked.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Gary Mainor. “I’m from Eden Prairie, I work for a British company, and I studied at the University of Bristol. I love the UK. For me, this vote to leave is sort of a seminal moment. My parents were both in World War II. My generation is really the product of coming out of that war. We were born at the end of that war, and the EU was created, essentially, when we were kids, and that led to what I would describe as the Pax Romana of our times. 

In other words, peace for a long period of time. And now I think it’s tragic, with people looking backwards, and it’s not unlike our current politics in the United States, because we’ve got a lot of people looking backwards here, too, and you can’t move forward in the world looking backwards. You have to look at and deal with what’s going on in the future. So for me, the defining moment at my birth is the end of World War II and the creation of the European Union and now, toward the end of my lifetime, us going another way.”  

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Robert Morrison. “I’m British; I was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and I’ve lived in the United States since 2000. I’m an American citizen. We only came back from Ireland on Thursday, so we were there for the final phases of the campaign. I confidently believed that the ‘remain’ side would win, and I can’t believe that they voted to leave. I was personally in favor of them remaining, and now I think we’ve entered into a world of a huge number of unknowns and a huge number of unintended consequences. For example, what’s going to happen to Northern Ireland? Are they going to reintroduce a border with customs control and so on? That would be a disaster, and all sorts of other things. I think it’s a big, big mistake. I don’t know what people were thinking. Hugely disappointed.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sarah Spencer and Ryan Collins. “I live in Minneapolis, I studied abroad in England my junior year when I was at St. Olaf College,” said Spencer. “I was just there last week. I spend a lot of time there. I flew back on Sunday, and I talked to a very good friend of mine from there for over an hour this morning, and he’s directly impacted by it. His wife is Polish, and he has a building business in London that employs a lot of Polish workers, and all his contracts are on hold right now until they figure out what’s going on. His daughter is applying for medical school, and her selection and her ability to go to which school she wants to go to in the UK may be impacted if Scotland stays. So that’s just one story, one family, one hour.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Brian Copps. “I live in St. Paul. I’ve lived in London, Cambridgeshire, and Dunstable, and studied there with St. Thomas University. I lived there for two years and experienced all walks of life: the London life, the village life, and the town life. The one thing that blew me away is that as kind and friendly as I was received in the UK, there was a lot of racism, especially towards the Indians and the Pakistanis who had come over after the Second World War. It was really unsettling. With some of my very good [non-white] friends, I would be in situations and it was very uncomfortable, so when I saw the vote I wasn’t surprised by it, to be honest. To generalize, my London friends who are maybe more educated and well-traveled, they want to stay in Europe. And my blue-collar friends in the little village, great people, are more nationalistic. And the nationalism and racism that I saw in the UK and England is very prevalent. If you call anyone from England or Scotland a European, it’s an insult, whereas all the other countries are completely comfortable being called European.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Dominic O’Connor. “I’m from Accrington, which is near Lancashire, about 45 minutes from Manchester. I live here now. I’m not a big fan of politics in general, and I’m not a big fan of David Cameron, and I was a bit skeptical of the vote. I was surprised, because we’ve been in the EU for a long time. There’s positives and there’s negatives, and it’s dividing the country. It seems like the people who voted to leave are older, and the younger people voted to stay. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it means something. 

A lot of the media outlets in England kind of whip up people into a frenzy with fear-mongering tactics, like ‘these immigrants are going to take over our country’ and some people aren’t educated enough to do research. I think it happens in this country a lot, too.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Shane Higgins. “I’m general manager here at Brit’s. I’ve been here for 15 years. I’m from Burnley, England, which is about 30 miles east of Manchester. I was hoping the ‘remain’ would win, and I think the ‘leave’ is a bit of a protest vote against the authorities and the establishment and a lot of it is based on a fear of immigration, which the ‘leave’ campaign just stoked. I’m disappointed. I think the UK should be in the middle of Europe, helping to dictate what’s happening rather than be out of it, on the fringes. The freedom of movement is going to be taken away to a degree, too. You could travel and work in the 27 countries, and now I presume you’ll have to have a visa.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/27/2016 - 09:46 am.

    Why do people

    fear and resent their own freedom? Oh, they’re Brits. Never mind.

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 06/27/2016 - 10:07 am.


      What you regard as freedom some regard as anarchy. Europe was always a great place to visit because of the multiculturalism, There are areas in the US I boycott because of their version of Freedom- Texas, Florida and Alabama come to mind. Their version of freedom is called racism in my book.,

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 06/27/2016 - 10:24 am.

    The idea that a countries people want to distance themselves

    from a system that has failed them should not come as a surprise. The “safety in numbers” group think of some parties steal your individual rights. In the 60’s we challenged the idea that the Government was honest and looking out for us, the individual. In the 60’s we were described as liberal, hippie democrats… now when you challenge Govt and question whether they are looking out for the us over them (elites elected to office) and the individual you are a right wing nut job…. Group think causes many problems. I for one am interested in how the UK does without the weight of other countries holding them down…

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 06/27/2016 - 10:56 am.

      Not sure …..

      What will happen but I sure wish them the best. In many ways this makes the UK even more depending on the United States than they are currently.

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 06/27/2016 - 11:11 am.

    They gave peace a chance then blinked

    A couple years ago the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The prize recognized half a century of economic and political institutions having peaceful influences upon Europe and the world, in no small part due to Britain’s membership. Voters who decided it was no longer worth it appear to take peace for granted. They forgot that strident nationalism messed up their beloved kingdom and the world big-time recently enough for their reigning queen to remember it clearly.

  4. Submitted by kevin terrell on 06/27/2016 - 12:23 pm.

    A few thoughts

    First, there’s perhaps a bit of selection bias in your sample, as it’s not surprisingly almost all people who benefit from globalization, whether personally or professionally (which is certainly the case for me on both counts).

    Secondly, I find remarkable the notion, expressed here and elsewhere, that the EU is the prime mover behind the relative peace we have seen in Europe since the end of WWII. An alternate explanation might be that this period has in large part been due to the global military and economic dominance of the US, and its stand against communism/ for capitalism and individual liberty. For instance, as a good German friend of mine said in what was then West Germany, “There wouldn’t be a West Germany if it weren’t for the US.” Mr Obama seems to disagree.

    Finally, free trade and the relative free movement of people is not predicated upon a political union run by a group of ever-distant bureaucrats in Brussels dictating local life across the continent and in the shires of England. Sure, there will be disruption and everyone will need to come up with new solutions, but the sky is not falling due to this vote.

    Some light touch version of the EEC, without the unaccountable and distant rule of everyday life, might be a good place to start the new discussion.

  5. Submitted by Mike Downing on 06/27/2016 - 12:48 pm.

    This is a vote against political elites & unelected bureaucrats

    This is a vote against political elites & unelected bureaucrats; it is the opposite of anarchy.

    There is a parallel with the political elites and unelected bureaucrats in D.C. who are out of touch with the common folks in “fly over” territory.

    • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/27/2016 - 07:52 pm.

      The question yet to be answered is whether GB has chosen a path to the summit or a path to the pit. The near-term bump in the road is neither.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/28/2016 - 08:24 am.

      No – look at the age breakdown of the vote

      Old (over 55) white voters managed to outvote the young voters (esp the millenials) by 2% and force young voters to take care of them in retirement. Add some racist overtones too for the old voters, especially from areas outside of London. Smart young workers should move out asap. A uk of England and Wales is not a economic power. More importantly, not a dime for more aid to the uk from the US

  6. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 06/28/2016 - 06:44 am.


    I agree with Mr. Terrell’s first paragraph in which he says that the people with whom the author spoke largely benefit from globalization.
    European news sites state that xenophobia is only part of the reason for the vote to exit the EEU. Many people in England have lost jobs to globalization, much as in the USA, and feel that the leaders in Brussels have little or no interest in their economic well being. Several columnists feel that the leaders should critically look at themselves, rather than blaming the voters. Also, it is the opinion of some that Cameron will go down as one of the worst leaders in their history, perhaps in the same category as Neville Chamberlain.

  7. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/28/2016 - 12:14 pm.

    Bureaucrats are…

    The big winners in this deal:

    Negotiate new trade treaties
    Monitor and enforce those treaties
    Negotiate and set new immigration rules
    Enforce those immigration rules
    Negotiate and set visitor rules and border security
    Enforce border security rules

    All to fix a problem of perception, ginned up by politicians who saw an opportunity to gain the spotlight through scaring people and convincing them the solution to an us vs. them problem is to ban them.

    Look at a primary leave proponent, Boris Johnson, who now is back pedaling furiously, spinning that their will always be a lasting relationship with the rest of the EU.

    Trump supporters take note: This is an exact predictor of what would happen under President Trump:

    We really don’t need that wall after all.
    Ban Muslims? I meant only Muslim terrorists.

    And all the LEAVE vote did was knock 5% off all of our US 401ks.

    Just think what Trump could beat that by…

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/01/2016 - 09:34 am.

      Not Hardly

      “And all the LEAVE vote did was knock 5% off all of our US 401ks.”

      Indeed—for all of two days of speculator adjustment in a significantly over-bought market, and right back up this week.

      This is not about U.S.

  8. Submitted by Stephen Hall on 07/30/2016 - 12:15 pm.


    Great photos Jim! Will have to go to Brits next time in Mpls.

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