The referendum, its huge topic, so naturally I feel compelled to give my pennies worth. I had to. Sorry. It is certainly outside of my comfort zone to write about such a hot, current and controversial topic but I do want to write nonetheless.
It has been a pretty sad state of affairs. Pre-voting and post-voting divided people and the country, and often people were fixed with one way in mind from the off. I did not meet many people who (like me) were willing to have a genuinely open debate (with or even without actual facts) or even play devils advocate etc, and that made it very hard for me to make my decision. I admittedly fluctuated constantly, day by day, hour by hour, even minute by minute before I told my family my decision ahead of their proxy vote on my behalf. I feel that I was relatively informed, but through my own doing. Reading, watching, listening. From campaigners, experts, the general public and even my flatmate who is French provided me with some interesting insights. I can’t have been the only one who struggled, and that really is what it was, a struggle. The burden of this vote was too real for me and as soon as I thought I settled one way I switched to the other, back and forth, and it was grinding me down to a point where I genuinely considered a no vote. I won’t share with you my decision because I do not think it is important to discuss here, but what I do feel compelled to write about is the reaction. By my peers, fellow country men and women, and most definitely the government.
“…but honestly, the comments I have seen/heard/read. My word. They suck.”
Since the decision to leave was announced my social media has been flooded with Remain voters expressing their views of anger, interestingly, hardly a wink from Leave – although I guess they have nothing to moan about. As much as there was propaganda throughout the campaign from both sides, it continues, even now. Videos I have seen that are equally appalling to watch when listening to the reasons behind an individual’s votes, but there has been a huge flood of videos, data, written opinions and infographics trying to figure out who voted for what and why, in a very negative way. A way that is draining and segregating people. There is data that looks to draw correlations and causations to the 52% Leave voters and adds fuel to the fire too (can’t argue with data, but still, they all lack context which isn’t ideal). Quite frankly I find it really disappointing to see how this is going down. Obviously one side was going to lose, and thus around 16 million people would ultimately be annoyed, but honestly, the comments I have seen/heard/read. My word. They suck.
There are a lot of people looking to identify who is to blame (even blame makes me laugh, after all, it was a democratic vote). Whether that blame is at Boris or Nigel specifically, the Leave campaign generally, or the “uneducated and lower income” individuals – there is someone getting an earful at every level. The latter comments have really bothered me, and the spectrum has been shown in said infographics. Correlations have shown that, predominantly, those from a lower income background voted to Leave, and those with lower levels of education voted to Leave. But lets be blunt here, income levels can be attributable, degree’s however, leave it out. I have a bachelors and masters degree, does that make me educated in politics? No. Does my friend who voted Leave, with his masters degree in Sport, make him educated in politics? No. Does my friend who voted Remain, with his bachelor degree in Pharmacy, make him educated in politics? No. The only counter argument to this is that an individual with a degree has been taught how to cypher through information and make logical, informed decisions. But, like I said, I know people to have degrees that voted Leave – so let’s not just categorise all Leave voters as uneducated, particularly in a way that makes Remain voters sound to be educated and therefore superior. It’s not on.
From what I can tell, the decision to vote Leave boiled down to three things. (1) Firstly, and generalising here, the 65+ population that most likely (guessing/watching videos posted online) voted Leave due to understanding what England was like pre-EU and (again, guessing/videos) their lack(?) of cultural diversity or interaction throughout the vast majority of their lives (specifically thinking about the ridiculous views on immigration), plus an obscured perception of what the world is like now relative to the reality in terms of the UK economically, commercially, socially. I suspect this is from reading dumbfounding newspapers that prey on controversial topics and spin loose information in to so-called fact, or watching the constant barrage of pessimistic news on the television, whatever the topic. There are also vastly more 65+ individuals in the UK, which helps to outnumber younger generations – and this point ties in nicely to my second point. (2) I saw an infographic of the Leave/Remain split of 18-14 and 25-50 year olds (see below), with the majority voting Remain in both age categories – however, I also noticed that approximately 28% of 18-50 year olds were registered to vote, and did not. A lot of people are blaming the older generations for ruining the ‘youths’ future (with references to screwing up housing opportunities or the cost of education and more) – how about the ‘youths’ ruining their own future by not showing up? Are they not accountable? Only 72% of the entire country voted too, regardless of age. Are the remaining 28% of non-voters across the country not accountable either? (3) Finally, and most obviously, there is a huge lack of education around politics and equally the sharing of information about our country and its relationship with the EU or the world. Across the board, old or young, degree or no degree, high or low income levels, remain or leave – everyone needs better education if big decisions like this are to take place. The Government made a colossal mistake here.
“How poor that our Government decided to flog us with leaflets of Remain… but did not provide a document that allowed people to make their own mind up based on straight forward fact.”
Colossal mistake? How can you say that? Well, think about it. Yes the Government had every right to back the vote one way, but it is equally their responsibility to identify and share what the pros and cons are, of both Remaining and Leaving. Life would be made so much easier if I could sit down and read a document, broken down into areas such as Economics, Immigration, Legislation etc that simply draws attention to fact based information. No bias. Just fact. Simple, objective information. Not only would this allow anyone of any age, level of income, level of academic learning to make a clearly informed decision, but maybe we would’t have the disarray that has then followed (both legally and the judgement of others). I said myself I struggled to make a decision, yet even now I feel ill-informed, listening to both sides regarding the decision and the uncertainty of how things will pan out. I was struggling before and I still am – it is pretty daunting to say the least. How poor that our Government decided to flog us with leaflets of Remain (which they have every right to do to advise us in that direction), but did not provide a document that allowed people to make up their own mind and make their vote based on straight forward fact. A well-informed voter. We all want that! Remain voters are furious at how obvious it was that being in the EU is a benefit to the UK and thus to remain. If it was obvious, why didn’t the Government demonstrate that so clearly, and why didn’t the public vote that way. Seriously, why? 17 million people disagreed with remaining, that is not a small sum of people. Can you put your hand on your heart and tell me that all of the promotions and TV debates provided a clear, no nonsense, fact based presentation of both remaining and leaving, allowing viewers to naturally come to the same decision as the Government and to remain? I think not. Unfortunately.
It is clearly too soon to tell what is going to happen, if this was a tragic decision for our country or the best decision in disguise. As a natural optimist I do have hope that our country can (and will) pull through this. Britain pride themselves on a multi-cultural and multi-faithed society across the country, we love foreigners from the EU and further afar, we love our neighbouring countries, we absolutely want to continue trading with them and I feel that we will pull through, however long it ends up taking. Wouldn’t it be nice in 2, 5, 10, 20 years time to look back on this and say “Damn, those Leave voters actually made the right call, Britain is thriving” – who knows if that will happen. What I also take optimism in is our ability to learn and adapt. Have you read the Bank of England statement? Check the full statement here, but to pick out a few points of reference, Mark Carney said the following:
“There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel,
in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.
Some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds.
But we are well prepared for this. The Treasury and the Bank of England have engaged in extensive contingency planning.
The best contribution of the Bank of England to this process is to continue to pursue relentlessly our responsibilities for monetary and financial stability. These are unchanged. We have taken all the necessary steps to prepare for today’s events.”
Beyond what our own Bank of England said, which I find to be well prepared, there are other positives to read. Obama said we wouldn’t be at the “back of the queue” after all, and our “special relationship” was still strong. The French President confirmed the Le Bouquet agreement would stay in place. The President of the EU stated the Brexit negotiations would be “orderly” and that the UK will continue to be a “close partner” of the EU. One of the large banks denied moving 2,000 staff overseas. Multiple countries outside of the EU wish to begin bi-lateral trade talks with the UK immediately, including Canada. And finally, France and Germany want to continue trading with the British. European countries want to work with us, in or out of the EU. Maybe the graph below is a good representation of why.
Now, I am absolutely not a economics expert, and I know this won’t be a clear cut process going forwards, and it will involve a long volatile period of uncertainty, but the above sounds optimistic to me. Maybe I am silly/naive to think so or maybe I have faith in the British to fight this battle well. And lets face it, at 27 I have spent my entire adult life in and around a recession, with a degree debt that I will spend my life paying off and a non-existent house that I cannot afford to buy. It can only get better, and I hope you agree too and share my optimism.
Feel free to write your comments to me, or at me (play nice). I always want to learn more if I am wrong, but give me a thumbs up if you are thinking the same as me.
Zak – BSc, MSc, 27, Working Class, EU Referendum Voter*
*new email signature?