Thoughts… on the EU Referendum

It’s been a week since Britain democratically decided to leave the EU. A week of political and economic uncertainty, a week of racially motivated abuse and, more than anything, a week of disappointment. For many, it’s been a week of genuine sadness and outrage that such an illogical decision has been taken in the name of millions of staunch Remain voters; a monumental political choice that some, including myself, find difficult to stomach.

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For me, the selection was easy: a clear X for Remain, a considered vote in favour of Britain’s place within an inclusive, welcoming Europe where freedom of movement is encouraged and diversity of culture is respected. The alternative was unthinkable: vital EU funding cut, more expensive imports, increased hassle and cost for travellers, a loss of protection for workers’ and human rights. Experts from varying fields and well-known recipients of EU funding came together to proclaim the necessity of the EU in arts, scientific and economic projects alike, and politicians persuasively argued for the potentiality of a low exchange rate and a future recession. Everything from the comparatively petty issues of European travel to the very real struggles facing people’s work, industries and livelihood seemed at risk, and I could not fathom how anyone would vote to rid Britain of the incontrovertible benefits that the EU affords us.

Of course, as news sources have so constantly iterated, the EU is not perfect. Much like any large, international institution, the EU is linked with corruption, prejudice and a lack of transparency. The EU certainly needs reformed but was leaving behind the historical message of the Union – one of peace and partnership after wartime – really the right way to achieve this? The Leave campaign peddled blatantly manipulated so-called ‘facts’ (foremost of which was the £350 million a week figure, spun out of thin air), and with figures such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson spearheading the movement, it became increasingly clear that a vote to Remain was the only chance to block the furtherance of the right-wing agenda across Britain.

It was with much sorrow that I learned last Friday that the British people had, to the exclusion of all sense and logic, voted to leave the European Union. I was in shock; although Leave was winning when I had switched off the news five hours earlier, I could not help but think that Remain would carry the day. Surely people would not respond to the Leave campaign’s message of hate, lies and bigotry? But there it was, in stark actuality: Britain would be leaving the EU.

Initial astonishment grew into seething anger and abject disappointment as the day progressed. My friends and I talked incessantly about how sincerely gutted we were by the result, to the point that I wondered if we were being needlessly melodramatic. But no: one friend is worried about her dad’s job in the shipyards; another expressed concern about her desire to progress in an industry largely funded by EU money. The pound has dropped to such a degree that my family’s upcoming holiday to Spain looks set to be substantially more costly; and acquaintances on Facebook voiced their fears about being EU immigrants in a country that had so clearly articulated their dislike of European nationals.

Because although not every Leave voter supported Brexit due to racist motives – spurious leftist reasons included – I cannot help feeling that every Leave vote furthered an anti-immigrant, pro-racist mentality that appears to be shockingly ingrained within the British mind-set. Channel 4 reporters asking Leave voters their reasons for leaving the EU were often met with one word: ‘Immigrants’. Immigrants apparently stealing jobs, immigrants seemingly lounging about on benefits. Well done, Leave voters: regardless of your intentions, you have legitimised and brought into the mainstream an intolerant, narrow-minded patriotic attitude that smacks of damaging British imperialism. Because why do we need the help of foreigners when us Brits are so innately superior?

My only consolation throughout this dispiriting week – when the Labour Party is fragmented, the Prime Minister has resigned, the pound has dropped and Scotland’s chances of an EU membership are looking increasingly unfeasible – is that the majority of people around me feel the same way. Lots of hopeful, rousing pleas to vote Remain.  Dozens of dejected or furious Facebook posts the morning after the vote. Shared rants with friends and acquaintances alike, devastated at the way in which this referendum has made our future so uncertain. 75% of 18-24 year old voters stuck with a colossal political reality that they did not choose; 62% of Scottish voters hoping for a way to navigate a separate deal with the EU. But my thoughts go out to anyone – whether English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish; old or young – who voted Remain. Let’s keep fighting.

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