Last week the UK voted to leave the EU by 52%. Like many Remain voters, I was surprised it came out this way and surprised even more at the statistics showing an overwhelming majority voting Leave in most counties. But it was a referendum which should not have taken place. David Cameron had been pushed time and time again by tradition-loving Nigel Farage – the same man who had quit the UK Independence Party in May 2015 and promised to quit politics once the UK was out of the EU. The fact is, Cameron put forth the referendum for his own political gain, provided the UK vote Remain, which to his dumbfoundment, they didn’t.
But why? The people I’ve spoken to about voting to leave have talked to me about economics, which is a valid, non-bigoted point of view. I was told that the UK wouldn’t leave for another two years, and during then there would be deals set up which could still involve freedom of movement throughout Europe. The European Economic Areas (EEA), such as Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, all outside of the EU, allows for freedom of movement and participation the the single market. Switzerland is in neither EU or EEA, but works with a series of bilateral agreements, adopting some, not all, of European laws and policies.
The main argument for the Leave campaign was immigration. This unfortunately stirred up tension in society, causing bigotry and hate, due the the current political climate with the war on terror. People are angry and frustrated (a lot of the time anger and frustration don’t act as bigotry) but the fact of the matter is, a lot of people were convinced their vote would lead to illegal immigrants being deported. Since then, racial tensions are high and Muslims and other migrants are being targeted with: ‘What are they still doing here? We voted them out!’
Unfortunately, I don’t think people were educated enough before the vote, and even I found more information as soon as the result came in. Directly after the UK voted to leave, Nigel Farage went back on his promises and revealed several lies in his own campaign. One being printed on a bus: ‘We spend £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.’ He could not promise this because it’s simply not true. Given that it is a gross figure of the year 2015, it’s hypothetical because the UK has a 1% of GDP rebate. So 2015 figures show £17.8bn, if you deduct the rebate of £4.9bn you get £248 million a week (recognised by the independent fact-checking organisation Full Facts). Furthermore, it doesn’t take into account money that comes back into the country, as the reason every EU country puts money in is to get something back. In 2015, £4.4bn came back in, which was spent on the private sector, distributed between public bodies and spent on the poorer parts of the UK. So, if you deduct the rebate and the money sent back you end up with £7.1bn – £136 million a week. So voters were mislead, as the campaign used a gross figure with the word “sent” which is a terrible misuse of power, poor judgement, and an outright lie. This money has nothing to do with the NHS, it is money already funding poorer parts of the UK, as we would receive more than we would pay.
A lot of Leave voters have acknowledged this deceit and a petition has been set up for a second referendum with over 4 million signatures from the time of writing. I would normally say it is democracy, and the majority of people have made their minds up, however the amount of lies and lack of information meant a lot of people didn’t know what they were voting for. And we can see this now in so much regret coming from the Leave voters.
It’s a shame the majority of Leave voters were working class, but in retrospect it’s obvious. They are consistently ignored by Parliament and are fed up with austerity cuts and having to struggle day after day to make ends meet. A vote to leave the European Union, to them, sounded good – forget the big businesses, the bankers and all these rich people, forget the EU and put some focus on us instead. But that’s not how it came about, as they will, again, be ignored because they are no longer needed. For a lot of people, their hearts were in the right place, even though it has led to bigotry in the streets, but the reality is no one knows what’s going to happen or what to do. It’s frustrating that these politicians stirred up these racial tentions and now wash their hands of it, having got what they wanted.
Now Brexit has won, David Cameron has stepped down and Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – who supported Leave – reveal they have no plan. Of course there was no plan, they just liked the idea of it. Like Farage waving his Union Jack and drinking bitter in the pub, a traditionalist with no substance. They love the idea of being identified with a country and now we have it back. Have our country back? Back from where? We never lost it. I’m not a traditionalist nor a patriot, but I do know that our country’s identity is right here where it’s always been. Nothing has changed except now there is more tension and less money. But that’s okay, we have our country back. Don’t we?
Whatever happens, the media needs to become more impartial to give the correct information and stop scaremongering. Even on social media, people are writing things about doom and gloom before and after the referendum. People are frightened. No one knows what’s happening or what to do. A third of voters don’t think Brexit will even happen. But if it does, there should not be more austerity cuts. Mark Carney, Govenor of the Bank of England, apparently put aside billions of pounds as a precaution in case of a financial crisis. We can try and see how Switzerland and the EEA get by, because it’s possible we won’t fall apart when we do finally accept it. We need to stop scaring each other in an already divided nation.