I obviously agree that Brexit is un unecessary self-inflicted damage and I have also been surprised by the lack of protest by people in the UK (especially people from the large British upper-middle class whom I believe will have the most to lose from Brexit).
When I inquired about this with people in London (all with very good jobs, families, some are even (long time) immigrants from other EU countries, none of them is even remotely of the hidden-racist, nostalgic/exceptionalist, British upper class that we read so frequently about on the internet and social media), this is what they explained me and made them reluctant to protest against Brexit:
First: what we must keep in mind is that in the last 20–30 years London proved to be an Eldorado… a city where hundreds of thousands of people and families from all over Europe have been made millionaires just by flipping real-estate, with little to zero risk, just pure time-based speculation financed by super-easy-to-get mortgages. The market has been going up and up and up for decades at rates anywhere to be seen in Europe (except maybe for Central Paris).
Families who bought a three bedroom flat in London Zone 1 or 2 in the 80s could easily double the capital every 4-5 years, sell their flat, buy an identical flat in Zone-2 and have money to buy even a smaller flat in Zone-3.
Rinse and repeat: after 2000s a simple family with a clerk job could have millions in the bank and a steady inflow of cash from their tenants.
In short: London has been a godsend for all Europeans living there and these people owe everything they have (millions of pounds!) to London: for this reason, it is extremely difficult for them to imagine that things will change for the worse.
The numbers in their bank account scream way louder than any possible prediction they may hear on the street or read on The Guardian. As far as they are concerned, they cannot be bothered by Brexit and they have been repeatedly assured by the Government that almost nothing will change except that there will be less immigrants on the streets and competing for jobs at home. Why protesting then?
Second: I spoke about Brexit with a nice guy who works in Venture Capital in London. He relocated there a few years ago, got married and settled there. I obviously wanted to know his opinion about Brexit, knowing that he is sensitive to the business and political environment and that he was heavily invested (both financially and personally) into the whole British ecosystem. To my surprise, his reasoning was along the following points:
- “London was predicted to be destroyed many times in the past and look where we are now? A city of millionaires. Maseratis everywhere. Don’t believe what you hear from Bruxelles: look around, there has never been a better place to live”.
- “The weaker pound will allow UK to attract even more investments. I will work even more and gain even more money. Rich foreigners will buy even more real estate. EU countries already stopped investing here a decade ago and nothing bad happened”.
- “I just made 100k pounds profit selling the tiny flat in Victoria that I bought just 2 years ago: where is the crisis everybody is talking about? A small, 1 bedroom, flat in Maida Vale costs 1m pounds, same price of a 4 bedrooms Villa on Lake Como!”
- “London attracts investments from all over the world: Marble Arch is a Lebanese enclave. Knightsbridge is a Saudi protectorate. All Italian and Greek tax dodgers that had money to invest already came here 5 years ago: Brexit cannot change that”.
- “Europe is a bureaucratic hell and Euro is a failure”.
- “My salary is almost double what I would get in Europe. Even my wife who is an accountant here in London gets more money than what I would get in Europe. Salaries in Europe are simply too low and taxes too high”.
My impression is that when things go well (and they have been going well for decades) it is very difficult to think that the wind may change.