The feeling I had when I woke up with this morning was quite unusual: after going to bed at about 1:00am and feeling chipper about the referendum, I’d dreamt that we’d left the EU and felt a strong sensation of dread. I woke up and thought, “This better not be real,” checked the news and saw it – It was like a bucket of ice water and loose change had been chucked over me.
As far as I could see, the main difference between this event and every major political change that has occurred recently in the UK – re-election of the Conservative party, passing of the 2015 counter-Terrorism & Security Act, raising university tuition fees etc., is that the effects of this referendum are immediate. By this I don’t mean that we’ve left the EU overnight, but that the decision is binding; once the results are in, that’s it, the decision’s made. Secondly, the vote was deeply personal for a lot of people. 72% of the UK turned out to vote, which means the issues that come out from this decision will have personal resonance for people. And thirdly, unlike every other major event that’s happened to the UK, from regressive tax legislation to housing benefit cuts, you know that at least these changes are potentially reversible. When the Conservatives were voted into power, we knew that we’d have the chance to boot them out again after six years.
With this referendum, however, the effects are most likely permanent and will cast a long shadow over this generation, which inconveniently, is my own. If I was a happy-go-lucky pensioner with a couple of years left before I croaked, I might’ve had the opportunity to vote Leave in protest of an undemocratic European Commission. But considering that these are my own future prospects that I’d be crapping on, I figured playing it safe was the sane option. It’s a shame that a number of my zimmerframe-wielding neighbours felt differently.
It isn’t just my petty career prospects, such as they are, were diminished by this vote or voter demographics, but the psychological meaning of Britain for the rest of the world. Is it ever going to be the great colonial power that it was? No. Is it going to retain its status as the English-speaking gateway between the US and the single-market? Probably not. As I hinted before, I didn’t think the Leave campaign had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the referendum. For whatever reason, the closeness of the polls and strength of the nationalistic rhetoric of the 20p newspapers did not hit home.
Probably because I am about as far away from an anti-immigration mindset that one can possibly be. And furthermore, the fact that I’ve been spending the majority of my time whizzing up and down between Glasgow and London, two of the most remain areas in the UK, and the fact that I’m fairly privileged in the sense that I’ve never really had to worry about money has resulted in me living in my own little Remain bubble, blind to the concerns of the working class. Though I imagine a lot of Leave voters, voting only in protest, woke up this morning with the same feeling that I did, only just realising the full significance of their vote. And I suppose the Remain camp didn’t see the full consequence of their promising this referendum until they saw the almost uniform voting of Scotland N. Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to stay in the EU, and are now facing a potential break-up of the United Kingdom.
Most politicians fuck up badly at some point in their career, but I wonder how you respond when you’ve fuck up so bad that you’ve potentially destroyed a 400 year old political union? Go to a hotel room and drink all the mini bottles of liqueur until you pass out? Or hide yourself under several layers of duvet until you convince yourself that the world doesn’t exist? In any case, they really put their foot in it.
But for me, its the feeling of waking up that stays with me the most. It was almost as if I’d woken up in the wrong alternate reality, and I kept blinking to try and get to the right one. And now I have to deal with the consequences of something that I never even wanted in a million years.
So yes, I am understandably, alarmed and annoyed. But another part of me is saying there’s no point in being so apocalyptic. Yes, this vote will probably hang over me and my peers for the rest of our lives, and possibly has permanently diminished England’s standing on the world stage, but as a wise man once said there’s also no point in worrying about things you can’t control. For my purposes at least, it seems much better to try and see the absurdity of it all and take a detached view and see everything from above; like our disappointed forbears who first brought us into the EU (Ted Heath) and brought Scotland and England under the same legislature and Crown. Then maybe I can get out of this shit show with my sanity intact.