The howl of despair with which global financial markets greeted the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the European Union has nothing on the disappointment and anger of the 48 percent of British voters, many of them young, who wanted to stay.
Until the final days before the referendum, much of the coverage outside of the UK discussed the "Brexit" in economic terms. But particularly for young people in the UK, deciding whether to leave the European Union was a bigger question of national identity, with the "Leave" campaign representing a rejection of immigrants and foreigners and the "Remain" campaign representing a hopeful cosmopolitanism.
Young people told pollsters that they were heavily in favor of remaining, while their elders wanted to leave. And losing is both economically and emotionally devastating.
A quick note on the first three tragedies. Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded, and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another.
Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.
Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said, ‘The British people are sick of experts,’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has led to anything other than bigotry?
Barrett expanded on these ideas in a recent essay. But it was his single quote that went viral on Twitter, perhaps because, more than a chart of falling stock prices, it shows the impact of leaving on those who believed that Britain was better off as a part of Europe, and the way in which the country’s young voters, who overwhelmingly supported remaining, feel they will pay for the decisions of their elders.
Update: This post has been updated with Nicholas Barrett's full name, which wasn't published by the Financial Times.