Brexit, a referendum allowing voters to decide whether the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, has been garnering attention far beyond Europe in recent weeks. With the countdown to Thursday’s vote ticking away, John Oliver dedicated a portion of Sunday’s Last Week Tonight to explain why he believes the entire ordeal is ridiculous.
“A Brexit, or British exit, could have wide-ranging implications both for the U.K. and the world’s economy,” he said. Then Oliver criticized a chief Brexit supporter, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, whom he described as “a man with both the look and the economic insight of Bam Bam from The Flintstones.”
Determined to convince citizens to vote to exit the EU, Johnson has been touring the country in a red bus that reads, “We send the EU £350 million a week.” However, “that number has been thoroughly debunked,” Oliver pointed out. “It’s actually about £190 million a week when you consider a rebate the U.K. receives and other money that the EU sends back. On top of which, if Britain does leave the EU, it has to spend close to that amount just to access the common market.”
Another problem people have with the EU: its regulations on items like pillows, as seen in a pro-Brexit movie, Brexit: The Movie. But Oliver showed that the 109 laws supposedly about pillows don’t actually have much to do with pillows.
Oliver has a lot of company in the anti-Brexit camp, including President Barack Obama, China, Japan, India, and yes, the EU. Moreover, “there’s also overwhelming consensus about the damage Britain could do to its economy by leaving,” he said. “Reporting by groups like the British Treasury, the Bank of England, the IMF, the OECD, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Oxford Economics, and the Centre for Economic Performance have all predicted that leaving would have a negative effect on the British GDP.”
Meanwhile, U.K. Justice Secretary Michael Gove has said he believes people have “had enough of experts from organizations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.”
“Yes, f— these eggheads with their studies and degrees,” quipped Oliver. “I get my economic forecast from Clever Otis, the GDP-predictin’ horse.”
Then Oliver got serious again, asking, “If leaving is so universally seen as a bad idea, then who the f— is in favor of it?” His answer: the U.K. Independence Party, a right-wing group with anti-immigration views.
“UKIP argued that a Brexit would enable the U.K. to significantly reduce immigration, preventing both EU citizens from taking British jobs and non-EU citizens from sneaking in to commit terror attacks,” said Oliver. “And they have not been subtle in their campaign, with toxic posters like this one showing lines of refugees and the headline ‘Breaking Point.’ It is hard for me to overstate to you how poisonous things have become in England. Just this week, MP Jo Cox was killed in the street, and the man charged for it gave his name in court as, ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.’ And in that cauldron, people are being asked to make a major political decision.”
Oliver admitted that the EU does not make itself “easy to love,” but pleaded with viewers to consider his perspective. “Here is how I feel about the EU: it’s a complicated, bureaucratic, ambitious, overbearing, inspirational, and consistently irritating institution, and Britain would be absolutely crazy to leave it especially because, if it stays, it can reap all the benefits while still being a total dick about everything,” he said. “And that’s the British way.”
Watch Oliver’s full remarks — and the barbershop quartet he enlists to help explain it all — below.