Friday, 24 June 2016

How Brexit Broke My Heart

Today, it was confirmed that Britain (I cannot, in all good faith, refer to it as "Great," in its current form) had voted - by a small majority - to leave the European Union.  Our exit, historic though it may be, comes hot on the heels of a campaign of scaremongering and barely masked xenophobia (Farage's Nazi style propaganda poster was a disgrace), and leaves us open to hugely uncertain times ahead.

The pound has plummeted to its lowest value in over thirty years.  We are facing the prospect of an unelected Prime Minister, following David Cameron's resignation.  There is a very real chance that Scotland and Northern Ireland - both of whom voted to remain in the EU - will want referendums for independence from the UK.  And worst of all, this appears to be a decision made - largely, at least - by a generation who probably won't be around in twenty or thirty years time, when the consequences may really start to bite.  Statistics appear to confirm that the younger generations were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining.  Older voters made up the majority of the crosses in the "leave" box.

Now, I'm not going to claim to be a political heavyweight.  I don't have all the figures and I don't know what will happen in a year, two years, five years, ten years from now, as a result of this.  Nobody does.  So, what I'm saying here comes from the heart.  And today, my heart is broken.

It's broken on behalf of the NHS, which this Tory government have been casually dismantling and running into the ground, and which the Leave campaign's propaganda focused on (posters saying "We spend £350million on the EU every week, let's put that into our NHS" were seen frequently), only for them to admit within an hour of their victory being declared that they were wrong about (funny old thing, that £350million won't be going to our National Health Service after all).  It's broken on behalf of the immigrants to this country, who call Britain home, who contribute to our economy and who've felt unwelcome due to racist/xenophobic rhetoric and are now unsure of where they belong (when the six o'clock news asked one Leave voter why she swung that way, her response was simply: "Immigrants.  Get them out.").  It's broken on behalf of the millions of young voters, who ticked "Remain," knowing that it's them who will be affected by the fallout from this decision, only to see an outcome the vast majority of them did not want.  It's broken at the mere idea that there may not even be a "United" Kingdom for much longer, in the wake of this.  With Scotland and Northern Ireland both pressing for referendums to leave the UK, how long before Wales follows suit?

Is this the England that I keep hearing people crow about "finally getting back"?  An island, struggling to carve out new trade deals with the rest of the world, dealing with a slumped economy, its population utterly divided in views and isolated from its nearest neighbours?

I'm patriotic.  I have plenty of friends who laugh at that notion; isn't the idea of flag-waving and national pride a bit old hat, these days?  But I'm patriotic, just the same.  That we could become a nation of people who spit "get the immigrants out" on national news bulletins, who actively choose a path of isolation, putting financial security, jobs and rights at risk, makes me feel incredibly sad.  I'm sure not all Leave voters ticked that box for xenophobic reasons.  And I'm sure that most of those people genuinely believe that cutting ties with the EU will make us a stronger country, somehow.  Perhaps it will.  Perhaps, a few years from now, I'll look back on this day and think "wow, they were right."  

But I struggle to see that, particularly right now.

The only thing we can do now is try to unite.  If we've isolated ourselves, it's not going to work if we're a country battling itself.  We have to carry on fighting for tolerance, fairness and equal rights.  We have to refuse to allow Britain to slip any further towards elitism or extremism.  We have to work together, because there isn't anybody else.  And above all, it's time to think about the future - what sort of country do we want to leave for generations to come?  What place do we want that country to occupy in the world?

Maybe we'll end up a stronger nation, someday.  Perhaps we really will put the "great" back in Great Britain. 

 I can only hope.  

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