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More About Brexit

I promised you all I would write in greater detail about Brexit last month, so here it is. One month after the referendum, The Guardian published an article talking about the impact Brexit had on the economy. Now, The Guardian is an anti-Brexit newspaper, so pretty much any discussion they put out there is going to spell doom and gloom for the future of Britain. However, that being said, the article in question does present some graphs and evidence; a refreshing anomaly compared to the usual patronising rhetoric. So it’s up to me to have a look and see what the graphs actually say, because their analysis (before I even read it) is probably going to be all-sorts-of lopsided. What can I say, I’m terribly prejudiced — I live and breathe stereotypes.

Okay so: here we go.

Oh wait — here’s a link to the article so you can read it for yourself and follow my analysis.

Before even getting to the graphs, the first paragraph sets off alarm bells in my overly-critical mind. The second sentence is this:

‘What is clear is that the decision to leave the union will have far-reaching consequences for all areas of British society and the economy for years to come.’

Now hold on a second there buster: you haven’t shown your readers the evidence just yet and already you’re plunging into melodrama. If I was an insightful genius, I might just think you’re trying to persuade your readers that voting ‘Leave’ means some sort of economic apocalypse; thankfully, I’m really dumb and believe everything I read.

Seriously though, one paragraph in and my skeptic-o-meter is detecting ions of bullshit. Whoa, whoa, whoa, give it a chance, my sensitive voice says — don’t judge an article by its words.

The next chunk is introduced using fancy bold font and titled ‘What we know so far’. Alright: that sounds sensible enough.

Now what comes next baffles me; not in the sense that I don’t understand what it means, but in the sense that it has little to no quantifiable meaning to the average reader. The FTSE dipped. In normal-person-language this means: the stock market went down. So what? Stock markets rise and fall all the time depending on the direction of the wind. What stands out to me, actually, is the writer’s choice of the word ‘dipped’. This suggests that it went down a little bit or they would’ve picked a more dramatic word like ‘plummeted’.

Alright: so hear me out. Anyone can type ‘FTSE 100’ into Google, right? I type it in. The very first bit shows a graph that’s all wiggly: going up and down, here there and everywhere. The graph is the FTSE index. You can look at it over a day, five days; even five years. All the graphs are wiggly and all over the place: up and down, left, right, round in circles — you name it. As a complete moron when it comes to economics and stock markets, even I can see one very important thing: it’s absolutely bonkers. It is highly unpredictable and can fluctuate within a matter of hours. It looks like your heart rate on the machine when you’re in the hospital — well, sort of.

So, The Guardian notes a ‘dip’ in the FTSE 100 after Brexit. Call me crazy, but based on this vague and dispassionate description I don’t think anyone needs to emigrate just yet.

The next graph is of the FTSE 250 over the last twelve months. Look at it. It goes down for like, what: two days? Then it goes up again and looks pretty normal; not at its highest over the past year, but nowhere near the lowest point either. Aside from the voting day, the lowest point is in February. Now, if I was writing an article about this graph my analysis would be much more optimistic than The Guardian’s version which talks about how it ‘has not recovered as strongly as the FTSE 200 from losses the morning after the referendum.’ Once again, graphs are wonderful things, but the analysis which precedes or follows is the illuminating bit. Why, you ask? The answer will blow your mind:

The analysis of evidence is what betrays bias.

And so the decision to present the stock market patterns as something to be concerned about betrays the bias of the writer. They chose to frame their analysis as proof that leaving the EU is destroying the economy then add a little after-thought about how it actually looks similar to last year. A different source more supportive of Brexit would frame it in a much more optimistic way: they might say how yes, it did drop momentarily; but now it’s back to normal. And so, as you can see, we have to be careful how we approach articles which present evidence in order to trick you into viewing the analysis as objective.

At the end of the day, you’re better off ignoring the media entirely and conducting your own research. The economy in Britain has not suffered to any great extent after leaving the EU. Lots of newspapers are bringing out stories about how you’ll need more spending money on your holiday — as if that’s a big emergency. Let’s put it into perspective, people: if you have the money to go on holiday in the first place, you’re doing well.

This post intended to look at recruitment patterns following Brexit but somehow I went off track. Next month will be all about jobs and the workplace — I promise. Sort of.

I sincerely hope no one is out there panicking about the end of the world or anything like that. It isn’t happening any time soon — or, if it does, it will have nothing to do with Britain’s choice to leave the EU. 

by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)