Day 6

Billy Bragg says the Brexit referendum poisoned British politics

Legendary singer-songwriter Billy Bragg backed the Remain side in the referendum on Britain's future in the European Union. And he's worried the debate over Brexit has pushed his country's politics into a dangerous place.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: Billy Bragg waits to perform before the start of an anti-austerity protest. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Legendary singer-songwriter Billy Bragg was at the Glastonbury Music Festival when he got the news that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. 

The joy of the setting was enough to make the shocking news seem downright surreal.

"It feels a little bit like Schrodinger's festival," he tells host Brent Bambury. "You know, until we leave [the festival] everything seems okay. Once we leave, things will either be working or they won't be."

Billy Bragg campaigned publicly and loudly in favour of the remain side. He's upset at the result and worried about what the Brexit campaign has done to his country. 

"It's cost us the sense that we are a society that is at ease with itself," he tells Bambury. "It's cost us our security as a nation. The referendum has become a dark mirror that we've had to look in and see who we really are. And many of us have been shocked by the amount of anger out there."

A poster featuring a Brexit vote ballot on display at a book shop window. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Not Giving Up

But, in typical Billy Bragg form, he's not ready to give up, or to give in to anger.

"This [debate] seems to have given a voice to a bunch of people who have been ignored for a long time," he tells Bambury. "And we're not going to resolve that by continuing to ignore them. So we've got to find out what we can do to bring them into our political discourse."

Billy Bragg pays tribute to murdered MP Jo Cox on stage at the Glastonbury Festival. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

On this point, Billy Bragg cites British MP Jo Cox, who was murdered last week near her constituency office by a man who seemed to be motivated by the politics surrounding the Brexit vote. 

"One of the things she said that stayed with a lot of us in the last seven days is that she believed we have more in common with each other than the things that divide us. And if we are going to get to that place where we do live in a tolerant society, then we on the remain side who've lost in this campaign and are feeling bewildered and some of us angry, are going to have to listen to those words and build on that. I think that will be her legacy for us."