- Those of us who still believe in an open, tolerant Britain cannot give up now
I voted to remain in the EU yesterday and I am extremely disappointed in the result. I’m astonished that so many people voted to leave. I’m equally astonished by how many people decided it wasn’t really all that important and didn’t vote at all. I’m angry, upset and I’m looking at the doom across social media and shaking my head.
But this is where we are. The British public in a democratic vote have chosen to leave the EU and now we have to get on with it. First of all, we have to remind ourselves that the vast majority of those who voted to leave are not xenophobic. Many will have voted because the genuinely feel the UK will be a better country outside of the EU. Many have been sold a vision and voted with their hearts. Some will have voted because they are racist and see it as a step towards getting ‘foreigners’ out of the UK, or at least towards stopping more coming in.
Let’s also remind ourselves that of those who voted, 52% voted Out, 48% voted In. But the turnout, while high at 72% leaves 28% of eligible voters having cast no vote at all.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how the sentiment pendulum could swing back. I’m not talking about getting back into the EU, that’s gone now, this is about holding those in power to account. Most people on both sides of the referendum want a fair, open, honest, tolerant, multi-cultural Britain. And now is the time to make sure that happens outside of the EU.
We may not have much say in the make-up of the UK Government until 2020 but we need to build now to ensure that the values the majority of the UK population hold dear are upheld as this country moves forward. Leavers and Remainers have to come together to marginalise xenophobic sentiment, crush any rise in fascistic tendencies. Any move to weaken workers’ rights must be resisted. Any move to remove ourselves from the EU convention of human rights must be resisted. We have to retain close ties with Europe, build new bridges.
We have to analyse minutely what the post-Brexit government does to our legal and legislative framework. Any move to disadvantage our country through damaging immigration policy has to be fought. Immigration has built this country and it sustains this country. We have to pressure them to deliver on their promises on investment and the economy and international trade. They have to know that if they fail, the will be in the wilderness come 2020.
We are in a dangerous place, right now. The tide of nationalistic fervour in some areas is genuinely worrying. And we can make it worse by being angry and peddling the types of doom we are capable of avoiding. Anger, resentment, bitterness…these are natural emotions and I feel them too. Let’s get it all out of our systems today. Tomorrow, we need to start to move forward. Leave those emotions to the small minds and the haters.
Anyone who voted Remain and rather wants the country to go to hell in a hand-basket, just so they can say ‘I told you so’, shame on you. Anyone who thinks it’s all too late and is shrugging their shoulders and wondering which country to move to, think again. Shrugging your shoulders and giving up plays into the hands of those who want to take this country back into the dark ages. We cannot let negativity swamp us.
We can shape what a post-EU Britain looks like, we can fight the things we fear might happen and defeat them.
This country has taken a huge step backwards. We can’t afford to let it take any more such steps.