Monday, 27 June 2016

The EU referendum.

I don't know how many people will read this, and if you were expecting something to do with aviation then I can only apologise, but I felt like this would be a good platform for me to collect my thoughts during this historic period of time. 

I am a young university graduate, who studied science, from an affluent area. The only way I could've been more likely to vote remain would be if were Scottish too! And yes, I did vote remain. But I did think about it, long and hard in fact. I came to the conclusion that the free movement of people is no bad thing as it works in both directions - I value the ability to travel freely and the opportunity to work wherever I like. I decided that, on the world stage, 28 countries surely have more influence than 1. I believe being part of the common market is a good thing for the economy. Closer to my personal life, I think the EU make scientific collaboration easier. But I also have a problem with the fact that too many people with positions of power in the EU are not elected and are largely unaccountable.  On balance though, from looking at the wider picture, I believed remain was the best decision. The problems the world faces - energy, food and water security, the threat of extremism - these are global issues that require global cooperation. 

But, the UK has decided now and we're out. My initial reaction was one of anger, particularly towards an older generation who primarily voted leave, and who have denied the young of Britain the future they wanted. I do however respect the result, not least because the turnout among young voters was low. Following the collapse of the Labour party, and a lack of an immediate plan from the Tories, I realise now why a chunk of leave voters voted that way. They are disenfranchised with the political class. All but one major party campaigned to stay - for many, particularly those in previously Labour strongholds, this was a vote to punish the politicians. In these poorer communities, people feel left behind, with nothing left to lose. This is reflected in the fact that wealthier areas voted remain - they felt that, if it ain't broken, why fix it? But of course it is broken.

So that is part of the leave vote, a protest. Another chunk came from people with legitimate concerns about the EU, such as a sovereignty, and the negative impacts of immigration locally. The issue I have here is with the politicians. Both sides exaggerated the effects of staying or leaving, but leave straight out lied. In the days following the result, we have admissions that the £350 million figure was untrue, and that immigration will likely not change (because to be part of the EEC, a condition is free movement of people, just as in Norway and Switzerland, and leaving the EEC would truly be economic suicide!). Boris has even said that the only changes will be to do with how we make our laws. That is not what many leave voters were signed up for, largely because Vote Leave and Farage's campaigns, at times, became hard to distinguish. Farage in particular, I find repulsive. He had the nerve to say "we won without a shot being fired", the week after a remain supporting MP was shot dead. We have been lied to, fed propaganda, the result is based on disinformation, with many leave voters are already regretting their decision. I dare say that if it were held again tomorrow, the result would swing the other way. Furthermore, if leave voters think that Boris and Farage are voices of the people, they couldn't be more wrong. Boris is just about as big a toff as you can get! 

So I'm not angry with all leave voters, of course not. Their demographic is wide and there aren't 17 million racists in the country. I am, however, angry with the politicians in charge of the leave campaign, for being fundamentally dishonest on such an important matter, and there are many leave voters who at this time agree with this sentiment.  I am angry with the political class as a whole, because they have become so out of touch with so many people. And I'm not impressed by anyone, a leaver or remainer, who didn't really think about their decision and made it on a whim. 

But most of all I am concerned, scared, in fact. Not about the economy, I'm sure in the long run it'll be fine. Not even about dealing with global issues or scientific collaboration, we can make that work whilst being outside the EU. 

I'm worried about the minority of leave voters who voted from the wrong reasons. As I've heard it put: "not all leave voters are xenophobes, but all xenophobes are leave voters". Since the result there has been a spate of racially motivated attacks and abuse. I'm not saying such things are common, but they seem to have increased. The Britain First brigade, and others of their school of thought, see the result as a victory for their way of thinking. Of course it isn't, but they claim it as such. They feel as though the 52% secretly agree with them, and use this to legitismise being openly racist and intolerant. "Make Britain white again". Neo-Nazi signs being put up. I can see elements of 1930s Germany in 21st Century Britain, and it worries me deeply:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-3663478. There are similar loud, far right minorities across Europe, such as Le Pen in France.  

We have voted to leave and we must respect that. However, I think it's obvious, that without the far right vote, and with a more honest campaign, we would be staying in the EU. What we must do now is unite as a society. The next government needs to acknowledge that there are millions of people who are unhappy, for whatever reason. They need to negotiate the hell out of talks with the EU to get a good deal for the UK, they have a duty to do so. And they need to be held accountable for misleading the people. 

But most of all, decent people, the 95%, need to unite against bigotry and hatred. The racist behavior towards people who are "not like us" must be confronted and silenced. That is not what Britain is about, it's more akin to ISIS ideology, and a spread of such ideas is a step backwards into darker times. Encouragingly, I have seen politicians on both sides, from all parties, making this crucial point. 

We have, and always will have, more in common that what divides us. Perhaps the mantra of "we still love EU, regards, the 48%", should now be, "we are not all racists. Regards, the 95%".