The New York Times Is Offering a $6,000 Brexit Apocalypse Tour of London

May 10, 2017

Finally, the mystery of why the British voted for Brexit is going to be explained. And you can be among a lucky few to hear the explanation.

For a mere $6,000, the New York Times is offering to take you to London for six days to hear a bunch of "politicians, journalists and historians" (including its own august bureau chief Steven Erlanger) and "other experts" explain how politicians, journalists, historians, and other experts all got it monumentally wrong in 2016 and, for the most part, remain largely in denial about it nearly a year later.

The 'Brexit Means Brexit' tour's own itinerary gives the best clue of what kind of learning experience the well-heeled visitors can expect: Based at the "four-star deluxe" St. Ermin's Hotel in central London, they'll be able to cover every square inch of the inside of the London bubble, the only region of England to actually vote to Remain in the EU last year, without ever actually venturing to the mythical land of Brexit.

The tour's more eye-catching features include:

  1. The notion that a "typical pub lunch" can be found close to the Houses of Parliament, the biggest tourist magnet in Europe after the Eiffel Tower (Any normal Londoner would run a mile rather than lunch in a Westminster pub. In fact, make that two miles inasmuch as the venue is "frequented by members of Parliament.")
  2. Refreshments at the top of one of London's newest skyscrapers, an excellent vantage point from which to see the effects of wage stagnation, inequality, and increasing constraints on public services caused by seven years of austerity.
  3. An in-depth discussion of Britain's defense and trade policy before "a traditional afternoon tea complete with scones and clotted cream."
  4. A guided tour of the Supreme Court, site of the fateful ruling on triggering Article 50 of the EU's Treaty—a ruling that was sidestepped by Theresa May without even breaking stride.

Admittedly, it's easy to labor the irony. A more charitable mind would see it as a themed tour of 800 years of British political history that has just adopted a fashionable buzzword to catch the eye. Nor is there anything in the materials to support suspicions that the NYT's line-up of experts will be stuffed full of hand-wringing "Remoaners." The problem, in terms of balance, is that the realm of experts has been dominated by Remainers from the start.

But Fortune can think of an itinerary that would have been just as educational, one that would have been sure to include at least some of the following highlights:

  1. Visit Sunderland in the permanently depressed post-industrial north-east of England. Sunderland voted 62%-38% to Leave despite the local economy revolving around a Nissan plant that depends largely on the EU market ("Perhaps they thought they were voting to leave Sunderland?" one typically condescending London-based wag quipped on Twitter on the night of the referendum). Nissan's respect for local sensitivities meant that it only issued muted warnings about the full effects of Brexit ahead of the vote.
  2. The Good Old Days: An afternoon jaunt to any randomly-selected care home will let you listen to retirees—who voted over 60%-40% to Leave—explain why Brexit was worth jeopardizing the standard of their own care. The answers will astonish you! (Just under 20% of all staff in care homes are migrants, accord to the NGOs Independent Age and the International Longevity Center. Over 10% of the National Health Service's 1 million-strong workforce is also foreign.) Optional extra: Ask some of the guests' younger relatives how much more they're willing to contribute to the extra cost of staffing homes with qualified locals.
  3. The 'Operation Stack' Experience: Relive the drama of the 2015 migrant crisis by sitting in a truck outside the port of Dover for 24 hours! Experience the tension as Kent County Constabulary ransack your bus and all the trucks around it for asylum-seekers or migrants who hopped on outside Calais. (A cargo of perishable goods is recommended for real authenticity.) Kent was the scene of chaotic traffic bottlenecks tailing back miles throughout the summer of 2015, jamming a vital artery for trade and tourism; the episode created the impression of a country, and an EU, that had completely lost control of its borders—an impression that greatly strengthened the Leave vote.
  4. Bordering on the Ridiculous: On the subject of borders, drop in on Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, the "bandit country" of the 'Troubles' (the preferred euphemism for a 30-year low-intensity civil war). There's been relative peace in Ulster since everyone realized that, with most of the most important laws being made in Brussels, there was precious little difference in Northern Ireland being either British or Irish. See it now, before the bullets start flying again over the right to smuggle across a newly-reintroduced hard border!
  5. Offshore Paradise: Finally, take a trip to the village of Crickhowell in east Wales, where local businesses decided in 2015 to copy Starbucks, Amazon, and Facebook and move as much of their taxable income offshore through legal tax loopholes. The ability of bigger corporations to hollow out the country's tax base by avoiding taxes that local business then have to shoulder alone has been a prime example of how globalization has "left behind" many communities.
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