Thoughts on Brexit

Well, it’s happened. And as one of the 73 per cent of 18-24 year olds who voted to Remain, it’s impossible to overstate the sense of betrayal I feel. My generation, already suffering under the weight of ever-rising university tuition fees and crippling house prices, is being stripped of our future by an ageing sector of society that has reaped the benefits of golden pensions, affordable homes, and free education. Never mind that it seems that a mere 36 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted compared to their eye watering 83 per cent: as one Twitter user aptly wrote, if you hurt someone and they don’t defend themselves, you’ve still caused them damage.

The past few days have been like hanging around a hospital waiting room for news of a hurt relative. Nerves through the roof, desperately hoping and yet dreading the latest news, my stomach shot through with anguish, the heat of helplessness and sadness. Now we have the diagnosis, and the prognosis looks bleaker than ever.

My heart is cracking on behalf of so many. I am grieving for my peers, we the youthful, hopeful, idealistic, who were born European and have been Europeans our entire lives, therefore reel in horror at the prospect of a return to isolated nations guarding their own interests. I am grieving for my wonderful, progressive, international city, of which I am so unbelievably proud, in which almost every borough voted to Remain; for my fellow Hackney residents, who turned out the strongest Remain vote after Gibraltar at 78 per cent, and who adorned their windows with “Vote Remain” posters in the weeks preceding June 23.

I am grieving for my parents, and those like them, for whom England is home, and must therefore live with the dire consequences of this decision. My parents – who try so hard to vote responsibly, who believe so fiercely in the young, who taught me the value of education. For my father especially, whose anger and depression at this referendum result I can barely think of without wincing, who has worked so hard to build his small business and who has employed local British people and Eastern Europeans alike. I am proud of Stroud, the constituency where I grew up and where my parents still live, which suffers massively from youth “brain drain”, has high unemployment and blue-collar workers, but which nonetheless voted narrowly (55 per cent) to Remain. I therefore grieve for all those outside of London, Northern Ireland, urban England or Scotland who are stuck in Leave regions, unable to make their voices heard.

I grieve for the many progressive, liberal older people I know in London and elsewhere, fifty- and sixty-somethings who believe passionately in all the EU’s benefits; who are not represented by the sickening 61 per cent of over-65 year olds who voted Leave.

My heart breaks for my siblings, with all their sensitivity, sense, and progressive values, as they try to reorient themselves. For my dear, outward-facing, worldly friends, almost rendered refugees in a country we no longer recognise, bound by our passports, attempting to find an identity for ourselves in a world which tells us it’s invalid.

I feel a combination of fury and sadness for the abandoned communities of rural Britain which have felt so let down by successive national governments that they used this referendum as an opportunity to stick it to the establishment. I’m incensed at those who voted based on an ignorant or xenophobic agenda despite living in an area with next to no immigration, who fell for the rhetoric of”taking our country back” despite the contribution of foreign workers to every sector of society, who spit venom at other nationalities despite never travelling beyond the borders of their own county, who contribute nothing while selfishly guarding their benefits, paid for with the taxes of hard-working immigrants and people younger than them.

Most of all I am furious at the politicians who caused this mess. The press also has a lot to answer for. David Cameron, weak to the core, put his party before his country. He pressed ahead despite knowing the catastrophe it would cause. He made the ultimate reckless gamble, and scarified everyone for it.

This result was not a surprise to me – I’ve been terrified of Brexit for months now, and I know far too many people (mostly outside of London) who express strong anti-EU sentiment – but it was a shock. It has taken days to emerge from the cloud of grief. Perhaps there is a way for this decision to be reversed; a snap general election with a pro-EU coalition in power, perhaps, or an MPs’ blockage of legislation. The Left needs to act fast to move into the vacuum, and we – the 48 per cent – need a glimmer of hope.

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