*This post will be ranty. It may also contain profanities. I don't think I've sworn on this blog, but I'm warning you in advance that I am likely to swear now*
Last Thursday, in case you didn't realise, a very small majority of 72% of the UK population that came out to vote voted to leave the European Union. 51.9% to be exact. If you haven't guessed by now, I voted remain.
Even though I saw the result coming, it was still incredibly upsetting, both to watch it unfold, and then to wake up to confirmation of my fears. Four days later I am still angry about it. I am a sore loser, I will admit. But usually 20 minutes alone in a room and I'm over it (case in point - the aftermath of South Africa losing to Japan in the Rugby World Cup). This time I'm not being a sore loser. I'm not whinging about a result I don't like.
Instead I'm angry that my citizenship to 27 other countries has been taken from me without my consent. I was very much hoping that one day Corey and I could live somewhere in Europe. Last year I started German lessons, and was planning on continuing to learn until I was at a point where I was competent enough to perhaps work there. Last November we discussed the possibility of moving to the Netherlands for Corey to study for a second masters, as it seems he will be unable to get a job in the field he wants without a second masters degree. He sure as heck can't study for this in the UK where Masters fees are incredibly high. We talked about staying there should he wish to continue to do a PhD, and how lovely it would be to bring up children in another country. After looking at our financial situation we decided it's not something we could do within the next 12 months, but we put it aside as a possibility for the future. Leaving the EU may very well take this option away from us.
I suppose that's a selfish reason to be angry. Well, it's certainly not the only reason I have. Universities, which have seen massive funding cuts already, as well as a drop in international students because of draconian visa rules, will see further cuts. These cuts will be devastating. The UK and Germany receive the largest amount of research funding to universities from the EU, funding that goes towards a wide range of subjects, including scientific and medical research. In case you think it's a bit too soon to know what sort of effect this will have on the research community, a friend of mine was told on Friday that as of October he no longer has a job. He is more than likely going to have to move abroad to continue in his subject. One thing is clear, without this source of funding, there will be a large number of the best and brightest of people leaving this country to do their research elsewhere.
What about the Northern Ireland border? Considering the fact that since the Good Friday agreement in the late 90's it's been a relatively stable place to live in, this will quite probably have devastating consequences. They voted to remain. It was pointed out to me on Twitter that the border regions voted to remain, while the more eastern regions voted leave. I'm not an expert on Northern Ireland, but even I can see that it's more than likely because people living near the borders knew what this could mean. There's already a split politically as to what should now be done. It won't take much for there to be a split among the general population.
Scotland looks likely to leave the United Kingdom if it doesn't somehow manage to remain a member of the EU. I sure as hell don't blame them, but that destroys the Britain some leave voters wanted to make 'great' again. As if somehow we will now be transported to that wonderful utopia of imperialistic Great Britain, where one tiny little island nation robbed the world of it's resources and enslaved its people. Where women knew their place, and so did the working classes. Or perhaps we want to go back to the '70's, because that decade sounded great, especially for me, a woman.
I know that polls are an indicator for how people voted, rather than a count of how they actually voted, but it seems that the under 40's wanted to remain, especially those of us under the age of 35. That's not to say no one over the age of 40 voted to stay. My parents, in-laws and Corey's grandmother and step-grandfather voted to remain (his grandmother voted to remain because 'better the devil you know'. Considering the current alternatives, I'm wholly with her on this). I'm still angry at those who voted otherwise. I'm angry that 16 and 17 year olds, whose future was decided for them, weren't allowed a say. They can join the army, have babies and get married, but they aren't allowed to decide whether or not they get to live, and work, and love in the EU the way that generations before them have. I saw one person comment that essentially we should stop complaining about the way the older generation voted, because they fought and died for this country and our right to vote. FUCK THAT. Beyond the fact that a large percentage of those who fought in World War II were conscripted, one act does not mean you have no right to ever be criticized. No one should be insulted, and anger is best directed elsewhere rather than personal attacks, but I sure as heck have the right to criticize the vote of people who don't have 60 or so years to live with the consequences.
No one in Westminster has a plan. We currently have no real leadership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I omit Scotland, because the way that Nicola Sturgeon came out on Friday shows that she was the only person that had planned for the possibility of this country leaving the EU. The Conservatives seem lost, Labour is tearing itself apart and the Lib Dems have very little voice after a general election result where they were (unfairly in my opinion) punished by the electorate.
Instead we are left with a country bitterly divided. One where the racist underbelly has felt it's been given permission to emerge. This is entirely unsurprising when you look at how the Leave campaign was run. Words like "TAKE BACK CONTROL" are going to be seen in a very different light if you're a racist who votes. While the Leave Campaign meant taking back control of the country from the EU (because they want Parliamentary Sovereignty and the right to do whatever the hell they like), racists think they meant take back control from immigrants and migrants. It's incredibly upsetting to read about the racist and xenophobic attacks that have been happening in the past few days. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be a person of colour, or a person with a foreign accent.
All I can say to those people is: I'm sorry. I'm so very, very, very sorry. I am worried about you, and I swear to do everything I can should I see one of these acts happen in front of me.
If anyone tries to tell me that I can't know for certain that attacks have increased or if reporting has increased, or tells me it's ok because it'll blow over soon, that rage I currently have simmering below the surface will explode.
Then there's Nigel Farage and his 'Breaking Point' poster. Yeah, it's all very well that the leave campaign said he's got nothing to do with them and that his poster was absolutely awful, but there's an unfortunately large proportion of the population listen to him. This whole sodding bloody pointless referendum was held because David Cameron (thanks a lot) was wary of UKIP. This country has pandered to him for far too long and given him a voice and platform for far too long. This has legitimised his views and allowed many others to think what he's saying is right.
This country was NOT at a breaking point. Immigration IS NECESSARY. The strain on the UK's resources: the NHS, housing and schools, has very little to do with migrants and immigrants, and a lot to do with an aging population and governments who haven't planned for increases in population. Oh, and anyone who tells me that 'yeah, but they use the NHS when they give birth': my mother gave birth in this country 6 months after we arrived, after using the NHS a lot because of her getting pre-eclampsia. This was after I'd been to the doctors once, when a lump appeared on my chest at the age of 9. Turns out I was growing breasts and my mother had forgotten that's what it looks like. I'd like to apologize to the entire country now for that unnecessary doctors appointment and utilizing of precious resources. If it gives you any consolation, I've remembered how embarrassed I felt and I certainly won't be doing the same thing should I ever have a daughter. Immigrants and migrants pay taxes. Often people from other European countries aren't here forever. They come over for a few years, work, pay taxes, then head back home. Basically they pay towards pensions, schools, the NHS, and then leave before they need to claim a pension or really use the NHS.
Apologies for going off on that tangent. Like I said, this is a bit of a rant.
This isn't the country my family emigrated to 21 years ago (21 years and one day, if we must be exact, since we moved here on the 26/06/1995). For the first time in 11 years, since receiving my British citizenship, I don't want to be here anymore. I don't feel welcome - if people of colour, those of with different accents and nationalities are currently being told to go back home, surely I should be packing my bags too. I don't feel like I belong.
Then there's the fact that since the result came through on Friday, it's emerging that there are a fair few people who regret their decision. You see, it turns out some of them genuinely thought the NHS was going to get an extra £350 million a week. Others thought that immigration would be curbed, or stopped altogether. In the past few days they've discovered that this won't be happening. Some people voted leave, not really wanting to leave, but wanting to prove a point. I'd like to know if they've ever heard of spoiling your ballot. I'm pretty sure Boris Johnson fits into that second category. Some people made their decision after careful thought and consideration, others...not so much. From the leave voters I know of, only two could give me a rational explanation for why they were voting the way they were voting. I didn't agree with their reasoning, but they'd actually done their research. From my anecdotal evidence, the majority of leave voters I know had no rational reason for their decision. One person voted leave because she wanted to see what was going to happen.
I'm not entirely certain I'll ever be able to look her in the eye again.
How am I not supposed to be angry when the leave campaign spread lies and deceit, when the media, instead of demanding honesty, colluded with this? Currently critical thinking is only really taught at universities. This means that an awful lot of people believe what they read in the papers, without realizing they're being manipulated into thinking a certain way. How am I not supposed to be angry when they then woke with a shock on Friday to discover that not everything they read was true, when there's reports that people have asked if they could now vote, or change their votes? The general population barely even knows what the EU is and what it does, because the media sure as hell don't report on it accurately, yet they were expected to vote on whether or not we should remain a part of it!
I'm supposed to just suck it up and accept it when I know what this may very well lead to. The government have been saying for ages they want to repeal the Human Rights Act and bring in a British Bill of Rights. They want to leave the European Convention on Human Rights and impose a bill of rights and duties. I've read the proposals. I can tell you, as someone who has a masters in Human Rights law, that it looks like no human rights document I have ever seen. I'd love for the Human Rights Act to be repealed, to be replaced with a better Act, one that allows the Supreme Court to strike down incompatible laws as being against the European Convention on Human Rights. I don't want it to be replaced with the Bill of Rights and Duties the government wants, because it will let the government do whatever the heck it wants.
Parliamentary Sovereignty means that the British Parliament can ignore anything the Supreme Court says, unlike in other countries where the highest court in the land is able to strike down legislation. This is partly due to the fact this country has an unwritten constitution, therefore there is usually no document that the courts of this country can point to and go "um, you actually can't do that" in the same way the Supreme Court of the United States does. It also means that the British Parliament can do some pretty dodgy stuff, as it has done in the past, and can chip away at civil liberties, in the way it as done in the very recent past. Yes, if there is a strong opposition they can prevent this happening, but that is reliant on a) an opposition that's strong b) a government that doesn't have a large majority and c) an opposition that doesn't agree with what's being proposed.
I LIKE the fact the EU was acting as a check to the government's power. Yes certain acts of the EU were arrogant and wrong, but that doesn't mean we should leave it, it means we should call for a reform and help change it. I also love the way the European Court of Human Rights (separate to the EU, although very much linked to the EU) has been a check on the power of government. Soon both of these checks may be gone. While I'm not saying we'll descend into a dictatorship, I know that this is a very bad thing, particularly where certain human rights are concerned.
I signed the petition calling for a second referendum, knowing that the answer will probably be no. I truly don't know how you can say that because 51.9% of people voted leave that that was a definitive answer. That's as close to a 50/50 split as I've ever seen in a vote. To me all the country did on Thursday was say "I don't know". Yet we're going to leave the EU on this basis.
By the way, I did not encourage, nor do I condone any fraudulent signatures. It undermines the very nature of the petition. It also gives those who have signed it false hope.
I shared a letter template for people who are regretting their decision, if they want to let their MP know this. Yes I know that remain voters can write a letter pretending they voted leave in order to pressure their MP's into making a stand, but I hope that they don't. Any suggestions that I might ever think about doing that can only come from people who don't know me at all.
I've also read people asking for angry remain voters to calm down, to come together to help pull this country back, that we need to stop navel gazing. I will, someday. I will, soon. It won't be today. It won't be while there's report after report of racist attacks, while there's no plan in place to sort out this fucked up mess, while I feel lost, and scared, and upset.