Four days ago, the world awoke to the news that 52 per cent of the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Hours later, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his inevitable resignation after staking his career on a victory for the ‘Remain’ campaign. The resulting chaos has proved impossible to ignore; since Friday morning, we have been told that the value of the pound has plummeted, that the French economy became more powerful than ours, and that we are facing one of the most turbulent periods of political instability in British history.
Young voters nationwide were left largely disillusioned, as it emerged that 75 per cent of 18-24-year-olds had voted ‘Remain’ yet the estimated turnout for this key demographic was miserably low. In essence, this was a decision which would immeasurably impact our future, yet we largely abandoned our right to register an opinion. Our reaction was one of anger – many others have expressed disappointment, regret and fear that the ‘Leave’ campaign’s emphasis on closing the country’s borders could result in the increase of hate crime. However, what is clear is that the UK has spoken, so it’s time to look past our anger and examine the aftermath of this monumental vote.
“A vote for ‘Leave’ is not explicitly a vote for racism – but it is a vote of solidarity with leaders whose racist views have created huge controversy in the past”
Arguably the most important information to surface post-Brexit is that the ‘Leave’ campaign was largely based on exaggerated statistics and lies – which is hardly surprising considering it was wholeheartedly backed by the likes of Donald Trump and UKIP leader Nigel Farage. One of the key slogans relied on throughout promised to donate the money we usually pump into the EU – which, apparently, is £350million per week – to the NHS. It’s clear that this argument was a deciding factor for some Leave voters; in fact, our National Health Service became a key focus of the campaign, illustrated by an advert showing a poor old lady whose emergency care is delayed by a queue of immigrants.
Naturally, the British public were pretty pissed when Nigel Farage backtracked on this promise just hours after results were announced, stating he would “never have made that claim”. Unfortunately, the claims were a lie from the start. Channel 4’s FactCheck launched an investigation a few months ago, which revealed the initial statistic of a £350million spend per week was fundamentally incorrect. Instead, it was revealed that the net payment was around £9.8billion for the entire year, which works out at around £18.8million per week. Tory MP Daniel Hannan then shed light on post-Brexit laws on immigration, revealing on Newsnight that “if people think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed”.
The problem is that people did, in fact, vote based on immigration. The campaign relentlessly portrayed immigrants as the ‘other’, provoking proud Brits to believe that foreigners would sweep the country in the event of a ‘Remain’ vote. As a result, Twitter has been ablaze with stories of racial discrimination; ranging from angry protests outside Mosques to immigrants being told to “fuck off back” to their original countries. This weekend, Channel 4 News released a video which quickly went viral depicting the most prominent acts of racism, and #PostRefRacism became one of the most depressing hashtags to ever grace social media. A vote for ‘Leave’ is not explicitly a vote for racism – but it is a vote of solidarity with leaders whose racist views have created huge controversy in the past.
Speaking of leaders – we now no longer have any. The irony is that many lacked faith in the European Union due to its unelected leaders. Now, Cameron’s seat must be filled, and it will be filled internally by a Parliamentary election which will likely lead to another General Election next year. This means that, at least for a short while, the country’s ultimate position of power will be decided by politicians as opposed to people.
“More than ever we need to stand together with our European friends, relatives and co-workers to remind them that their services, their skills and their personalities are still loved and appreciated despite the vote”
These parliamentary shake-ups are just one of the many chaotic results of Brexit. What’s important to remember is that the country isn’t changing just yet. In fact, Article 50 – the piece of legislation which must be ‘triggered’ to announce withdrawal from the Union – still hasn’t been enacted, meaning that we haven’t formally started the withdrawal procedure. Even when the Article is put into motion there’s a two-year waiting period for exit which will be dedicated to extensive negotiations. Furthermore, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed that Scotland could still veto Brexit; she has also promised to play an active role in negotiating continued access to the European single market alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan, who released an optimistic statement on Friday morning.
What’s clear is that Brexit will have implications on our daily lives, but any firm predictions are currently conjecture. The pound initially lost its value, but our exchange rate is and always has been free-floating, meaning all hope is not yet lost, whereas Daniel Hannan’s reluctant admission that the free movement of labour could continue should provide some much-needed reassurance for European migrants fearing an uncertain future. Brexit may not be an outcome decided by the youth of this country – far from it – but the (very slight) majority has spoken and it’s time to start moving through the stages of grief in order to reach acceptance.
More than ever we need to stand together with our European friends, relatives and co-workers to remind them that their services, their skills and their personalities are still loved and appreciated despite the vote. We need to continue to spread awareness of hate crime in order to make this country a safe space for all to be in. I’ll run the risk of sounding a bit like a Hallmark card and say that we need love, acceptance and optimism more than ever before – our Parliament may be divided, but as a nation we need to stand together in solidarity.
Follow Jake Hall on Twitter here @jake2103