What Now? One Woman’s Take On The Aftermath Of Brexit


By Kirsten Parnell

On Thursday June 23, a referendum was held on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. Of the 33.5 million people who turned out to vote, 51.9% voted to leave. To say this came as a shock is a huge understatement – which sounds crazy, I know. It was a referendum, it could only go one of two ways – surely we were prepared for a “Leave” vote on some level?

The answer to that is no – everything that has happened here since Friday morning would suggest that there is not a single person who was truly prepared for Brexit. Least of all the politicians that called the referendum in the first place. By 8.30am on Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron had announced that he would be stepping down in the autumn, having led the defeated campaign for us to remain in the EU. Crucially, he stated he would not be activating Article 50 – the key decision in triggering the exit process. He has left that to whoever his successor will be, so we are in limbo for now.

I voted to remain, believing that the benefits of being part of an international organization far outweigh the costs. The list of people and organizations who were in favor of a Remain vote also provided fairly conclusive evidence that it was the right thing to do: the Governor of the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund, the leaders of every other EU country, President Barack Obama, the leaders of five other major political parties in the UK, the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, Japan, India and New Zealand, all living former Prime Ministers of the UK, all reputable economists… you get the picture (you can read a full list here). Politically and economically, it is simply too much of a gamble for us to strike out on our own, and this was proven in the early hours of Friday, when the value of the pound hit the lowest it has been for 31 years, and Wall Street suffered its worst fall in ten months.

It is hard to escape the feeling that it should never have come to a referendum in the first place. We had not been presented with all the facts on this issue and it is simply too complex for us, the general public, to understand. The Leave campaign wrongly named immigration as our biggest problem, and posed a speedy exit from the EU as the solution. This captured the attention of people living in the poorest areas, who have felt the effects of the recession most deeply and who have felt politically voiceless until now.

But something dark and frightening has been unleashed here. Since Friday, it appears there has been a rise in racist and hate-fueled incidents; cards reading “no more Polish vermin” have been posted through letterboxes in Cambridgeshire, and in the city of Birmingham on Friday night, a group of young men allegedly cornered a Muslim girl and shouted, “Get out, we voted ‘Leave,’” at her. There are many more stories like this – searching the Twitter hashtag #PostRefRacism makes for some very upsetting reading.

A petition calling for a second referendum has gathered over three million signatures since it was launched on Friday, but it is now being investigated for fraudulent signatures. In any case, I don’t think anyone wants to go through it all again, and I am not convinced the result would be dramatically different. There are simply too many deprived areas and broken communities where people feel abandoned and alienated from the affluent, London-dwelling, privileged white men who run the country. However, there have been stories circulating on social media of people who voted to leave but now bitterly regret their decision, many saying theirs were protest votes and they never thought Leave would actually win. What is more heart-breaking is the number of people who have reportedly said that if they’d felt better-informed about the true consequences of a Leave vote, they would have voted Remain.

I’ve never been so scared for the future of my country. I’m not even especially patriotic; like a lot of young people now, I feel that nationalist pride is mostly an out-dated notion. I have a lot of affection for the UK, though; it is home. I love with all my heart our sense of humor, our countryside, our cities packed full of all kinds of cultures and all kinds of history. Our total dependence on hot tea in times of trouble – it isn’t an exaggerated stereotype, I can promise you. The first thing I could think to do on Friday morning, on hearing the results of the vote, was to make a cup of tea. I’ve made a lot of tea this weekend.

The phrase “take back control” was repeated over and over by Leave campaigners on the run-up to this vote. In the days that have followed the result, it looks as though we have completely lost control – and right now, there’s no sign of us regaining it.

Kirsten is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. The views and opinions expressed in Contributing Writer articles reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the site. 

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