The EU Referendum: Lessons Learned

Nb: I didn’t intend for my second blog post to be quite this serious, but I needed to voice my feelings. Also, I’m going to address this post to my grandfather, who passed away last year.

So, it’s happened. We’ve left the EU. Bring back the empire, and all that.

I wanted to address this to you because you were always the most patriotic person I knew, and it’s refreshing to think of someone close to me who’s not feeling ashamed to be British today.

Ashamed. I never thought this day would come. A day when such a great country could concede to the pressuring lies of a media and certain politicians completely compelled by self-interest.

I’ve spent most of the last few months trawling through statistics and information that firmly convinced me that remaining in the EU was the right decision for the future of our country. But I won’t list them here, because the decision is made, and from now on what we need to do is create a suitable agreement.

Instead, I’d like to talk to you about what’s shocked me about the referendum process.

Firstly, the hyperbole and media fighting. I’m not exempting the Bremain campaign from this particular one, by the way. Both sides played their part in creating an atmosphere of increasing pressure and antagonistic tension, that was always going to lead to a boiling point. Surely everyone could see that this had all gone too far when Jo Cox MP was murdered for her political stance? Since when did we become a country with inhabitants ready to kill to prove a point? All I can say is that I offer my condolences to her family and friends; she did not deserve this at all.

False claims were fired from both angles, leaving the average voter feeling throttled by a host of overwhelming, empty promises. How was a whole country supposed to make a decision based on such falsity? (A prominent example of which, may I add, would be the assurance that we paid £350 million to the EU each week – firstly, it was more like £190 million, which in the grand scheme of things was a negligible amount of our GDP; secondly, it has been admitted by a leading Leave campaigner, who’ll remain unnamed here due to my disagreement with his moral principles, and the fact that I’d rather not name him on my blog as I don’t think it’s earned such foul treatment, that that figure was a mistake. Oh great, so the UK has left based on a lie. Just to add insult to injury, we’ve lost more than this grand amount in the last few hours on account of leaving. How is that supposed to figure?) Freedom of speech is a tenuous topic. I’m all for everyone being allowed to say what they want, even if it’s used in a nationwide debate or newspaper in order to influence somebody. All I suggest is that they have the decency to be accurate and not to inflate a problem beyond its proper proportion. Something to work on in the future, perhaps?

Secondly, the xenophobia. There, I’ve said it. Time to acknowledge that it’s real and another problem with which we’re faced. The very notion of leaving a union like the EU is to me, excuse me for suggesting such a thing, exclusivist, isolationist, imperialist even. A nod to ‘the old days’, where Britain was a strong empire, a force to be reckoned with. But did we really need to leave a bureaucratic alliance to achieve this? An alliance formed on the basis of uniting enemies after wars that killed over 80 million people . An alliance that catered to the principles which Britain always swore to uphold. Tolerance, being one. If we’re really going to use the history argument, then we may as well get our facts right. Britain has always welcomed those in need, has been tolerant and inclusive. What a multicultural society should be. If you want proof, you only have to check the amount of refugees we took in after WWII. Instead, the rush of xenophobic ideas spurred by a campaign inspiring fear against immigrants has left the country divided in more ways than one. Posters and speeches presenting anyone ‘non-British’ as the enemy. Claims that we’ll be ‘flooded’ with immigrants. Interesting claim really, when you again look at the facts. Another false claim. ‘Casual’ racial slurs on the street are never just that. What even subtle moments of racism can lead to is terrifying. I for one don’t want to live in such an environment. Particularly with similar situations elsewhere in the world at the moment. What our country needs now is unity, a feeling of cooperation and togetherness, not more separation. We’ve done enough of that already.

Thirdly, I want to say that up to now I may have sounded scathing about the Leave campaign. I didn’t set out to be such, but it’s hard when I just feel outraged that our country has been cheated into a decision that I don’t believe was in our best interest at all. Make Britain great again, eh? Was I the only one that thought Britain was always great? One comedian described leaving the EU as being like a rebellious teenager leaving home only to live in the garage. The benefits we could reap from being in the EU far outweighed any situation we’ll be granted being out of it. We’ll still want to trade with them, after all. Rather embarrassing really. Not to mention harmful.

Finally, I just wanted to talk about the future. In the aftermath of this referendum, I feel let down and disappointed in what my country has decided. Personally, I couldn’t vote yesterday, as I was two months short of the age limit. In fact, I have been wondering if the result of the referendum would have been different had 16 and 17 year olds been able to vote. I frustratedly watched as my future was decided by those whose opinions differed so greatly from those of my own generation; the generation that will have to deal with and live through the consequences, good or bad. But it’s no time to blame certain people, or certain demographics. That would only cause more division.

From the experience of intently watching this referendum for months, and the way in which it was dealt with, I can conclude that something needs to change. We, as a country, must now try our best to adapt to our new situation, and to thrive again once more. We must be accepting of the people we meet, and those that need our help. After all, plenty of Brits have emigrated. We’d want them to be treated well.

Above all, I’d like to tell those who do not agree with this decision not to be ashamed of your country. It is a great one. Never doubt that. Because the second we doubt it, the second we succumb to a feeling of need, is the second that we are vulnerable to extremism. And nobody needs me to remind them of how well right wing extremism has worked in the past in Europe, especially when in times of economic disparity.

Therefore, I’d like to readdress my grandpa. All I can say is, I’m sorry. I know this isn’t the country you will have wanted Britain to become. But I’m hoping we can sort it out. We always have done. Britain is a country that should be renowned as great, not tainted by the stings of hate. Let that be how the rest of the world sees us.

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