Sunday, 26 June 2016

Notes on a Shambles

Since absolutely no one is fed up of hearing what every man and his canine thinks about the recent referendum, I have decided to drop in my 2p worth. (It was about £1 worth, but the currency has since devalued.)

Firstly, to my European friends: sorry about this shit. We’re not all racist twats. My own feelings on this run to bitterness and disappointment. I feel ashamed of the place I have called home for so long, but optimistic at much of what I have heard from Londoners and others since the result was announced.

Secondly, to my friends and family who voted leave: sorry for implying you’re a racist twat. I’m sure some of you aren’t, and are doing what you think is best. But to those of you who are embracing the Xenophobia Warrior Princess vibe, well, fuck you. Not only is your position illogical, it’s breaking up the band, Yoko.

I was at a lecture at the LSE a few months ago, which was focused on the consequences of immigration, based on data from long-term studies in the UK and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, the conclusion was that immigration overall has but a tiny (positive or negative) effect on the economy of the country concerned; that is, results are negligible. That is, nothing to be worried about.

The lecturer pointed out that the main reason people from the EU want to come to the UK (or indeed, other places) is because the economy is doing well. Therefore, he added, if you want to stop immigration, all you have to do is destroy the economy. It was a joke at the time, but now it seems like some kind of cruel prediction.

See, in the days since the vote, the pound dropped to a thirty-one year low, the country’s credit outlook has been downgraded from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’, the UK’s economy dropped below France’s in the world rankings, and the value of a UK passport decreased significantly. And this isn’t including the billions of pounds which were pulled out of the country before the vote even happened.

While all this was happening, figures from the Leave campaign, like Farage and Johnson, all came out to tell us that (surprise) the things they’d promised probably weren’t viable after all. I am used to politicians breaking promises, but the efficiency with which it occurred this time must break some kind of record.

Funnily enough, the £350 million figure splashed across the side of that big red bus has always been untrue. The number was something closer to £120 million, and of course doesn’t take into account all the benefits we got for being a member, as well as the fact that it will cost approximately that much to access the single market. As well as requiring concessions (notably on free movement of peoples) over which we will no longer have any say.

Also occurring was a renewed push for a united Ireland (in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing) and another push for a referendum on Scottish independence. Since all the areas in Scotland voted to remain, they must feel particularly shafted right now, and I can’t see any way another referendum there wouldn’t spell the end of the UK as we know it. It seems like taking the country back means taking it all the way back to 1707. And I cannot blame our northern cousins in the slightest.

Boris Johnson is our version of Donald Trump. Besides the obvious similarities of ugly mugs with bad hair, they’re both looking to enact disastrous policy based on xenophobia and outright lies. ‘Take back control’, should probably just have been worded ‘make Britain Great again’.

Figures have also been quoted around the difference in the way people voted, given their age. Put simply, the younger you were, the more likely you were to vote remain. It’s hard not to feel like this vote has been a betrayal of the youngest by their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, people pining for a past which will never come again (and which, to be honest, probably wasn’t all that great anyway). The future of the nation have been denied the future they so clearly wanted. Other interesting parallels include the fact that areas with high immigration voted to remain, perhaps seeing the benefits it can bring, and that the more highly-educated someone was, the more likely they were to vote remain. Draw your own conclusions.

There are already movements in place: the idea that London could secede from the rest of England (though this seems like a pipe dream, it’s not the worst idea I’ve heard), the petition calling for a second referendum, which is nearing three million signatures (based on the idea, not enshrined in EU law, that the majority should have to be at least 60% and turnout 75% for the result to count), and calls from David Lammy MP and others to simply ignore the result, given that the result is not legally-binding. The Lib-Dems, in a genius piece of promotion, have promised to keep the UK in the EU if the Brexit triggers a general election.

While I do think that such a momentous decision should require more than 51.9% of the vote in order to be enacted, I wish the rules for such would have been stated when the referendum was announced. In terms of actually dismissing the result, while I am not normally in favour of ignoring the will of the people, in this case that there would indeed be valid reasons to do so.

  1. The monstrous amount of misinformation provided (and subsequently admitted) to the public during campaigning. Decisions founded in ignorance should not shape the future of the nation.
  2. The aforementioned slim majority.
  3. The fact that if sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds would have been allowed to vote, the result would have been different. The future of the country belongs to the young, and it’s fair that we give them a say in it.
  4. The disastrous consequences already occurring, as well as those to come, both for the economy and stability of the country, and for the future of the UK (not to mention the EU) as a whole.

Sometimes the people are wrong. I hate to say it but, sometimes democracy fails.

Now, a lot of this may sound like sore-loser talk, and I can understand that accusation. ‘We won,’ they say, ‘so let’s get over it and move on’. Funnily enough, this from a group of people who still moan about the ‘hand of god’. I think though, that to concede defeat and move on would be a mistake. There’s too much at stake, for people inside the UK and out, for Britons who voted and those who were too young to be allowed to, or able to. If the Brexit happens, it hurts us all. Maybe we can prevent that, and if there’s a chance we can, then we damn well need to give it a try.

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