Last Thursday the UK held a referendum. We were asked whether we should remain as part of the European Union or whether we should leave. The end result was that the UK decided to part company with the EU.
The sun had barely risen on Friday morning when Nigel Farage said that Leave’s promise of £350 million for the NHS was “a mistake”. A couple of people argued over the wording of the claim (some friends of mine said that we were told some of the money would go to the NHS, not all) and Ian Duncan Smith said that the NHS would receive “the lions share”. There’s just one problem with that; we don’t even send £350 million a week to the European Union in the first place as our rebates are deducted BEFORE we send any money! Besides, this banner very clearly gives the impression that ALL £350 million a week will go to the NHS.
We all make mistakes but at least immigration will come down, right? Boris Johnson is quoted as saying that a vote to stay in the union would mean people “kissing goodbye permanently to control of immigration” and who can forget Nigel Farage’s ‘Breaking Point!’ poster, scarily reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Granted Nigel Farage was never actually part of the official Leave campaign but if you’re going to back leaving the European Union, you know you are going to be associated with him and UKIP. On Saturday, Dan Hannan (MEP and backing Leave), told Evan Davis “We never said there was going to be some radical decline … we want a measure of control”. Maybe it’s semantics, I don’t know but surely controlling immigration means you are going to try and bring it down? It very much sounds like the same thing to me.
Leave campaigners dismissed claims that the UK’s trade would be damaged because we would be able to negotiate our own deals. Which seems perfectly fine on the surface but with Barrack Obama confirming that we would be “at the back of the queue” for trade negotiations with the United States. And what of trade with the European Union? Who knows what sort of deal they would be prepared to give us. Currently Norway has free trade despite being outside the EU but they in exchange they allow free movement. Given immigration was a key topic of Leave’s campaign and Norway pay into the EU without a say in the rules, I am not sure that is a deal that is worth taking.
I am sure there are many more claims that can be proven at best misleading, at worst out and out lies. That’s not to say the side backing to stay in the EU fared a whole lot better. They too made claims that were misleading, such as each family would be £4,300 a year worse off. The whole thing seemed like a farce to me and an exercise to decide where the Conservatives should stand on the European Union.
Within hours of the result being confirmed the pound had fallen, David Cameron resigned, billions of pounds had been wiped from the FTSE100 and the Labour party started to unravel. I have long suspected that for many people this referendum was about something other than our membership of the European Union. For many voters, this was about showing discontent with the establishment.
Many of us barely even know how the Houses of Parliament works short of the fact we vote for an MP, never mind the European Union which many view as bureaucratic and confusing. I took it upon myself to do some research in the run up to the referendum. I educated myself about how the European Union works and I purposefully looked for the arguments on both sides. I decided I wanted to know as much as I could about what we were being asked to vote on and I gleaned information from a variety of resources. Many people took what was reported at face value. Of course I found out that the analysts predicted the pound falling and billions of pounds being wiped from the stock exchange (in fact, more has been wiped from the stock exchange than the total amount we paid into the European Union) but it seems rather than investigate the potential for this to happen, people expected the media to hand feed them the information. When even readers of The Sun and The Mail comment that they were unaware of the consequences of Brexit and wish they could change their vote, you know that something has gone wrong somewhere. Personally I was torn on which way to vote. Eurosceptics do raise many points which I think are valid and need to be heard but they rarely seem to come up with a workable solution and for me, that was the main reason why I ended up voting Remain. That no one could give even a rough idea on how to move forward as a country should we decide to leave worried me, a lot. And it seems that I was right to be worried.
Last Wednesday, when a friend put up a status saying she was worried that a Leave vote might happen, I replied that I was less worried about the financial or legal consequences but more concerned about the potential for the far right to be given ammunition towards their cause. Dare I suggest, the 60% rise in reported racial crimes since Thursday cannot be mere coincidence.
I don’t think anyone, least of all Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, expected Leave to win. I suspect, for Boris Johnson at least, this was just meant to prove to the public that he is able to take the next step in his political career and become Prime Minister, I have no doubt that was his eventual career plan and we, the public, are merely pawns in his game. The decision of David Cameron to step aside, despite the support of the Conservative MPs, has dealt Boris Johnson something of a check-mate and apparently came as a surprise to him.
We are now in a position where both of the main parties are going to be running campaigns for leadership over the next few months and no one wants to instigate Article 50, the key to beginning negotiations to leave the European Union. It feels unfair, not only to us citizens of the UK but also to ex-pats and to fellow EU citizens in other countries, to have this indecision hanging over us. There are calls for a second referendum on the matter due to lies that were told throughout the campaigns (and those calls come from supporters on both sides) or a general election once a new leader of the Conservative party has been chosen on account of David Cameron stepping down.
Meanwhile, in the red corner, the Labour party is falling apart at the seams. Jeremy Corbyn’s resolve to continue as leader of the Labour party, despite the overwhelming vote of no confidence from fellow MPs, would usually be admirable. He had such a huge mandate last year from party members that his commitment to them is understandable but it is difficult to form an effective opposition if you can’t form even a shadow cabinet. Could the man we once respected for his strong principles be, dare I say, too principled and cause the party to fracture? Only time will tell and given it’s only been a week since the referendum, I don’t suppose we will have to wait too long for the answer.
And just because the last week hasn’t been strange enough in politics,Keanu Reeves turned up at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.