I questioned whether to write this blog, or whether to just turn off my laptop and hibernate. I’m not a political nor economic expert and I’m not pretending to be. But I am a writer. I write about things that affect me, whether that’s something I experience personally, or something which happens in the world we all live in. This is both.
Like everyone else, I woke up to find out that Britain, or rather England and Wales, had voted to leave the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, so did Gibraltar, the last vestige of our ‘Empire’ that the most ill-informed Leave voters thought they were magically getting back.
In case it isn’t resoundingly obvious by my tone, I voted Remain.
I voted Remain for selfish reasons – EU laws protect us at work and in our daily lives, and I didn’t trust the British Government not to continue to chip away at our rights and freedoms.
I live in Chester but was born, and spent the first 28 years of my life, in Middlesbrough. And Middlesbrough, along with the majority of the North East, has basically survived Cameron’s cuts due to EU funding. I’m simplifying here, but the North East is one of the areas worst hit by Government cuts, and one of the areas which benefited most from EU funding.
So to my Middlesbrough friends who voted Leave and now feel victimised – I’m sorry if you think it’s ‘mean’ but the EU-funded North East voting to leave the EU is idiotic. I can’t take that back any more than the Leave voters backtracking on breakfast TV after ‘the reality sunk in’ can take back their vote – their words, not mine.
And the referendum was close – 51.9% to 48.1% – so those who voted Leave in blind anger and regret it, or voted Leave because they didn’t think it mattered, potentially made the difference.
But here’s what I’m really saddened and sickened by, we voted to Leave an organisation created for countries to work together. Created to prevent another World War and protect our common human interests. Keyword being human.
Because I lied earlier. Yes I considered the selfish (and just logical) reasons to Remain, but more than that, I thought about the snowball effect I hope won’t, but fear will, happen now we’ve let a campaign headed by Nigel Farage and co approve a form of segregation. I don’t want to live in a country, nor a world, where doctors considered immigrants, who have valiantly struggled with an entirely British spirit in the face of the systematic dismantling of our NHS, now feel unwelcome in the country in which they made their lives, started families and worked tirelessly. For that matter the same goes for anyone who has made their home here, skilled or unskilled.
I’m not for a second suggesting that all the Leave voters are racist, or stupid, I know they aren’t. I have friends who voted Leave, intelligent, nice people who I like and respect. But that just makes it sadder, and harder to understand.
However the Leave voters slice it, you voted for division, you voted to separate, and I can’t understand why.
I’m not naive, the EU is a far from a perfect organisation, but we arguably had one of the best deals going. We largely adopted EU laws to protect and preserve ‘our’ way of life, but negotiated flexibility where it suited us. We were in the EU but almost on the fringes. Essentially, we had the best of both worlds. But the Conservatives couldn’t get everything they wanted, so Cameron had a tantrum and took the country to a referendum he didn’t want but used in his election platform, apparently to mollify Tory voters and supporters within his own party. A referendum he then campaigned against, and walked out to leave someone else to deal with when he lost.
And now? No-one really knows. The pound crashed then recovered, somewhat, Britain’s economy fell behind France’s and we’ve almost certainly made it a hell of a lot harder for ourselves, and future generations, to live and work (possible even travel) in countries who were formally our EU neighbours. We’ve slammed the door shut on the EU, and opened a dangerous window for discrimination and intolerance.
But before I get accused of scaremongering, I’d like to end on a high note, so here are the positives I can see right now:
Cameron resigned. It’s should be self-explanatory why this is a plus.
Americans may now be forced to specify where they’ve been holidaying, ‘Europe’ no longer being a catch-all! 😉
The turnout – 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting (the highest turnout since the 1992 general election).
The next generation – I’m 31 next week, I no longer count as a ‘young person’ but I hope it doesn’t sound too patronising when I say I’m proud of the under 25s. Proud of them not only for going out and casting their vote, something which they’ve rarely been inspired to do in my lifetime, but for overwhelmingly voting to Remain.
This subset of the referendum gives me hope for a future that is united, compassionate and tolerant. Fingers crossed the damage done in the meantime isn’t irreparable.