It is a struggle to find the appropriate words to describe how I am feeling about yesterday’s unwelcome news – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will part ways with the European Union. The result of the historic referendum, genuinely, came as a great shock to me. A part of me always assumed that the Vote Remain campaign would gain victory across the U.K., as the alternative seemed deeply divisive and undesirable. However, one must now come to terms with the judgement of the majority of the British population, no matter how wrong it is reckoned to be.
Although the success of Vote Leave, which won by 51.9%, is a life-changing result of significant global importance, this is only the beginning of the end. An official notification on behalf of the British government must first be delivered to the E.U., and subsequent negotiations must take place before a ‘Brexit’ can be realised. The process will carry on for a period of two years, as the U.K. attempts to reorganise its trade agreements with nations remaining in the E.U. In the aftermath of the vote’s declaration, the markets’ volatility was manifested, and this was indeed predicted – but not by the triumphant Vote Leave campaign. The lies spouted by the ‘Brexiters’ were shameful and completely unprincipled; particularly the pledge made by Boris Johnson that £350 million would be invested in the National Health Service per week if the British people voted to leave. Just an hour after the results became known, Nigel Farage called that very pledge a “mistake.” Another lie transpired shortly afterwards when Conservative Party MEP Daniel Hannan stated that leaving the E.U. would reduce immigration to the U.K.
The FTSE 100 observed losses of £120 billion in its worst day since the financial crisis, this, of course, will negatively affect ordinary, hardworking people’s pensions. For ordinary British people, the prospect of purchasing a property and the level of income they receive will all change, negatively, of course. The situation can only expect to furthermore deteriorate financially, and the U.K. will not be the only nation to suffer. The fifth-largest economy on the planet became the sixth largest almost overnight, having been overtaken by France. I wholeheartedly reject the notion that this is short term pain for long term gain. How can this possibly be a good thing?
Already many people who ill-advisedly voted to leave are regretting their decision, I say rightly so. Unfortunately many others are less remorseful, and are chanting such things as “This is our England” and “We have taken our country back.” The most alarming aspect of this referendum was the blatant surge of xenophobia and English nationalism. While I personally am not opposed to nationalist movements, the strong associations of the former with the latter cannot be ignored. The rise in extremist far-right fringe groups, such as the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), can be attributed to the financial hardships experienced in the U.K. over the past several years. Prime Minister David Cameron never wanted to hold a referendum on the matter of the U.K.’s membership of the E.U., and though it was not legally-binding, the overturning of the popular vote would be considered “political suicide.” Cameron came under intense pressure from the likes of Nigel Farage who represents a part of British society I most certainly do not sympathise with. A part of British society I wish to know no more about. The more the economy deteriorates, the stronger these hate-filled fringe groups will become.
Farage’s infamous and disgusting campaign poster may go down in history for what it was, a replica of Nazi propaganda. Such propaganda is greatly damaging to society, and only heightens the tensions and hatred within it. The senseless murder of Jo Cox, a Labour MP for the constituency of Batley and Spen, and a mother of two, must always be remembered. Jo’s admirable message of compassion and humanity in such dark times must never be forgotten. She was brutally shot and stabbed by yet another terrorist, a 52-year-old named Thomas Mair. A terrorist who reportedly shouted “Death to the traitors, put Britain first.” Such acts of violence and terror towards individuals who are trying their damnedest to make a positive difference are commonplace in this oftentimes cruel world. That is why it was such a tremendously beautiful gesture when Malala Yousafzai, a young woman who came face to face with such unspeakable hate, spoke at a remembrance ceremony for Jo in London.
Jo was proud to be from Yorkshire and campaigned for the rights of innocent Syrian civilians surrounded by an unjustifiable conflict in their homeland. That is why this incident was particularly upsetting, as this remarkable woman fell victim to the rising hatred in her own country – the country she truly loved. We, as fellow human beings, must not allow hatred to overpower us. Whenever and wherever we see xenophobia or any form of racial discrimination, we must act resolutely to stop it. We cannot allow immigrant populations to feel unwanted after the great contributions they have made to British society – they have done, and are still doing, the jobs the indigenous workers choose not to.
Now, the people of the U.K have absolutely no idea what the future has in store for them. Some view the go ahead of ‘Brexit’ as the avoidance of the bureaucracy of Europe, as well as the rebirth of British sovereignty and the taking back of control over the U.K.’s borders. My response to that is the U.K. was not part of the Schengen zone, and while the E.U. undeniably needs immediate reforms, the withdrawal of the U.K. from the organisation was not the solution. It will prove to be a reckless move. A move the U.K. will learn to be sorry about in the future, or so I hope. It is safe to say the very union at the core of the U.K.’s existence is now threatened following the outcome of the E.U. referendum, as Scotland voted 62% to remain in the E.U., and Northern Ireland voted 56% in favour of remaining also.
Within a matter of hours of the result being announced, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon made her response as blunt and as explicit as possible. The concept of Scotland having a second independence referendum in the next two years is “very likely” and is “very much on the table.” Sturgeon has stood by her people, the people of which she was chosen to represent, and she will put up a fierce fight to ensure their voice is heard loud and clear. A material change in circumstances has occurred, that cannot be argued, and in the event of such a material change, a referendum on independence must be called upon. The Scottish people are being dragged out of the E.U., an organisation from which they benefit considerably as a primarily rural, peripheral region. It is, as Sturgeon has called it, “democratically unacceptable.”
From my viewpoint, I feel very strongly that Northern Ireland should get that same right – the right to have a democratic voice, the right to self-determination, and the right to decide upon a burning question that has irritated the island of Ireland for almost a century. I think it is beyond repulsive that Theresa Villiers thinks she has the God-given right to decide Éireann’s future, the same can be said of Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster. Foster’s demeanour is offensive and disrespectful if nothing else. It is as if she is inhabiting a parallel universe, dismissing reality in preference of fantasy. A border poll must be held, otherwise, Northern Ireland will undoubtedly walk backwards into the nightmares of the past.
However, by suggesting that the Troubles may be reborn, I am not being overdramatic or delusional. The Vice President of the U.S. Joe Biden, who is currently researching his ancestry in the Republic, delivered a speech earlier today calling for the continuation of peace in the six counties. He stated that “old habits of mistrust and sectarianism die hard.” Thus, it is indeed on the minds of prominent political figures, instability and ethnosectarian violence could easily fall back into place. That is something I truly do not want to see, for democracy always trumps violence – on both sides. The U.K. government, and the N.I. government, have no other choice but to honour the results of the referendum and observe the clear-cut facts, Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the E.U. Villiers has carelessly rebuffed Sinn Féin’s request for a border poll, claiming that ‘Brexit’ will not affect or damage the Good Friday Agreement or the greater peace process. How on earth will tight border controls not damage the fragile North-South relationship? Such an ill-considered statement should not come as a surprise, however, she did support a ‘Brexit’ after all.
The fight to prevent a ‘Brexit’ has been defeated, therefore there is no logical purpose in grouching any further over it. But, certainly, there are fights of merit still to be fought, such as the fight for a second Scottish independence referendum and an Irish border poll. The political climate has changed dramatically in the past two years since Scotland voted on its future, never mind 43 years since the nationalist-boycotted Irish border poll was conducted. Although our political differences definitely outweigh our similarities, I respect Prime Minister David Cameron for being a man of integrity, at least towards the end of his time in office. Cameron persuaded his cabinet to accept the holding of an E.U. referendum, in order to preserve the unity of his party. It can also be said that he put his heart and soul into the campaign, but it just did not pay off. He does not possess the intellectual convictions to be the person who will negotiate with the E.U. now that the U.K. is withdrawing, as he does not believe in doing so. Though it must be said that Cameron will be leaving behind a fractured union of nations, and may be passing on his premiership to Boris Johnson – a chilling thought.