Take me with EU
Today is not a good day. It is Day 2 of post-Brexit Britain. Day 2 of living in the knowledge that a campaign founded on hatred, fear and suspicion succeeding in convincing an angry, divided electorate that we should turn our backs on the single largest political and economic alliance in the world. Where we had a seat at the top table, most of the arguments went our way and 27 other countries listened to us and wanted to work for us. They looked up to Britain as a desirable place to be and likewise many Brits, myself included, enjoyed the right to work, live, learn and love in 27 other countries on the most peaceful, prosperous and vibrant continent on the planet.
All that is gone, wrenched away from us, from all of us, Leave and Remain, British and European alike. The unfathomable whims of a portion of the electorate with whom I have nothing in common have been imposed upon me. Now at least I know how UKIP voters must feel.
I believe Leave is absolutely the wrong decision but it is mistaken and unhelpful to believe that this victory belongs solely to racists and little Englanders (though indeed they are no doubt happy today). It is not so simple.
This referendum was lost by the failure of successive governments, going back decades, to address the chasm between the haves and the have nots, until the latter were left so desperate, so impoverished and so irretrievably behind that they had nothing left to lose. They would vote for change, any change, because nothing could be so bad for them as this. Except it can be worse. Much, much worse.
The result would have been different if our government could have made the EU work for everyone as was eminently possible. A sensible immigration policy to prevent the depression of wages and a plan to fund public services and build houses to keep pace with the rising population would have meant that many of the arguments against the EU that were based on migration would have been stillborn. Thus the likes of UKIP could not have dressed their xenophobia up in concern for the national well-being. Their motives would have been more naked, more obvious, dragged into direct sunlight where they could be made to crisp and shrivel like newspaper in a fireplace.
Of course long term history is not solely to blame, we must also turn our ire to our soon to be former Prime Minister who became PM not because he had a grand vision for the country, but simply because he thought he’d “be good at it”. A Prime Minister so short sighted he saw Europe as a matter of party management rather than national interest, and gambled on a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats to stop him from ever actually having to deliver this referendum. His unexpected majority left him in the uncomfortable position of having to ask the country a question to which he was not completely sure the answer. Now of course he has joined his former coalition partners, the wider Centre Left and all the old certainties in the vast and ever expanding necropolis housing the victims of this tortuous post-truth politics.
We must be angry too, at Boris “what a legend” Johnson, the inexplicably popular politician who saw this referendum as a way into Downing Street, and who made his name in the first place by spinning outrageously false stories about the EU for The Telegraph as Martin Fletcher recently stated:
For 25 years our press has fed the British public a diet of distorted, mendacious and relentlessly hostile stories about the EU — and the journalist who set the tone was Boris Johnson.
[Johnson] is now campaigning against the cartoon caricature of the EU that he himself created.
The hipster Donald Trump, Trumping since before Trumping was mainstream. He has pulled Britain out of the EU with no clear plan or vision for what is next, he has hit the eject button without first checking the seams on his parachute. But it’s okay because he’s going to be the next Prime Minister so we’ll get plenty of lulz out of it.
Their egos have done untold damage to millions of lives within the UK and without, this is nothing short of a reduction of our rights for which we have voted. I can’t think of another time in history where a population has voted to reduce its own rights. Furthermore the integrity of our country is in serious peril. The Scottish are considering a second independence referendum and, despite being a Unionist, I cannot in good conscience ask them to stay this time. There has been talk of Irish reunification which was quickly backtracked but can never be unsaid. The home owning ambitions of my generation (indeed, of myself) face even greater uncertainty than before with reluctant mortgage lenders and uncertain interest rates.
Cameron’s legacy, that which does not lie in ruins, will be as the Prime Minister who crashed the UK out of the greatest joint human endeavour in history, who potentially brought about the end of the UK itself and thus as quite possibly the most disastrous person to ever hold high office. Who of us would have thought that his being likened to Neville Chamberlain might, in hindsight, be considered relative praise?
Finally, of course, no catalogue of failure would be complete without mention of the Labour leadership. Their own campaign was as lacklustre as the Conservative’s was hyperbolic and a thoroughly disinterested Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, showed a monumental lack of verve. He was an almost audible charisma vacuum, projecting the air of a supply geography teacher with a hangover who’d wandered into the wrong job interview, his conduct was an affront to the many Labour MP’s who made personal sacrifices to campaign valiantly for Remain. Without the backing of the higher echelons of the party, their efforts could only ever be futile, the party’s overall contribution to the campaign was to instil an impression of listlessness, confusion and indecision.
Though one has to admire his candour on immigration, Corbyn was too inarticulate to convey the nuances of the issue. Yet another in a string of failures by the party to reach out to their core vote, to the very people they claim (and none claim more strongly than Corbyn himself) to represent.
If you are a Remainer, it is indeed sobering that the only parties unequivocally on your side and campaigning their hearts out on the benefits of the EU rather than the perils of departing from it were the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Parties who’s internationalist zeal is matched only by their relative irrelevance.
Now I must consider the future I am left with. Knives are being drawn across the continent by those who wish to inflict as much damage as possible to the UK to deter others from leaving and by those who wish to leave themselves, carving the EU to pieces as they do. Marine Le Pen, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Golden Dawn, Fascists around the world, this victory is theirs too.
The Extreme Right of our own country are also further emboldened. Already there are those who want to purge Britain of non-whites, non-natives and indeed the “traitorous” natives who would dare to extend a hand of friendship to the world. The language of UKIP already worryingly trends towards exceptionalism, according to them this was a victory for “decent” people. The 16 million who voted for Remain are by implication the indecent, the other, the enemy within. The same speech in which Farage praised the “decent” for voting leave he also claimed it was a victory achieved without a single bullet being fired; remarkably tasteless words eight days after three bullets were fired into a pro-Remain MP on a public street, by a man who’s apparent mental instability appears to have been exacerbated by the same poisonous ideology peddled by UKIP and the right wing press.
And now here we are. This is it. Everything is pointless. Whining on Twitter, protesting in the street, that petition, this blog, saving for a house. All for nought. The horizon has been pulled violently closer by the disaffected, the left behind, the neglected, the angry and the plain xenophobic. A decision has been taken by a generation that has enjoyed the decades of stability, cheap education and housing, bountiful trade and free movement the EU provided to burn those bridges behind them. Thanks for everything, switch off the lights on the way out. It has done grievous and irreversible harm to the future of the young and to Britain. Never again will we wield the influence we once did, we are back to the glory days of being a floundering failed empire, standing on our coastline and glaring outward. Economically crippled, diplomatically shunned and the laughing stock of the world.
The Britain I was born into, and have known for 25 years, is gone. Extinguished overnight by a perfect storm of hubris and dishonesty. The divisions within it brutally laid bare, the throbbing artery of hatred and suspicion just beneath the surface sliced open and allowed to bleed freely. This is my home, this is where the people I love and care about live and I have now seen that it has an impossibly ugly side. That like the occasionally batshit USA that we all like to have a good nervous laugh at, it too teeters precariously on the brink of giving in to its worst compulsions. It is something I wish I’d never seen, and will never be able to forget. The Leavers may have got their country back, but I seem to have lost mine.
It is now not so hard to imagine a future where the EU has ceased to exist, the continent once again reduced to an agglomeration of small, angry, bitter and suspicious countries desperate to get at each other’s throats. Sound far fetched? It’s already there, the EU is what holds it at bay.
Right wing nationalism is the powder keg under the continent and the UK just lit the match.