EUrgh: The Referendum Debrief
The votes have been counted, and Britain is on its way out of the European Union. Today is a volatile day, filled with elation for some, and sadness for others. As a 21-year-old university student from Cambridgeshire, I was destined to be firmly in the Remain camp. But that was not the winning side, and I stand here now needing to take in the reality and consider how I go forward into it.
I did not want this. I wished, hoped, and foolishly somewhat expected Britain to vote to stay in the EU. And that was despite my ongoing cynicism towards this country’s electorate. When Cameron first announced the prospect of a referendum were he to gain power in last year’s general election, I was of the view that this was a terrible decision. Not because I was afraid of one result over the other, but because I wasn’t sure that the average voter would be well enough informed on the potential benefits and risks of each option. Frankly, I’m of the belief that these sorts of decisions should be made by the elected leadership of the country, with consultation of experts and intelligent, calm and measured debate. Of course, this is all possible in a nationwide referendum too. How painfully predictable it was that this was not the discourse of the shambolic campaigning and counter-campaigning that unfurled. Both sides had many legitimate arguments, with strong, well-reasoned ideas of what could benefit Britain. Both sides also had flaws, which if admitted to by both could lead to a knowledgeable, informed public knowing their options, and plumping for one side of the debate based on this. However, rather than proceed to run politics in this way, the run up to the vote was peppered with blatantly misconstrued statistics (£350m a week given to the EU?) and wholly unjustified fear-mongering (WW3? ‘Swarms’ of ‘vermin’?). Some people tried to debunk figures, while others tried to re-humanise The Sun’s victims, trying to get the public to view, for example, a Romanian doctor working for the NHS as a human person, trained as a doctor, rather than a job-stealing, benefits-claiming untermensch with a bomb strapped to his chest on a hell-bent mission to strip away England’s culture and replace it with propaganda for Daesh wrapped around a bowl of borsch.
But, regardless of the campaigns and their strategies, we voted to leave. I want now to clarify that I do not think of leave voters as any less British, any less patriotic, or any less sensible than remain voters, as the vast majority will have considered the evidence and come to a decision which they feel is best for the country. However, I fell betrayed by a governmental campaign that felt the need to appeal to xenophobia and fear by portraying the worst of people. People have been misled, and it’s not their fault.
Moving on into a non-EU Britain, there’s a lot to be revealed before panic should begin. There were a number of strong arguments for leaving the EU, and it is now time to allow space and time for these benefits to shine. In the meantime, there will be economic uncertainty, and there will be animosity. I’m gutted that my immigrant friends will have a horrible few years, and I’m very worried about job opportunities in my chosen career. However, all we can do now is get through the mist, into the clear of the other side. We do not know what will happen, and we do not know how other nations will react. Until we do, the only certainty is that we’ve chosen to isolate ourselves. I for one hope we made the correct decision.