I’ve never been upset by politics before. Those close to me will know it can leave me disillusioned or disagreeing, sometimes annoyed and rarely indifferent. But never before has it left me genuinely saddened, gutted, sickened even. Until I woke up in Brexit England.
The campaign to Leave the EU has gained support from the vilest corners of our political spectrum. Unlike with previous elections, these people haven’t even bothered hide their core driving principles, totally unapologetic about the tribalism and hatred they stand for.
In doing so, Leave have delivered the most xenophobic, deceiving and irrational campaign in modern British political history: Donald Trump rhetoric masqueraded as a noble quest for democracy, articulated in a more sophisticated-sounding accent.
That’s not really the issue. Extremism has always poisoned our politics, and always will. Some might even argue it’s a necessary evil to keep moderate parties on their toes. My fear comes not from the validation of public suspicions that
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a total bell end, or Nigel Farage a dangerous bigot disguised as a chippy chappy who ought to be taken seriously indeed.
Rather, it stems from the fact that more than half of Brits, including some of my closest friends, found something to strongly identify with and cheers on in this campaign of unfiltered ignorance and xenophobia.
The European Union may be doomed to fail, and I might well turn around in a few years to cringe at my own words whilst acknowledging the British clairvoyance of getting out before the edifice had collapsed. But that doesn’t change the nature of the Leave message, which has lost an intellectual argument it barely attempted to win whilst successfully banking on the most disgusting of ideas to flagship its campaign.
As a French middle-class male who lives in a
formerly advanced nation, I have in the words of British imperialist freak Cecil Rhodes – might as well keep it topical – won ‘first prize in the lottery of life‘ in so many ways. I’ve been lucky enough never to feel part of a demonized, unwelcome and undervalued minority before. But that was before.
My family and I now have to think in ways we never thought we would here: my dad, married to a British woman should be fine while I hold a good job and my sister is entitled to claim citizenship. Are we safe? These are conversations we must now have, the real-life stuff behind the loud slogans.
I love this country and never imagined myself live anywhere else. Now, it would be unreasonable not to consider a Plan B. For that reason, my heart sinks faster than the pound drops – in case you wonder, that’s pretty fucking fast. I never thought politics could do this.
This referendum was pushed upon us by the vanity of corrupt politicians, whose cruel austerity measures have created a socio-economic climate within which Brexit ultimately comes as no surprise. This was never a referendum on Europe, which after months of campaign most people still know shit about. It was a referendum on David Cameron, inequality and immigration.
It was decided by a baby boomers demographic who know little of economic hardship or immigrants, and who will be lucky enough to die before we face the consequences of their nostalgic stupidity. This is a generation which was given everything, from free education to golden pensions and social mobility. Once more, they have striped those rights from us.
Finally, it was celebrated by a misinformed majority who believed their protest vote would punish the establishment, grant them more power, spare up EU money to invest towards their own communities and stop immigration, whereby offering them prospects of a better life. Needless to say, they will pay the harshest price when the blinding curtain of patriotism and campaign lies is lifted.
There are reasons for optimism. That 75% of 18-24 voted Remain hints at a bright future led by a generation unafraid of diversity and the exciting possibilities which come with an interconnected world. That my city of London (and it is my city) predictably and overwhelmingly voted Stay is a great acknowledgement of the awesome economic and cultural contribution of immigration in general, and Europeans in particular. This also means a lot.
Most of my friends and colleagues are devastated, ashamed of what their country has become as of yesterday. As an EU citizen, my freedom to seek new adventures and work within the Union remains untouched. That freedom may be lost to them, and I’m sorry for that.
Let us make no mistake. Today we wake up in a different country to the inclusive and tolerant nation I fell in love with some 8 years ago. Today, everything changes. It’s likely skilled people from the more glamorous parts of the continent like myself would be allowed to stay, as we contribute high taxes and hold jobs which can’t easily be filled. The most important question now is, why would we want to?