In a result that shocked many, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on this past Thursday, 23rd June. This led to Prime Minister David Cameron announcing his intention to resign within the next three months.
It goes without saying that the results of this referendum will have huge repercussions for the future of this country, and all of Europe.
I had started off the night with the firm belief that the Remain camp would triumph. However, as the night wore on, I went from assured confidence, to cautious optimism, to the sinking realisation that the Leave camp had actually succeeded. The result was close, but I was still horrified.
I honestly didn’t think this was the UK I lived in.
While the Leave campaign did raise some legitimate concerns about the governance structure of the European Union, I feel like much of the campaign was fought on a platform of anti-immigration rhetoric and an almost Trump-esque call of Making Britain Great Again. I hate to break it to you, Leave voters, but we are no longer living in the glory days of the British Empire, which was built upon ruthless colonisation and violent repression. In today’s world, an unsupported UK can do much less than one with the backing of an established institution like the EU. As well as breaking up the EU, this vote has led to renewed calls for Scottish independence and Irish reunification, which would result in the complete dismantling of the UK as we know it.
Some light relief from all this drama was given in the unlikely form of political commentary given by none other than Lindsay Lohan. I’ve also started a conspiracy theory that Beyoncé predicted Brexit through the lyrics of Lemonade. Recently elected Mayor Sadiq Khan also boosted the Remain campaign by bossing a televised debate on the referendum. Remain supporters have rallied together to stage a protest outside Westminster following the result. A number of petitions have also started circulating on social media, calling for things like a second referendum or to make London, which voted Remain, an independent city-state.
There has been much dispute about the way in which the referendum was undertaken, with calls to reform the referendum system in a way that reduces the impact of false claims. Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and a key figure in the Leave campaign, has already admitted that the promise made to spend EU membership money on the NHS was ‘a mistake’. This is the same man who, upon prematurely declaring victory for his side, announced June 23rd as Britain’s ‘Independence Day.’ As a descendent of people who lived under a former colony and celebrated their independence day to mark the end of the British Raj, the level of ignorance and arrogance in this comment absolutely infuriated me. Mr. Farage, I do not have the strength or the will power to explain to you just how incredibly offensive this is.
This result will also be followed by a rise in prominence of UKIP, and a shift to the right on the British political spectrum. As a British woman of colour, I am genuinely afraid of what this means for me, my family and my peers. The stepping down of the Prime Minister will also leave a power vacuum at the top of the Conservative party, with Boris Johnson looking like the most likely candidate to fill his shoes. This makes me incredibly nervous, because an old video of Johnson advocating remaining in the EU has emerged following his campaign to vote Leave. It seems like Johnson only really signed up to the Leave campaign to secure high office. This is absolutely not the kind of person I want as the head of my elected government and as the sole representative of the UK on the world stage.
However, now the UK has spoken – as a nation we will be leaving the EU. When and how, no one knows. The announcement has already lead to steep falls in the value of the pound, and in the FTSE 100. Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron and the Governor of the Bank of England have called for calm and confidence in the UK’s ability to weather this storm, this is not what we have seen from the volatile financial markets so far. Brexit will also have a horrific impact on the agricultural industry in the UK, which has long been propped up with EU subsidies. This will particularly affect parts of rural England such as Shropshire, where I was born and raised. Overall the county voted to leave, yet many people in the area work in agriculture and will be affected by the choice to leave the EU. This is not to even mention the codified human rights including welfare provisions and women’s rights which will no longer apply to the UK once we have left the EU. I am genuinely worried about the state of these protection mechanisms when we have no safeguard against the dismantling of the rights that help those at the very bottom of our society. Who will be left to fight for them?
America: Please learn from our mistakes. When the election comes, do not rest on your laurels because you think the lesser of two evils will prevail. You have no guarantee. Make sure you fight tooth and nail for the candidate you are backing.
As for the rest of Europe – I am so sorry. I feel like we have really let you down, as well as letting ourselves down. 48% of the country did agree that we were stronger together, but unfortunately this was not enough to constitute a majority. I fear that the action taken by the British people will lead to the unravelling of the EU, and for this I am truly apologetic. The UK has voted against unity, prosperity and common understanding, instead choosing division, arrogance and uncertainty. I cannot put into words the sense of shock, helplessness and loss that I feel.
Yes, we have reclaimed sovereignty from a system that was less than perfect, but at what cost? The benefits that we are losing out on by leaving the EU far outweigh the disadvantages of remaining a member of the system. But, it is too late for a passionate argument about which way we should vote – the decision has been made. Now it’s up to the UK to make the best out of a bad situation.