Brendan O’Neill

The deranged rage against the Brexit 50p coin

The deranged rage against the Brexit 50p coin
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Remoaners are having the mother of all meltdowns. What’s rankled them this time? The Brexit 50p, of course. Yes, they’re now raging against a coin. I’m genuinely starting to worry about these people.

To clarify, I’m not talking about Remain voters. There were 16.1m of those and the vast majority of them are perfectly normal people who understand how democracy works. They aren’t having sleepless nights about the new 50p, released to mark the UK's departure from the EU.

No, I mean hardcore Remainers, the FBPE people, the folks who think Brexit is literally the worst thing that’s ever happened to Blightly. I mean the kind of people who think that after Friday – Brexit Day – the UK will become a Cormac McCarthy-style dystopia bereft of Camambert but awash with chlorinated chicken from the Great Satan that is America. It’s those people who have gone doolally over a coin. Of course it is.

No sooner had Sajid Javid unveiled the rather pretty new 50p than the Brexitphobes were having public emotional meltdowns. ‘I am never using or accepting this coin’, declared Lord Adonis, conjuring up a hilarious image of the peer turning his nose up at bemused cashiers just trying to hand him his change.

‘This coin is not legal tender to me’, declared one of Adonis’s online followers, rather summing up the blind arrogance of the Remoaner set. I guess it follows that if you think you have the right to overthrow the largest democratic vote in UK history, you’ll also think you can decree what is and isn’t money.

Alastair Campbell also won’t be touching the new 50p. Instead he’ll ask shopkeepers for ‘two 20p pieces and a 10’. These people seem to view a commemorative coin as positively toxic, liable to pollute their souls should their decent, delicate hands ever come into contact with it.

Professor Tanja Bueltmann, founder of the EU Citizens' Champion campaign, invests the coin with the power to rip society apart. The coin is ‘pure populism’, she says. It will ‘divide [us] further’. Others have vowed to remove the coin from circulation, or write 'I love EU' on it with permanent marker.

There’s a medieval streak to this deranged fear of an inanimate object. Some see the coin almost as the embodiment of evil, hence they fear it and dread it and promise not to touch it. And they say Brexiteers are simple-minded folk!

Then there’s writer Philip Pullman. He’s calling for a boycott of the coin because, get this, it is ‘illiterate’. It’s missing an Oxford comma, apparently. The coin says ‘Peace, Prosperity and Friendship with all nations’, and Pullman, being so much clever than everyone else, especially Brexit oiks, reckons there should be a comma after ‘prosperity’. The coin should be ‘boycotted by all literate people’, he says. And there we have it. The real driving force behind the surreal coinphobia that has seized the Remoaner lobby. Once again, this is all about demonstrating intellectual and moral superiority. It’s about making a big, fat advertisement of how much more grammatically clued-up and morally virtuous you are than the dim hordes who will be exchanging these evil coins for bag of crisps and other fare without giving a second thought to the fact that this foul unit of currency is literally dividing our society.

The self-congratulatory sniffiness about the coin’s absent Oxford comma sums up hardcore Remainerism. Often being a Remainer isn’t really about being pro-EU (I didn't see many people waving the EU flag or banging on about the brilliance of Brussels before the vote for Brexit). No, it is about distinguishing yourself from the masses – from the kind of people who read tabloid newspapers, like Nigel Farage, voted for Boris, and think that the laws British people are expected to live by should be made in, you know, Britain.

Remainerism is not a political ideology so much as a cultural identity. It is a mechanism for moral distinction. It is a means of distancing oneself from the problematic little people and from populism — which, as the Oxford English Dictionary reminds us, merely means ‘policies or principles… which seek to represent the interests of ordinary people’. Well, we can’t have that, can we?

This is what lies behind the mad 50p meltdown. They sneer at this coin, and promise not to handle it, and mock its alleged grammatical shortcomings, all as part of their need to show that they are wiser and better than us.

This could be the last hurrah of the Remainer identity of moral and intellectual distinction. Indeed, this might be why so many people sound so unhinged right now — they’re no doubt deeply worried about how they will continue to lord it over the rest of us after Friday, when our leaving of the EU finally renders this identity null and void. Screaming at a 50p coin and throwing it in the bin — it’s a rather fitting and suitably tragi-comic image of what has become of Remainer elitism.

Written byBrendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked and a columnist for The Australian and The Big Issue.

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