Britain votes to leave the EU

As you will likely have read, the UK Ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow has today delivered a signed letter to EU Council President, Donald Tusk providing formal notice of the UK desire to leave the EU and triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This follows months of debate over whether June’s referendum was democratic, whether it really represented the will of the people, whether the ‘people’ knew what they were voting for, whether it could be (or should) be stopped.

I’ve heard passionate arguments both for leaving and remaining in the EU, but once the vote was cast, I became increasingly irritated by a vocal minority who threw their toys out the pram because the vote hadn’t gone their way. Despite voting to remain in the EU, I cannot deny that it wasn’t an easy decision for me – ultimately, my vote came down to a decision to keep the decision quo ‘as is’ rather than out of any overt love for the EU. As we voted to leave, this stopped me from feeling too gloomy; although tumultuous times undoubtedly lay ahead, I was far more concerned about the risks posed be ISIS, global warming and everyday urban crime than I ever was by leaving some far-removed political body.

As weeks turned into months, this irritation grew – I was approached by a Remain campaigned who wanted me to engage with an attempt to overturn the vote, but during my first week in a Facebook group I came across so much bitterness and vitriol that I left – others may choose to wallow in anger and self-pity, but I have no desire for either.

Today’s vote marks the start of what is sure to be a long and complicated process and I’m not massively enthused by Teresa May’s assertion that she holds a ‘fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country’. This vote has demonstrated that our country has enormous differences in the values held between different groups – young and old, educated and not, black, white, urban, rural – we are not a homogenous mass of individuals and any attempt to lead us as one seems doomed to continue hitting increasing opposition. These differences can’t be swept under the rug – as much as many might like to pretend they don’t exist – and trying to do so is only going to further alienate vast swatches of the population.

I don’t know what the answer is, but Teresa May spouting impossible platitudes certainly isn’t going to help matters either. Real leadership lies in acknowledging the differences and working to bridge the gap; this can only be done with honesty and hard truths. Dictating to others won’t make them agree with you, but will inspire a total resentment in the population against their lack of control and agency.

Ultimately, I believe that little will truly change for the man in the street as a result of this vote. Yes, inflation might tick up a few points, there might be some bold statements from both sides but we will survive. What will be far more damaging is a lack of leadership capable of bringing together the increasingly disparate stands of our fractured society.


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