Tweets on the Referendum
On 23 June 2016 the majority of the British people voted for Brexit, the withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU. A slight majority of 51.9 per cent opted against remaining. The world’s reaction ranged from consternation to approval. Here a compilation of Twitter messages.
Even before the vote, the German artist and Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, who lives in London and Berlin, started a postcard campaign in which he agitated for remaining in the EU. Many British artists and actors, including Sherlock Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Craig, known for his role as James Bond, did the same or supported Tillmans.
Among the prominent advocates of Brexit were Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, the actress Elizabeth Hurley and the British comedian and co-founder of the comedian group Monty Python, John Cleese, who, disappointed in the EU, voted for Brexit.
The blog netzpolitik.org, which has been accused of treason by the Federal Attorney General of Germany, was also able to find something positive in Brexit in view of Great Britain’s monitoring system.
The whistle-blower Edward Snowden saw this differently. Shortly before the final result, he pointed to how manipulable a population is – presumably an allusion to the effective campaign of the pro-Brexit populists.
On June 24 news of the result spread rapidly in the social networks. Many reacted with shock. For instance, Harry Potter author Joanne K. Rowling, who, overtaken by reality, wished for magic.
The ARD journalist Ingo Zamperoni also expressed his dismay at Brexit.
The satirist Jan Böhmermann of ZDF’s Neo Magazin Royale made an ironic allusion to the paradox of nationalism in the EU.
The internet portal “Network against Nazis” of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation drew attention to the consequences of the Brexit decision. Growing nationalism and populism, it warned, could aid right-wingers, who have been gaining strength not only in Great Britain.
The Foreign Office showed a sense of humour and confessed to needing a drink in an Irish pub after the shock. Ireland already broke with the United Kingdom in 1920 and has its own independent representation in the EU. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, does not. There the majority opposed Brexit. The Queen refrained from saying anything officially about the result, but travelled to Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Scotland wants to remain in the EU. The Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon is campaigning for a new independence referendum.
The Deutsche Welle cites possible consequences for cultural workers and artists: the loss of the British music and film industry for the European market, a more difficult lending policy amongst museums, lack of EU funding for theatre and the future of the Erasmus scholarships for university students. A greater cultural backlash, says the DW cultural editor Stefan Dege, couldn’t be imagined.
Many people regretted the result and tweeted under hashtags such as #Bregret, #Bremain und #Breturn for a revision of the vote. Others didn’t know what they were doing and googled only after the referendum “Brexit” and the question: “What happens if we leave the EU?”
One Twitter user researched further and pointed out a cultural parallel, the “Brexit” of 1912. Great Britain withdrew from the Brussels Sugar Convention of 1902, which had adopted the duty free export of sugar.
The majority of people living in the capital city of London is now positioning itself against Brexit. The comedian Harald Schmidt thinks this reaction absurd and tweeted cynically:
Two days after the referendum, David Lammy, Labour MP, saw a chance to revise the Brexit vote. Parliament could still decide against Brexit because the referendum is not binding.
In an online petition more than three million people are demanding a new #Brexit referendum. Doubts have arisen about the petition, however, because even non-British people can sign it. The result therefore reflects a democratic representation in only a very qualified way. In the actual referendum, only 36 per cent of the 18 to 24-year-olds turned out to vote. By contrast, voting participation for those over 65 years of age was about 83 per cent, according to a statistic of Sky Data.
For many young people the vote is a disaster. Before it, they could study, work and live anywhere in Europe. This could change with Brexit. After the two World Wars the idea of a European unification came to maturity, a unification that would make boundaries obsolete and bring peace. One of its founding fathers , the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said in 1946, in his famous speech at the University of Zurich: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe”. Referring to this, the journalist Sultan Al Qassemi wrote:
For some people Brexit is a “wake-up call” for a new Europe. Olaf Zimmermann of the German Cultural Council sees the EU as co-responsible for Brexit and speaks of its lack of transparency on specific issues.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Aman Khan, defended the diversity of his city and sent a message against isolation. Even when Great Britain was still in the EU it opposed the influx of refugees and immigrants and asserted special rules in order to refuse citizens of other EU countries social benefits. Brexit will make building a life in England significantly more difficult for immigrants and refugees.
Pope Francis, who has been one of the critics of EU refugee policy, also expressed his views on Brexit: “For me, unity always stands above conflict, but there are different forms of unity. Fraternity is better than distance. And bridges are better than walls.”
The journalist Hasnain Kazim sees a gaping contradiction in Great Britain, the former colonial power, and the country’s present fear of foreign infiltration.
The independent British publisher IndieBooks wants to continue to offer books across borders and thinks that limits should not be set on the imagination.
The British Council in Germany published a list of statements by cultural workers from various countries. Among them are the Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut, Johannes Ebert, and the Turkish writer Elif Shafak, who lives in London and Istanbul.