Three weeks prior to the big bang, Michael Gove was standing on a rooftop terrace in London's East End talking about how much he likes Europe. German music, Italian food, French joie de vivre -- oh how much he loves this wonderful continent. Gove is a close friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK secretary of state for justice. He is also a leading proponent of the British campaign to leave the European Union, commonly called Brexit. "I got married in France and my in-laws live in Italy," he said. "Last year, we went to Bayreuth on vacation. Beautiful." He just couldn't stop gushing.Well, "nonetheless" democratic.
There is, though, one thing that he doesn't like about Europe -- the damned European Union. Gove describes the 28-country bloc as a "job-destroying, misery-inducing, unemployment-creating tragedy." He's been fighting for Britain to leave the EU for years and is convinced he's right. He is an ideologue. His strategic skill is one big reason why the anti-EU camp attracted more and more people in the weeks leading up to the vote.
In a room next door, Brexit activists are waiting with signs and "Vote Leave" T-shirts. It is Gove's job to motivate them for the campaign's final stretch. He straightens his tie and says that he spent a week sitting on a wooden bench listening to Wagner's operas at the Bayreuth Festival. It was complete dedication, he says, offering it as yet more proof of his love for the continent -- and then an advisor tells him it is time to take the stage.
Gove and his followers were ecstatic on Friday morning. They had achieved their goal. According to the final results, 52 percent of the British voted in favor of leaving the EU. It is an outcome that many in Europe didn't initially take seriously. Soon, however, they began to fear it and ultimately, they could do nothing to prevent it.
The Direst Worst-Case Scenario
At shortly after 4 a.m. London time, Nigel Farage, head of the euroskeptic UKIP party, was one of the first to step in front of the cameras. He said the Brexit vote was a "victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people." He also demanded Cameron's immediate resignation. At the time of his speech, only 237 of 382 local authorities had declared their results. Just a few minutes later, the pound plunged to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985.
Scotland, London and Northern Ireland all voted clearly in favor of remaining in the EU, but that wasn't enough. The results in the rest of the UK were clear, and the Brexit campaign's lead grew throughout the night. At 5:40 a.m., the BBC made its call: Brexit was reality.
The influential Labour parliamentarian Keith Vaz called the result "a catastrophe;" European Parliament President Martin Schulz said a short time later that it was "a real crisis;" BBC journalists, clearly stunned by the result, said they had never thought they would have to comment on such an outcome. The United Kingdom will become the first European country ever to leave the union.
June 23, 2016 will go down in European history as Black Thursday, a day when a country succumbed to nostalgia and a yearning for freedom instead of following reason. Against the recommendation of a majority of its parliamentarians, against the advice of economists, politicians, academics, friends and allies around the world. It is a decision marked by national egocentrism, stoked by fear and world weariness, but it is nonetheless a democratic decision...
Thanks a lot, buddy!
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