Much like a huge number of people in the UK, I woke up on the 24th of June to shocking and devastating news that the Brexit camp had won a majority of 51.9% of the referendum vote. At first I didn’t believe it but as the day wained on, I slowly came to the realisation that it was happening and that the next few years were going to be the most fascinating but also the most uncertain years of this country’s political history.
What I almost certainly believed to be a win for the remain camp, post the death of Labour MP and stanch remain campaigner Jo Cox, has actually completely thrown me off. I knew it was going to be close but recent polling and the Remain camps performance in recent weeks gave me confidence that we would be continuing our membership of the EU. So it was to much surprise that Boris and Nigel’s ragtag bunch of eurosceptics pulled through – and took the ‘majority’ of the country with them.
It has become clear to me now why people voted to leave the European Union. It was a vote cast out of frustration at our political elite and our system that has continually put the top 1% before the people of this country. We have a government that was elected by 24% of illegible UK voters, leaving 76% of our population (a clear majority) without the government they wanted. That is a fundamental problem within our democratic system. This problem is most notable with the following example. At the 2015 general election, the UK Independence Party recieved nearly 4 million votes but only gained one MP in the commons, whilst the Scottish National Party recieved nearly 1.5 million votes and gained 56 seats in the commons. This example amplifies the need for proportional representation and the urgent need to review our democratic processes.
But that is not all. The Brexit vote was also out of anger at Cameron’s failure to recognise the growing concern in this country surrounding immigration and the control we have (or don’t have?) over our borders. He pledged in his 2015 manifesto that he would reduce immigration to less than 100,000 per year when he knew perfectly well that would be almost impossible as part of the ‘free movement of people’ rules that come with being a member of the single market. This then gave the leave campaign perfect ammunition to use against the case for remaining in Europe.
What has also become very clear is the almost unstoppable power of the media in being able to take the debate in whichever way they choose and deciding the narrative that the country focuses on. The right wing media has only reinforced the anti-immigrant dogma that the leave campaign emulated and has clearly succeeded in tipping the balance towards Brexit – and I know how they do it. Right-wing papers such as The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and others that backed the Brexit camp are all under £1 but papers such as The Guardian, The Observer, The Times and others which backed remain are over £1 and sometimes reach extortionate prices like £3.
Now it may just sound like I’m rambling on about the prices of our papers but this observation hits the nail right on the head and provides some understanding about why Rupert Murdoch’s monopoly over the media in this country and around the world has so much unstoppable power over the conversation the public have. Murdoch himself said that he supported a Brexit because “when he goes to Downing Street, they do as he says but when he goes to Brussels, they don’t listen”. The media has more power than the political class, as they have the freedom to manipulate and shape the narrative of the country – and it needs to end now.
The fallout after Brexit has been both frightening but also unsurprising. The pound has fallen the its lowest point since 1983, the Tories are at war, Labour is at war, the SNP are threatening another independence referendum, Northen Ireland are juggling the idea of uniting with the Republic of Ireland and people across the political spectrum are calling for a second referendum to “stop the madness”.
But we saw all this coming, didn’t we? We had so many conversations about the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum if they voted to remain but the UK overall voted to leave. We knew that they would have justification to do that, because they now find themselves in a democratic crisis.
In turbulent times such as these, the first thing we all have to remember is that as bad as things get, they can and will get better. The schockwave that Brexit has sent throughout the rest of the world is astonishing and quite frightening but I’m hopeful that the economic instability the country faces will have its worst effects in the short-term. So I think we must review our current situation with both calm but focus.
The first thing we need to recognise is that 51.9% of the vote is not “resounding”, it is not “definitive” and it is not “decisive”. This sort of language when talking about the result is incredibly misleading and basically untrue. This is practically a 50/50 split between remain and leave, which leaves half of those who voted unhappy. This must be respected. When the UK begins to negotiate its exit settlement and trade deals with the European continent, it should not only be those who advocated Brexit at the table, but those who wished to see the UK remain apart of the EU. This will ensure that everybody’s voice is heard and everybody’s interests are at the heart of the new foundations we are laying with our neighbours across the channel.
The second thing that has become clear is that the result of the referndum has left people confused, upset and angry – from both sides of the debate. Since the 23rd of June, there has been a surge in reportings of anti-immigrant hate crime across the country, most notably towards British Muslims and people from Eastern Europe. In a time of such unrest, we must continue to try and stamp out this form of xenophobic abuse and try to heal the wounds of the referendum. This sort of behaviour which leaves people feeling unwelcome in the country they live and work in cannot go on ans must be addressed with the utmost severity.
I am incredibly dissappointed with the outcome of the referendum and am disgusted by the manor at which both campaigns were waged but the country has voted and we must respect that. The political rulebook has been torn in two, and this country will never be quite the same again.