I’ve been debating writing this post since the results of the EU Referendum came out yesterday and while I rarely write on politics I feel like I need to get this out today. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on the situation but here is my personal response to Brexit.
Regardless of the way that you voted, I think we can all agree that this referendum was about far more than politics right from the beginning and that in its end, it has successfully divided a nation, left friends arguing and it has thrown our future up into an air of uncertainty.
It does sadden me that Brexit was the end result of the referendum and I am allowed to be sad about that. It also scares me that some people have come forward admitting that they didn’t think their vote would count, that they thought we were voting out of the United Kingdom, that they believed that leaving the EU would stop Muslims from entering the country and that the day after the result was announced, “What is the EU?” became the second top UK question on Google. It really, really scares me that people like that influenced the outcome of this vote. It is crazy to think of how monumental this decision is and how some people who voted were completely unaware of the outcome that their vote could invoke.
Equally, in the run up to Thursday 23rd June I was told too many times to count that I was too young to understand what I was voting for, all because people didn’t agree with the fact that I was voting IN. Despite the fact that neither of my parents are old enough to remember life before Britain first joined the EU, I was told that I couldn’t possibly understand the implications of my vote, even though I spent hours heavily researching my decision beforehand. And this is just one way in which this campaign became too personal. This vote pitched the old against the young. The rich against the poor. Nationalities against nationalities. It has created deep divisions that are going to take a lengthy period of time to heal.
The result isn’t what I am most upset about though, what has brought me close to tears in the run up and in the sudden aftermath of Brexit is the distinct divide that has been driven through the country. I’m in no way claiming that everyone who voted leave is racist, I know many people who voted leave for well educated, completely well justified reasons but unfortunately a heavy portion have also come forward on the news, in the papers, on tv and on social media demonstrating what can only be described as having racist beliefs. It is terrifying that in the 21st century people still think this way and that, whether it was intentional or not, the vote to leave has undoubtedly fueled the minority of voters who endorse this way of thinking. The future is even more uncertain today than it was a few days ago because now people seem to think that their vote has given them the right to hurl abuse at people in the streets, to take to social media to insult people and to throw around a whole array of disgustingly abusive and racist remarks. When people are shouting at EU nationals in the street, when school children are being taunted in the playground for not being British and when it is being announced that now that the borders are supposedly closed those who are not British born need to go home, it is clear that there is a problem that has nothing to do with the country’s membership of the EU. The question of immigration unarguably played a huge factor in the debate and unfortunately the campaign seems to have unearthed old, somewhat outdated grudges that now have to be addressed.
I am not ashamed to be British right now because we voted out of the EU as that, unfortunately, is the result of living in a democracy and now we have to deal with that outcome in the best way we can. I am however ashamed to be British because of the number of people who have proven that they are still very backward in thinking, who have disgusted me in their behaviour to their neighbours, to their friends and family members. I am ashamed that Nigel Farage seemed to attempt to brush the death of Jo Cox under the carpet when he claimed that the campaign had been won without a single bullet being fired, just one week after she was shot dead for standing up for what she believed in. I am ashamed that the country now stands very much divided, that we have not been able to accept the result and unite as we head into the uncertain future. I am ashamed that the day of the result was referred to as a “British Independence Day” despite the fact that this was a gross insult to countries who have actually experienced the feeling of freedom after years of being heavily controlled by others. And I am very ashamed that many of the remain voters have now essentially thrown their toys out of the pram by launching a petition for a second referendum, purely because they didn’t get the result that they wanted. That isn’t how democracy works and while I am gutted by the result, I will not be signing the petition. I value the right that every British national has to vote and I didn’t get the result that I wanted but today is a new day, as is tomorrow and the day after that so, from here on in we need to pick our sorry selves up and show the world that we really are Great Britain, that we are united and that we will not tear apart our neighbours judged on the place in the world that they were born, by the colour of their skin or by the way that they voted.
This campaign has been messy, emotional and personal right from the start. It has brought the worst out in this country in every way imaginable and unfortunately a referendum which had aims to make Britain ‘great’ again has been what has separated us. But now is the time to push our feelings to one side, apologise to those we have insulted, accept the fact that the decision has been made and work together as we begin to wade through the uncertainty of the next few weeks, months or years.
Today is the day to put everyone at ease, to reassure the EU nationals living here that they are safe and do not need to be scared to walk down the street in their own home, because in or out of the EU, this is their home. Now is not the day to hurl abuse at people who are celebrating or reeling from the result because everyone has the right to be happy or upset by the outcome. Now is not the day to worry about who voted for what or about the scaremongering that fueled both Brexit and Bremain from the beginning. Today is the day that we look into the future, the future that over half of the country voted for and the future that, whether we like it or not, is going to become a reality.
And while it is understandable that we are all scared, all we can do right now is put one foot in front of the other, trust that those in charge will elect an open minded leader who can pull us through this chaos and simply believe that we will emerge on the other side into a stable community.