We Will Remain…Friends I Hope!

So the EU referendum results in the UK have come in and 52% of the voting electorate have chosen to leave with 48% wanting to remain. I think I went through the 5 stages of grief over the course of the morning. At first I couldn’t believe it, then I got really angry, then I went into thinking ‘well is there a way we can change this?’, before sinking into chomping chocolate biscuits and thinking ‘what’s the point?’ and finally I accepted the reality:

People are really divided in the UK at the moment

My first reaction was "Grrrrrrrr!" but I realised that wasn't fair nor was it going to make me feel better.  So I settled and began to analyse why a huge percentage of my country’s population voted to leave a political, social and economic union which has benefitted and annoyed us all at some point or another. And then I realised; this was a referendum based primarily on feeling and less on fact. Many people feel the European Union has been a failure. They see it as a cumbersome lumbering ignorant ogre, issuing laws and diktats that nobody approves of mainly because they barely understand them. Arguably there is a lot in the EU that requires reform, but equally there is a lot in the EU that doesn’t.

What happened?

Just call me Dick

David Cameron MP and outgoing Prime Minister of Great Britain happened. Such a complex and intricate decision was put to a public vote before anyone had enough of the facts to absorb. Many believe he should never have triggered it. Since February, the British public have been subjected to a campaign full of lies, half truths and outrageous claims from both sides of the argument. The ‘Leave’ campaign did however overtake the ‘Remain’ campaign on what I call ‘The Lieometer’. They have peddled so many falsehoods that one of the leading figures Nigel Farage was forced to admit that they lied just this morning. Check out the video below or click here to view it.

On the other side of the debate, the Remain campaign panicked and decided to also operate on a campaign of fear instead of hope and the truth about the EU. It got so bad, that we were led to feel like World War 3 would start if we voted to leave the EU. It was a pity that neither side were more positive as this has been one of the most toxic political debates in some time, over a union that ideologically, sociologically and economically is incredible and took decades to achieve. The EU has many flaws (often too bureaucratic, too bogged down in procedure and too slow to react to public opinion). But it also has many positives (all citizens free to live and work anywhere they choose, strong human rights laws – originally drafted by the UK incidentally - , free trade throughout the bloc, sociological benefits, closer ties and friendship with different countries and people…the list goes on).

So why did we vote to leave?

Firstly, only 52% voted to leave. That leaves 48% who wanted to remain. The vote was very close and has already had huge implications globally. That’s right globally.  The British currency has fallen to its lowest value since 1985.  Hundreds of countries have expressed concern over the implications economically but also sociologically...with only Donald Trump in the US thinking ‘it’s great’.  If you agree with his views then I wish you well.  Around Europe reaction has been mixed with many countries feeling sad about the decision and some jubilant. Many right wing parties in Denmark, Austria, Hungary and other countries see ‘Brexit’ (British Exit) as an opportunity to trigger their own referendums on exiting the union.  If this happens, we could be looking at the breakup of a union that has aided so many and most importantly served to prevent any major European conflict since the Second World War.

But voters are angry and many have short memories. Generations die and fail to pass on painful lessons of the past that their children need to know. The same mistakes are made again. However now that I have gone through my grieving I have chosen to remain hopeful for the future and thought about some potential positives.

1. Brexit could encourage the EU to rethink its own practices to prevent further exits and a breakup of the union

2. It could also encourage the EU to react faster to public opinion.

3. Age Gap

In Britain, many people who voted Remain are cross. Following a breakdown of the voting electorate it has been discovered 49% of people aged 50-65 and 58% of people aged 65+ voted to leave.

The average remaining life expectancy for these people is 31 and 16 years respectively. In comparison only 24% of people aged 18-24 and 39% of people aged 25-49 voted to leave. The average life expectancy for these people is 69 and 52 years respectively.

Simply put, the younger generation have to live longer with the consequences of Brexit then the older generation do. As there is a big gap in opinion between the older generation and the younger generation, this doesn’t sound ideal, so where’s the positive? Not to be too blunt, but in the future many of the current older generation will be dead, leaving a younger perhaps more positive thinking next generation to take its place. Thanks to the older generation, union might be more challenging to achieve now, but there will be more people who want to achieve it in the future. So that’s hopeful I think. Also not every person over the age of 50 voted to leave.  I know many people 20 years older then me who are appalled at the result.  It's wrong and indeed unfair to tar an entire generation with the same brush.  I'm just quoting statistics and trying not to make sweeping generalisations.

4. Education

It’s no coincidence that huge sections of the populace that voted to remain in the EU were well educated at school and university. The fact that 52% still voted to leave is more an indictment on our own flawed system of education and politics that doesn’t provide all the opportunities to the country that it should. It is a historical fact that the more educated and informed people are, the better chance they have in making an informed decision on things. We have failed large sections of our country. Perhaps Brexit will wake politicians up to the fact that prosperity starts at school.

What now?

Don't know

No idea!

Well David Cameron has already handed in his notice leaving behind a turbulent mess (or a big poo depending on which side of the fence you're on) There will be a lot of debate in the coming months as to what Brexit means for the UK, the EU and the world. At the moment people are uncertain – on both sides of the divide. Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party has already said that it is ‘highly likely’ a second Scottish Independence referendum will be held shortly. She has stated her intention to instruct the Scottish Parliament to begin drawing up legislation to this effect. So we are not only looking at the possible start of an EU breakup, we are also looking at the very real possibility of Britain breaking up as well. Doh!

The only certainty I know is that 52% of British voters have just thrown away a wonderful opportunity to remain part of a union which whilst not perfect, is ten times better than anything within the UKs own outdated and ineffective political system.

One of my aunts told me she was thinking ‘about her children’s future’ when she voted to leave.  I didn’t have the heart to ask her to explain how leaving one of the biggest economic, sociological and ideologically positive unions that allows her children to live, work and thrive anywhere within 28 countries without costly Visa applications and prior job offers, was looking out for their future.  All I can see is that my Aunt has helped to move us one step closer toward removing future opportunities for her children.  I might be wrong though.

I understand the anger people have felt, I understand the fear politicians have tried to instil in people’s hearts, and I understand the great divide in England that has existed for years but has been highlighted so clearly by Brexit.  And it makes me sad.

Hope

Yet still I try and retain some hope for the future of my country. I hope that my aunt and the other 52% of voters who don’t want to be part of the EU are right, and Britain will remain united and become prosperous outside of the union. I hope that all the lies and half truths the Leave campaign inflicted on the public, soon won’t feel as bad as they factually are. I hope the racist attitudes and bigotry that has fuelled some of the Leave campaign’s vote will fade and disappear in time. I hope that the EU will remain our friends and assist us despite 52% of us telling them to sod off (48% of us still like the EU).

I hope.

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About the Author

John is an award winning science fiction, horror and fantasy writer. He is also a public speaker and consultant and has worked with Time to Change - a campaign to end mental health stigma - and for Wellment - an organisation that delivers mental health at work training. He loves science fiction, fantasy and horror stories and novels. His work has appeared in Vector Magazine, Ink Pantry, Sci-Fi Bloggers, The Huffington Post and more. His short fantasy "Thanks for Applying" won an Honourable Mention Award in the Writers of the Future competition in 2017. HIs short horror "By the Boiler's Hand" was longlisted for the 2018 James White Award and won an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competiton the same year. John has spoken at several events including the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London, Bristol Con 2018, and the Moorfields NHS Trust. He has delivered masterclasses on ending mental health stigma in the workplace for Time to Change. He lives with his wife and a pile of books in the UK.

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