The Englander, 31 January 2100
In this, the last week of the 21st century, we continue our series in which centenarians sum up for us their most vivid memories of turning points in the past century. Today, we hear from Tim Smith, aged 103, who recalls the events of 24 June 2016.
‘Even at my age I remember it well, though I was only a youngster then. The greatest turning-point of this ending century came for our country on 24 June 2016. There were masses of people celebrating in London, well over a million, they say, and of course millions of others in every town, city and village across the country. Everywhere we had Freedom parades and Victory meals – that’s what they were called. I was with the group on Freedom Square (in those days it was called Trafalgar Square), which we filled as well as all the streets around it.
One group there had a whole lot of European Union flags, some said they had been stolen from the offices of the Mayor of London, others said that the Mayor had personally donated them, and these were being burned. Huge cheers went up, as each one was burned. Then they burned effigies of various politicians, one of the old Prime Minister – sorry I’ve forgotten his name but I know it was Scottish – another of the German leader, a woman, though I can’t remember her name now either. It was all filmed, some of the footage must have survived. We were chanting ‘Freedom, Freedom’ and ‘Down with Tyranny’, until we were hoarse. That’s how 24 June came to be a national holiday in England.
Of course, lots of political changes followed, a new Prime Minister, a new political system, new alliances. I mean, think about it: the European Union, as it was called then, collapsed a few years afterwards. Now some say it would have happened anyway, but even if that’s true, the decision of what was then called the ‘United Kingdom’ – doesn’t that sound so old-fashioned! – to leave certainly hastened the end. Then Scotland became independent, a few years after that Ireland was reunited and Wales left in the 2030s. That’s how England got her independence back. But there were lots of other changes, I mean who could have predicted the break-up of what was then still called the United States of America?
The arguments that won? Well, of course there were some nationalists who said ‘we want our country back’. They were mainly poorer people, not very well-educated, unemployed and so on. Then there were the people who had principles, who just wanted freedom from Establishment tyranny – they were calling on Alfred the Great and other figures from history. They were called the ‘Anti-Normans’. Then there were right-wingers called ‘sovereignists’ and left-wingers called ‘anti-globalists’, but they were a mixture of left and right, as it used to be called. But that was far from the majority. Most people who voted for freedom said that we should continue as a global country and not be locked into a customs union in a little corner of Europe. They were internationalists – I was one of them – we wanted more trade with China, India, Russia and so on. They said staying in the Union would mean suffocation.
The people who did not want to leave were generally rich, in those days, they were what was known as ‘Establishment people’, people in Big Business and organizations that have long since disappeared like ‘The Church of England’ and the ‘BBC’, if you’ve heard of them – they were people who had second homes in Italy and France, that type. They used scare tactics, told everyone we would be dirt poor if we voted for freedom and left.
Then there were the Americans; in those days they controlled everything. They were furious with the vote for freedom and tried to make out the vote had been corrupted. They had various organizations under their colonial control, one was called NATO, another one called the IMF and another one called the World Bank. They’re all dead and buried now. Anyway, from that day on, 24th June, everything changed. I’ve told my great-great grandchildren about it – of course they can’t believe it!
The main thing is in those days a lot of people were very pessimistic, they used to say, if we go on like this, the world will end soon. Well, I’m going to be 104 next year and the world is still here and so am I!’