Waking Up To Brexit
Disbelief is not enough to describe how I felt when I read that we’re leaving the EU. Sheer hopelessness is probably more accurate, however, words cannot truly convey the flood of emotions that I, along with most young people, have been launched into. I came to Britain on an EU passport and grew up in a European Britain. I went to bed as a European and woke up as an outsider. I am European: We were all European.
The interviews on the car radio quickly became a drone in the background as more and more Leave campaigners spoke and David Cameron eventually resigned. Sitting on the motorway listening to Radio 4, everything suddenly felt different. It felt alien, and whilst this is, of course, an exaggeration in hindsight, I suddenly didn’t feel like everyone else. It used to be “us”, but now it’s “them and us”. A change of an era, and not for the better.
It is because of the EU that I could come to the great country Britain and thrive. It was because of the EU that Britain welcomed families like mine with open arms and treated us like one of its own. That Britain, that I thought so highly of and taught me so much, is – I fear – lost. Whilst we cannot be sure of what’s to come, I worry that children and young people like myself will not have the same opportunities to thrive and develop, even once they manage to get into Britain.
Like the passing of someone close, the news still hasn’t sunk in yet. The EU is all I’ve ever known and what I’ve learned to love. Yes, it had its flaws - it would be naïve to claim the contrary – but what it gave young people was access to jobs and education and gave us an international voice with meaning. The big issues of tomorrow, that will affect my generation, can only be solved on an organised international platform like the EU. Literally a throwback to the 70s, leaving the EU means the leaders of tomorrow in Britain will not be able to effectively tackle issues such as global warming, or threaten aggressive nations like Russia with meaningful sanctions. In an era of greater globalisation, the step towards isolationism is a leap in the wrong direction.
The radio grows louder as a recording of Farage invades the airwaves. Of course I respect the democratic process, but was this the right democratic process? I somehow feel that a referendum was a short-sighted solution by Cameron to appease rowdy backbenchers. The desperate calls by Leave ministers for Cameron to stay, and the reluctance to invoke Article 50 proved what a significant Leave voters and ministers interviewed were saying: They didn’t think Brexit would happen. Moreover, it strongly implies a lack of planning from the Leave camp beyond polling day.
As I sit here writing this piece, in what feels like a new country, I am starting to realise the situation and the ramifications. The older generation has given us the finger for one last time at the expense of our future and there is nothing we can do. A ninety-year-old has had more say in our futures – and those to come - than ourselves. This is, of course, the democratic process and the country has voted; life - an emptier and more isolated one mind you- will go on.
I suppose some of the shock is at my own naivety: The sentiments that have propelled us into this situation are ones that I thought were growing in irrelevance and on their way out. I thought “Little England” had evolved into a leading and progressive Britain that welcomes international cooperation and doesn’t shirk from progress or struggle. The country that I grew up with is undoubtedly gone forever and what’s left is a symbol of what division can do to a country. A Pandora’s box has been opened and the union that’s meant to advance both opportunities and societies is on the verge of disintegrating. Maybe we’re on the cusp of something great – who knows? We might be condemned to irrelevance, or we might manage to flourish on an even greater global stage. But what young people and Europeans like myself know is that pre-Brexit Britain was a great Britain.