Over the past month or so since decision of 51.9% of the UK to leave the EU I have tried to not think about Brexit. On the whole I’ve avoided asking why it has happened and why it has caused such division in the UK to emerge. A lot of people are angry at the decision, some jubilant and perhaps most frustratingly, most are scared. I’ve avoided the topic not because I am disappointed with the outcome, I voted to leave, but because I’ve been appalled at the behaviour so many people on both sides of the fence have displayed. I believe all the actions we now witness are fuelled by fear and misunderstanding. Ever have those two traits been divisive in human history, arguably sparking the Cold War for example (not to mention being the root for racism, religious persecution and hate).
I think there are four more obvious issues having arisen in the aftermath;
- ‘Disenfranchised’ youth
- Increased Racism
- Economic Uncertainty
- Liberal intelligentsia snobbery
All of these, imagined or real, are destructive and must be left behind if Britain is to unite and prosper in the future (that is, the future by its real definition, not the short-sighted media definition).
1. Disenfranchised Youth. Since Brexit, swathes of people my own age, younger or slightly older (16-25) have railed against the decision to leave, accusing the older generations of having stolen their futures in Europe and generally ruined the country. Passion is the best thing in politics, but passionate denial will only halt progress. I’ve seen calls for a second referendum or for our government to simply ignore the result. These pleas are ignorant of democracy. If you can’t accept a democratic decision, then maybe your quarrel is indeed with the elderly, having fought two wars to protect our form of democracy from the clutches of dictatorship, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be in this mess of allowing other people’s opinion to triumph! Curses!! I’ve also seen statements such as ‘Nearly half want to stay’ or ‘London and Scotland voted to stay’, these arguments are perhaps slightly ridiculous too. If a rugby or football match was won with an unfair penalty or by a tight margin, it wouldn’t be called a draw, having the result nullified. The margin of a decision simply can’t be a factor in whether it’s decided or not. If a referendum was ‘close’ and therefore the status quo was accepted, surely nothing would ever be decided? Or if at every General Election the margin was close again, should we just have another and see if droves of voters change their mind? No political decision could ever be made.
Another cry of my generation has been that 16-17yr olds should have been allowed to vote as it was such a big decision. Perhaps if I was out of the voting age I would feel differently, but it certainly seems that it is only after the vote was made that a voice was found on this issue. Suddenly people realised they didn’t have a vote and it just happened to be the day after it was made! If this was really and genuinely a constitutional problem in this country then where were these voices before the voting? Where were they in 2015 with the General Election? If it meant so much why weren’t you campaigning at a time when you could have made a difference and been allowed the vote, then have had your say. Criticising a system for not remedying a problem which they perhaps didn’t even know existed because of a lack of lobbying and campaigning at an appropriate time is hardly helpful or justified.
Upsettingly there has been a flippancy regarding how younger people have talked about the older generations and the fact they have stolen Europe away, despite the fact they are less likely to live with the consequences for as long. This is preposterous, in 2 years time not every old person will die with a cackle aimed at the youth out of spite. Furthermore, these are perhaps the only people qualified to make a choice on the matter, they remember life outside the EU and have lived inside too, they can draw comparisons we simply can’t. Perhaps it’s best if we listened a little more before calling people snakes.
2. Increased Racism. There is little for me to add to what most people will already think about this. In a 21st Century Britain, racism has no place. We must all try to drown out the clamour of hate with the voice of humanity. I don’t know any vocal racists (and probably don’t know any silent ones), but I imagine they have little idea why they hate people of different race. Perhaps the ethnicity of someone is enough of a difference for them to channel the rage they hold, blind rage though it may be. But let us be clear, voting leave and being a racist are far from synonymous. There is a slight suggestion that this may be so and it is worrying, very few people I know (including myself) voted to leave because of anything to do with immigration or race. I think if you look at the UK today and have some sense, you’ll see that immigration is necessary and should be welcomed. Throughout the world and history, people use certain ‘banners’ for their hate and anger whether or not the ideology, religion or movement even remotely represents their extreme feeling. Don’t label half of your country because of a few idiots, as we don’t label whole religions because of a few evil nutjobs.
3. Economic Uncertainty. The day after the vote was seemingly a dark day, stock markets fell seeing the FTSE 100 fall from 6338.10 on the 23rd to 5,982.20 the next day whilst the pound fell to a 30 year low. Blind panic descended and it seemed everyone lost their minds, striking out against Brexit as being a calamity and the ruin of the British economy. Most people probably don’t give a moments thought to the FTSE 100 or the FTSE 250 on their day to day, I know I don’t. It has such little bearing on how we live our life daily and what decisions we make. Yet when the media filled us with dread and told us be scared, we duly listened and lost the plot. It is easy to be caught up in fear when the media perpetuate a sense of panic and chaos, even when for the average household nothing has really changed. We don’t now hear much about the fact that the FTSE 100 reached a 12month high when trading closed this weekend whilst the FTSE 250 broke its pre-Brexit level and climbed to an eight-month high. Why aren’t we going nuts about this? And a weak pound isn’t all that catastrophic, it improves the competitiveness of our exports which should increase their sale to foreign buyers, thus seeing a rise in the amount of currency entering our economy in the form of transactions. China for example artificially lower the value of the Yuan to improve the Chinese trade position, it isn’t as gloomy as we would like to think on the whole. Sorry.
4. Liberal intelligentsia snobbery. This is perhaps the most frustrating of the four, and arguably most damaging to the country. George Orwell describes the ‘mentality’ of the then (1939-1945) left wing intelligentsia, but for modern purposes I will replace ‘left wing’ with ‘liberal’ as this covers far more of the people I wish to talk about. ‘The mentality of the English [liberal] intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion…and underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia – their severance from the common culture of the country…highbrows took for granted, as though it were law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot…[you] publicly thanked God you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack’. Although his assessments aren’t 100% accurate to today’s liberal portion of society, it does have some credence. Liberalism in this country does take an extremely negative standpoint, criticising unconstructively every decision or move made. It also tends to look down slightly on the working and lower classes and to an extent the middle class, assuming their opinions are largely bigoted and misconstrued. For a long time I was guilty of this and perhaps still am to some extent, but what shocked me out of it was indeed the reaction of people to Brexit. Virtually every person I knew that I deemed to be liberal displayed the most conservative and regressive qualities on the Friday after brexit, whining and mewling at the decision, in complete denial. While it can be accepted that people were disappointed, it is disheartening to see so many intelligent people simply sever themselves from the rest of their country because a vote didn’t go their way. As Liberal people it is obvious you stand for democracy, and that means, fortunately or unfortunately, that you stand to be disagreed with regularly by many more people than agree with you. To then rail against the fact that democracy was exercised simply because you lost the vote is hypocritical and ridiculous. You can’t have democracy on the conditions that everyone agrees with you, liberal or not. It is then not all that ‘liberal’ to label half of the country as ‘racist bigots’ who all would see Farage in power and immigrants out. That is about as bigoted if not more than the people you are criticising.
The fact that London voted to stay whilst the rest of the country on the whole voted to go is perhaps indicative of the fact that the liberalism enjoyed in London simply hasn’t translated to the wider country. This maybe isn’t a good thing, but it certainly shouldn’t be an excuse for intelligent young people to moan and label huge portions of the society they live in as idiots and racists, it means simply that our country isn’t as one minded as we thought. If you want that to change don’t insult the people who you want to change, show them why you think your right. Give them a reason. We’re leaving the EU regardless, but if we leave divided and asunder then it will be bad for us. But if we constructively move forward we have an excellent opportunity to shape our own country and its future in the world. Let us not waste our potential on fighting in toxic squabbles which add to the division in our country, but channel it on making the best of Brexit and moving forward.