I know this is a tech blog but the EU Referendum yesterday here in the UK, and our resultant departure from the EU, has been such an emotionally charged event that I felt moved to write about it.
I voted Remain, as did 48% of countrymen. Please remember that Europe, almost half of us were outward-looking, proud Europeans. We went to bed on the 23rd July 2016 with the sense of a bullet dodged, the exit polls seemingly in our favour, and woke up dumbfounded, in my case with a Whatsapp from a Scottish friend of mine saying ‘Fuck, fuck we’re out. Fuck’. Fuck indeed, we switched on the TV to a gloating, slightly pissed, Nigel Farage and a knackered but shocked David Dimbleby. We shared in the shock, crestfallen and bewildered, as the true calamity set in.
Much has and will be written about the economy, immigration, Cameron’s resignation, Scottish and Irish independence etc. but little has been said yet about what it means on a personal level to those that chose to Remain (again - almost half of us).
That morning I found it difficult to look my 2-year-old daughter in the eye as she played with her little toys, completely unaware that we’d just sold her generation down the river. I went into work and could only shrug apologetically at my Portuguese friend, as he patted me wordlessly on the back. My wife as usual went to a local toddler group, led by an Italian, and had to hold her head up amongst her Irish and German friends there.
I live in London, one of the few places in England and Wales that voted Remain. It’s no coincidence that it is also home to 1 million EU citizens, we live cheek-by-jowl and we know first-hand that the anti-immigrant rhetoric is baseless and false. And have no doubt, it’s the immigrants wot swung it. Little Englanders in provincial towns whose interaction with foreigners is limited to the Costa del Sol and whose knowledge of migrants lifted wholly from The Sun (again, no coincidence that this paper was for Leave-ing).
The overwhelming feeling for me was one of disappointment. London and Scotland aside, almost every single constituency up and down the land voted Leave. It makes me question myself: I come from south Essex, an area very much for Leave. Until yesterday I still felt connected to my roots, an Essex boy who’d moved up the road. But this vote has been so divisive that I can’t help but feel a wedge driven between myself and it; do I really live in such a metropolitan bubble that I’m so removed from my peers, just 20 miles away? This feeling has dissipated after speaking to friends and family who it transpired did vote Remain, but it was there all the same.
The bitterest pill to swallow, and the most irreversible, is the inevitable break-up of the United Kingdom. The economy will recover, the Pound will bounce back, and we’ll probably be OK. But we won’t get Scotland back. The entire country voted to Remain, indeed most only voted to stay part of the Union last time because of guaranteed EU membership. We’ve let them down, Sturgeon is already calling for another referendum, and there is only one likely outcome. Then there’s the Irish question, one can only guess what will happen there. I can’t believe that this is what the Brexiters wanted, the dissolution of their kingdom? Yet they were warned this was exactly what would happen. The only positive I can take is that the split will be amicable; last time we couldn’t understand why the Scots would want to leave, this time we’ll be looking on enviously and wishing them well.
Hopefully I’ll look back on this article and realise I was over-reacting, everything will carry on much as before, and this vote won’t precipitate the collapse of the European Union, the rise of the far right throughout the continent and the start of a European war. But then again, perhaps not.