As of a handful of hours ago the United Kingdom is officially out of the European Union.
I don’t think anyone really knows what that means.
One thing it means is that you shouldn’t ask a large group of people a question unless you already know the answer. (cough: Mr. Cameron, please take note.)
Anyway… I’m not normally a “chat with the person next to you” sort of person on a plane. I’m more of the “we’re both stuck on this flying cigar, let’s ignore eachother and focus on getting to the other end” sort of person.
This trip was different. I ended up having a chat with the pensioners next to me. We were flying from LHR to SFO (I had a meeting in the Bay Area before heading to Seattle). From there they’d board a five week cruise to Sydney (as in Australia). She was Irish and had worked for an airline. He was British and had been a printer, working for others before ending up running his own business before he retired.
They were, as they put it, “obviously” Brexit supporters.
This put me in the position of being able to play the “I’m just a dumb American living in the UK, please explain this to me” card. You gotta play the hand you’re dealt, so…
I managed to ignore the occasional Euromyth (it was the first time someone had asserted to my face that the EU required carrots to be straight – I litterally bit my tongue to avoid laughing out loud), and focused on trying to understand the core of their position. I think it came down to four pillars.
- The EU started as a free trade organization but was increasingly encroaching on national soverignty – imposing rules over member countries far beyond free trade.
- The EU governing body was unelected and increasingly corrupt, so the UK was better out than in.
- The UK was outside the EU before and it was fine, so it would be fine again.
- Specifically, the “EU needs the UK as much as the UK needs the EU,” so the negative repercussions of leaving would be mild, if there were any at all.
We talked about Boris (he’ll be fine and was a far better choice than Corbyn who was “away with the faries”) and Trump (he’s a complete idiot and the comparison to Boris is purely superficial). We talked about the Irish border (there won’t be one, but even if there is, a country has a right to control its borders).
Through the conversation I said two things which – I like to think – gave them pause. I argued that by their description Brexit wasn’t that different from one of the large economy states in the US choosing to break away from the union. I came down on the remain side because, “teams are stronger than heroes” (thanks Zach) – we’re stronger together than we are apart.
Staying in the Union, or the EU – I argued, took sometimes uncomfortable compromise, but so did marrage. They had clearly been married for decades, and the glance they shared suggested I might have touched on something.
The other moment they seemed affected was when I said I wondered what impact Brext would have on those in the UK just making ends meet. To me, I said, it would be irritating if imported food stuffs and staples increased in price by 10-20%. Since they were about to check into a floating hotel for over a month, I figured they’d be ok too. But I wondered out loud if their (adult) children, or their grandchildren might be more affected. They had been nodding along in agreement when I mused that they’d be fine. Their nods slowed a bit at the mention of their kids and grandkids.
I concluded that maybe their kids aren’t as financially solid as grandma and grandpa are.
Guess it’s too late to worry about that now.
Hope they kept some of their pension fund aside to help their kids. ‘Cause they seemed the sort who’d look down on taking assistance from the state.