Opinion: The media can drone on about ‘Brexit.’ It’s Britain’s pubs where the true debate is carried out

English pub
A customer talks politics in Chequers pub in Chipping Norton, England.
(Bridget Jones / Assoicated Press)

The Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman could have been referring to “Brexit”-bemused London when he famously wrote that “nobody knows anything."  

Not only is Britain now bitterly divided after the vote to leave the European Union but the Conservative Party is split into factions following the announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron of his resignation while the Labor Party is still headed (at the time of writing) by Jeremy Corbyn, who is so unpopular that scores of frontbenchers have quit in recent days, leaving him with a seemingly impossible task in filling the vacancies after 172 of his members of Parliament backed a no-confidence motion in his leadership.

To further muddy the already bemired political waters Boris Johnson, whom everybody thought was the favorite to replace Cameron, has announced he will not now be running for the leadership of the Conservative Party and consequently the job of prime minister: He has been stabbed in the back by the charisma-lacking Michael Gove, who had previously been his strong supporter and is now contesting the leadership with Home Secretary Theresa May, which is ironic considering that Johnson has now received the same treatment he meted out to Cameron.  

In the north, Scotland wants to break away from Britain and remain in the EU.  


While the newspapers, radio and television are full of news, analysis and predictions, it is in the pubs where the true debate is carried out.

Adding to the chaos and confusion is the fact that some pundits who had advocated leaving the EU are now having second thoughts. Kelvin McKenzie, a columnist in Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, the Sun, who for weeks leading up to the referendum was stridently urging readers to vote “leave” is now having buyer’s remorse and has announced he was wrong, he regrets his columns and says he should instead have been in the “remain” camp.   

But as always with any crisis in Britain, while the newspapers, radio and television are full of news, analysis and predictions, it is in the pubs where the true debate is carried out and the voice of the ubiquitous man in the street is heard.  


In a pub in rainy Leadenhall Market, a lunchtime favorite with City of London businessmen, a well-dressed, clearly well-educated drinker told me he had voted “leave” to “keep the migrants out.” Someone else said he had voted “remain” because Britain needed migrant workers and Europeans working in the City of London finance houses. One said it’s all about trade deals. No, it’s the economy. Cynics believe that, the “leave” vote not withstanding, nothing will really change.  

It has been a tumultuous 10 days and while Brexit remains a contentious topic for discussion, every male in every pub is agreed on one thing —the England soccer team, which was dumped out of the European Championships on Monday after losing to lowly Iceland, is a useless bunch of overpaid, arrogant, incompetents who all should be replaced immediately.   

Finally, consensus!

John Hiscock is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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