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Apocalypse not yet

The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.

Excuse my French but, oh bloody hell.

Since the results of the EU Referendum were announced in the early hours, the value of the pound has plummeted, its steepest fall ever since 1972. At 10% at one point, more than double what it fell on Black Wednesday. And all remember how bloody painful that was. Housebuilder shares and the FTSE 250 are all way, way down, even with the bounce-back they have lost around 25% of their value. I’ve got the BBC News on in the background as I write this and it’s also happening all over Europe too – the French, German and Spanish stock markets are also suffering.

This pretty much sums up what 48.9% of the population was feeling at 7am this morning. https://youtu.be/Gb4eZ7Z5yk8

This, of course, was all predictable. We knew that an exit vote would have a short-term hard impact on finances. The big question – especially now that the Prime Minister has resigned – is how long the pain will continue for. What kind of long term damage we have inflicted, not just on our economy but on the economy that our children will work in? Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England has just been on the telly saying that the Bank is prepared for this, that they will be there to support businesses and this does seem to have stabilised things a little bit.

I’ll be honest, I was in two minds for some weeks about which way I would vote. My head always told me that there was a solid economic reason for us remaining part of the EU. For the most part, my heart and my gut concurred. But just occasionally I’d think about the fact that the EU we joined in the 70s was a very different beast to the one we have just voted to leave. It has been clear for some time that it really needs a damn good shake up. But in the end, my head and my heart and my gut were all telling me the same thing – that as businesses and an economy and a nation, we were better together.

Still, so much for that. I was, it turns out, in the minority. By just how tiny a margin is quite painful, but, nevertheless, the UK has voted out. What now? Are we heading straight to hell in the proverbial hand cart or have we just been knocked off an axis that we might get back onto given time?

This isn’t the apocalypse or financial Armageddon. I still think we will be worse off as an economy out of Europe than we would have been in it, but equally, we aren’t suddenly going to see hordes of Europeans herded down to Dover by victorious Leave voters brandishing pitchforks.

How exactly we deal with the rest of the world will take years to sort out. Article 50 is the EU get–out-of-jail card (although not for free. Not at all for free) and it won’t be triggered by Cameron, he made that clear this morning in Downing Street. Article 50 will be triggered by the next Leader of the Conservative Party, whoever he or she is (And much as I like Boris for the fun factor, I think Teresa May would be a far safer pair of hands). After that we will have a two year extraction plan. It won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty.

However, on the grounds that I am generally an optimistic person, I’d like to think that maybe the jitters we have seen today are just that, short-term adjustments to political uncertainty. I’m a Remainer, but now that so many people turn out to have had a different opinion to me I believe we have to gird our loins and get on with it. As a journalist with a weekly and monthly column to fill, I’m always going to find something to slag off about those we have out in charge, that’s a given.

We’re going out and we now have a fantastic opportunity to make this work. We have to make it work or 51.9% of us will have let the rhetoric of the right persuade us to sell our children’s future down the Seine.

It doesn’t matter whether you wanted In or Out. We got Out. Now let’s make it work. So much of this Leave vote was, in effect, a leap of faith. Let’s work our tails off to ensure that it wasn’t a leap into the abyss.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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