Friday, 24 June 2016

After Brexit: An Open Letter to My Remainer Friends

by Will Dry

Normally people wake up from bad dreams, but this morning, many of my 'Remainer' friends must have felt like they had woken up into one. Nigel Farage's crooked, cigarette stained teeth spread across our TV sets claiming this was a "victory for ordinary, decent people" - what could possibly be worse? It was not a victory for ordinary, decent people, just as it was not a victory for racists. This is not Star Wars, Brexit is not a cause intrinsically characterised by good or evil. Yet, if you had read some Facebook statuses, you would think we had left the EU and voted to join the Empire. Like the financial markets, Facebook was quick to overreact.

One person commented that "unity is always better". Whether or not the EU has enhanced or diminished unity is up for debate. EU leaders have repeatedly ignored the human suffering in countries which were destroyed in the financial crisis of 2008 for the sake of reaching the goal of a single European state. Youth unemployment is still 50% in Greece and Spain. Yet the EU and Eurozone prevent their leaders from being able to stimulate their economies which have been in the gutter for nearly a decade. A project which aimed to unite people has in reality divided Europe. In Greece, 71% view the EU unfavourably - in France 61%. In Britain, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands it's *only* around 50%. What has this led to? The return of fascism. If you think Farage is bad, search for Youtube videos of the National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece or the Swedish Democrats. These people make Nigel Farage look like Nelson Mandela. These are the cold hard results of the European Union's policies of supra-national governments. By giving people a feeling of dis-empowerment, they have empowered fascist parties across the continent - that's real disunity.
A couple of other people almost mentioned how their modern languages degrees would now be useless. I'm pretty sure this was a joke, but if it wasn't - c'est la peur du projet! We are not leaving Europe - a fleet of Chinooks attached to Dunnet Head is not pulling Britain into the Arctic Ocean. Many Leavers love the culture of Europe. Gisela Stuart, a Labour Leaver, ended her statements this morning remarking in German upon how open and tolerant British society was. However, you do not have to be in a political union with countries to be allies. We are great friends with the United States, and Australia, yet we do not permit unelected Americans and Australians to take decisions regarding our employment law. This vote is not a rejection of the culture of Europe, which is widely celebrated universally among the Leave side, but a rejection of the undemocratic governing structure. So, rest assured, your linguistical abilities will still be needed - not to discuss a Europe-wide fisheries policy, however, but Les Miserables.
Others mentioned how the young (who voted 73-27 in favour of remaining) had been robbed by older voters who will not have to face the true consequences of the decision. It's a basic tenet of democracy that everyone gets one vote. The ill-informed lover of Keeping Up With The Kardashians gets the same vote as someone who watches PMQs religiously, just as an 18 year old's vote is of the same worth as a 89 year old's. While it might sound smart to say how the old should be stripped of their vote, consider the societal significance of a vote. Women didn't just fight for a vote to influence the government's agenda; half the time half of them would naturally be on the losing side. They fought because it is a basic statement of equality in society for everyone to have the same vote.

Also, while it might be easy to blame the old for .. disagreeing with you, it would be much more sensible to blame the people who agreed with you, but could not be bothered to participate. The turnout figures for the referendum have not yet been released; however, assuming similar ones from the 2015 UK General Election, just 43% of 18-24 year olds will have turned out, while 78% of older votes will have done (although both of these figures are likely to be slightly higher in the EU referendum). Nevertheless, where are the Facebook statuses blaming those who agreed that the economic shock was not worth gaining democratic benefits of leaving but were too lazy to turnout?
There have also been calls for a second Scottish referendum. This is a worry, but with any sense, it should not be granted. 38% of Scottish voters voted to Leave - over a million votes, which greatly contributed to the Leave victory. Similarly, Scotland had the lowest turnout among every region aside Northern Ireland - hardly the actions of a country willing to leave a 300 year old union which has survived two World Wars to join an undemocratic and socially unjust union.
A few people have been saying have said how it's embarrassing to share this island with so many racists, closet racists, and xenophobes. Have more faith in your fellow citizens. Obviously, concern about immigration is a key driver of support for leaving the EU - 56% of people want immigration reduced "by a lot" (77% want immigration reduced by "a lot" or "a little".) However, the official Leave campaign made it absolutely clear that they are pro-immigrant. Michael Gove stated in a debate "I think one of the great things about Britain, is that it's a hugely successful multi-cultural multi-ethnic multi-racial society", and went on to make the point that to return to a position where there is public support for immigration, the public needs to have control over immigration. It's perfectly logical to support Leave from a pro-immigration position (as I do): the most important part of successful immigration is not a visa being granted, but the assimilation. Such assimilation is impossible while the public feels anxious about the pressure immigrants place on public services and the effect some have on wages. Only by making this a democratic decision made by a population can effective assimilation return.

Finally, the one which has *really* riled me, is people saying that at this moment in time they are ashamed to be British. I hope you do not mean it. Britain is so much more than this one referendum. It is the birthplace of Parliamentary democracy - a system which has been utilised across the globe. It has stood alone and against all odds in the fight against rife injustice and intolerance. It has punched so much above its weight in terms of what its contribution to global culture - comedy, sports, arts, theatre, music. Without being cringy, through the sheer virtue that you are reading this post, and thus likely to be in Britain or British, you have won the lottery of life. Being born in a country with the legacy ours has, and with the confidence to say our song is not yet sung, is more than enough to prevent you every truly being ashamed to be British.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Will - I have a question for you, but I'll get to that at the end.

    Much of your article has valid points, but in my view, those points only tell us simplified truths - in particular:
    Yes, the EU is failing the many of the youth ........ BUT mainly those that live within the highly problematic Eurozone.
    Yes, being British is a wonderful ....accident of birth for those of us born here.
    Yes, the remain campaign constructed a false god (which was cleverly labelled 'Project Fear' by the Leavers) ........ but the leave campaign have also given us many new false gods.

    I could go on with my take on your posting here, but to sum up:
    1. I do not feel at all placated the way you demean the reaction of your 'friends' who are upset by the result.
    2. Your statement '..a second Scottish referendum........should not be granted' is highly patronising. I believe that not only the Scottish, but all other areas of the UK that wish to remain are fully entitled to break away from the UK if they want to. The land mass currently known as 'The United Kingdom and Gibraltar' could very easily now fracture into a multitude of State-Provinces and City States. If the will of the people is there, then I cannot see how this outcome could possibly be stopped without a new civil war.
    3. Future immigration numbers have not been set out by the Leave campaign. No one - not even you - knows what number of immigrants the Leave campaign are intending the UK to have. The Leave Majority have undoubtedly voted for a total unknown number of immigrants - exactly as we had before.
    4. I am sad that so many of my compatriots have a dislike of an organisation that has largely been responsible for reducing mass killing on the European Continent. Others may talk in terms of being 'ashamed to be British'. At times like these, it is hard to find the right words. But again you seem intent on demeaning those expressions of feelings.

    So far, not a single leave protagonist has said anything to make me feel optimistic about the future. Not even you.

    And now to my question:

    I am a passionate remain voter who does not want to be ignored or demeaned by those who 'triumphed' over my wishes. How would you suggest should I respond to a vote that undermines many of my ideals?


Comments with names are more likely to be published.