June 23rd 2016: Britain’s so-called Independence Day. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 2 weeks, you cannot have failed to notice there was an important decision made by the British voting public on whether we should leave the European Union. Whether or not this decision should have been offered to a mostly uninformed and politically disinterested public is a question that David Cameron will surely have asked himself repeatedly in the days after the result. But regardless of his own answer, the public was asked and the public subsequently voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU.
I was one of the 48% who saw their chance of a peaceful and stable future within the EU snatched away in this shock result. It was all agreed – Brexit was not going to happen; the stakes were just too high! I saw the ripples from this explosion hit the markets instantly – billions wiped off the stock markets, the value of the pound hitting a 30 year low. Cameron resigning in defeat, followed by half the Shadow Cabinet, who were trying to stage a coup within the Labour Party. Then the surprising news that Boris Johnson, the charismatic buffoon that was the champion of the leave campaign, the man who helped lead us into this mess has decided to turn tail and run. Having been stabbed in the back by his colleague Michael Gove, he has gone off in a sulk, like a petulant child refusing to tidy up his toys after the game. The most humorous round-up of our current situation is found here!
Throughout the chaos surrounding this British Game of Thrones, there have been numerous petitions circulating the masses demanding a second referendum (it won’t happen) and several protest marches in London against Le Divorce. The schism in the country is marked and not just along the Scottish border. But despite fervently believing that we should Remain in the EU, I have not signed the petitions, nor have I marched along Whitehall. My sister (who votes decidedly left-wing) is one that has, and feels that she just cannot let the result stand. “I cannot let it go! I just can’t!” she wailed on Facebook to all her -also left wing- friends. But in this case I have (not without guilt) had to let it go and for several reasons.
I cannot let fear of the future take over my life:
Both campaigns played on people’s fears. We were bombarded with reports of how terrible our lives would become if we did (or didn’t) vote Leave. If I choose to reject the result and deny it’s legitimacy, I will be allowing that fear to take me over. I could, if I so choose, continuously worry and ruminate on the wrong done to me by the 52%. I could dwell on the impending catastrophe about to hit our country and inevitable collapse of Europe and the West and believe in Armageddon – because that’s where my brain will lead to. But I chose not to do this, because it’s not healthy to live like that. Anxiety has already made me its bitch too many times and I refuse to feed it such nutritious fodder with something this big and uncontrollable.
The result was a product of DEMOCRACY:
We fight for the right of other countries to create their own democratic governments and societies, so it would be beyond hypocrisy to then demand our own government reject the stated will of the people. This is the rub of democracy – sometimes the vote goes to your liking, sometimes it doesn’t. The Referendum itself was not legally binding, but such a public vote cannot be ignored by the government. We voted them in to run the country to our needs and the majority vote is considered the right path. I may not agree with it, but I accept the legality by which the direction we take was decided.
The General Public’s general misunderstanding of what’s involved:
This might be disingenuous, but the main thing this vote has highlighted was the appalling lack of education regarding this vote on BOTH sides. We all struggled to find any clear facts amongst the haze within the crystal ball that both sides were fighting over, but some seemed to have ignored all that completely and voted blindly. Thankfully most of my friends were not among them, but I was disgusted with the actions of some of my fellow Britons: Those who voted Leave purely because the government line was Remain – so called anti-establishment anarchists who played straight into the hands of the far-right, because they ‘hate the Tories’ (who are generally Right Wing anyway). Despite the fact that the Leave campaign was led by the more conservative Conservatives… Then there were those taken in by the impossible aims of the out campaign, promising the end of the free movement of EU nationals [nope-not if we still want access to trade in the EU as before] and using the £350 million [actually net £190m] on the NHS instead of the EU [nope- it will be eaten up by all the trade fees imposed]. The NHS promise, slung all over the side of their ‘battle-bus’ was taken back as ‘a mistake’ within 24 hours of the result. No wonder some are clamouring for a do-over. But how could they really believe that would happen in the first place? In the end the vote came down to 2 things: the apathy of the young voter, (18-24 year olds having the lowest percentage turnout and highest percentage remain votes) and the voters who have been failed by successive British governments – the Northern, Welsh, and Cornish working-class voters – who want/need change and think this might bring it. The irony that these are the areas that have benefited most from EU regeneration funds has not passed me by…
I am not a Protest-Sheep:
There are those (like my sister) who are protesting because they are afraid that Theresa May will use Brexit to rewrite the Human Rights laws we have and bring back discrimination. Or believe that Brexit will cause further austerity and cuts to vital services, including Mental Health Services which are often the first to be dialled back. I obviously have a cautious eye on that myself. But then there are those in this country who protest because it is seen as a ‘cool’ thing to do, regardless of whether you truly understand the issue you’re protesting – notably amongst the left-wing. The recent coverage of the pro-EU marches has interviewed several rent-a-protesters who couldn’t explain why they would miss the EU, name some MEPs or even name the current President of the EU Commission! (Jean-Claude Juncker incase you were wondering.) And then there is the video trending right now of the clueless girl who said the thing she would miss most about the EU was the NHS!!! Yes, the Labour-created British National Health Service. There is simply not an eye-roll gif in existence that can do that one justice. So as much as I agree with the principles behind the general pro-EU protests, I cannot line myself up with snowflake warriors that have no idea what they are marching for.
Nothing has actually changed:
The main structure of our government will not change in any way that we would truly notice. We’ll still be voting our MPs into the House of Commons. We’ll still have the House of Lords and a Constitutional Monarchy. It’ll still be the Unions Vs Big Business and the Left Vs the Right. Money will still talk. The taxes will still go to the Treasury and that will still dispense them to the country’s infrastructure. In the case of the Mental Health Services, the money will go to the Primary Care Trusts and it’s them that will determine how it’s spent. For me, that’s a relief because in February the NHS unveiled it’s 5 Year plan with regards to funding Mental health services, pledging an extra 1bn to help the over burdened services. It’s still only a drop in the water, but it’s a very public promise and you can bet the people will hold them to it. The zeitgeist is with us at the moment.
And finally – the 4 letter word that explains why I can move on and accept Brexit:
You might think that it begins with an F, an apathetic ‘fuck-it’ attitude that would suggest I don’t feel connected to the reshaping of the future of my country. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, because that 4 letter word is HOPE. If there is one thing I have learnt through my years of battling with my mental health it is that there is always hope. The markets have rallied, the country has not collapsed under its own ineptitude, the shops are still open, the banks are solvent, and the trains are still running (if not on time). Life still seems fairly normal. And this gives me hope. Hope that the country will not succumb to xenophobic policies. Hope that the world will not turn it’s back on us. Hope that our tiny island will continue to punch well above its weight on the world stage, politically, economically and culturally. Hope that we will still be a tolerant, humanitarian, multi-cultured and successful society. I am not protesting against the result because I believe we can still do this; I have hope.