A lot has happened in the past few months. I enjoyed the last few months of student life in Glasgow, sat my final exams and recently graduated with an honours degree in French and Russian. I spent 3 weeks in France in June, and am currently spending a month in Berlin. But the past couple of weeks have been tainted by a decision that has affected the political, social and economic landscape of the UK and beyond in such an irreversible, and certainly one that feels irreparable, way. Brexit. A referendum that was suggested to placate the voices that demanded independence from the EU, that demanded closed borders and reacted to the issues faced in our country, and across Europe, with closed minds. The majority of the population, it would appear. I feel now that the initial emotional shock has settled, I wanted to write about the aftermath of the vote from my perspective.
I don’t think anyone expected the vote to turn out the way it did. Not even the Leave campaigners. Which I feel has been demonstrated in the reactions of several prominent politicians that backed the idea of independence from the EU and have since resigned from their positions and chosen to jump ship in the face of the political and economic struggle that was going to inevitably rear its head in the case of a Leave vote. Should the question even have been opened to public vote? The result was only made more infuriating upon hearing the remarks of voters who had based their decision on xenophobia or ignorance. Since a vast majority of the population neither knows nor care about the UK’s relationship with the EU, it seems that many people have been misinformed by scaremongering and false promises. And I myself am no expert in politics, but like many of my peers have directly benefited from the opportunities given to us by Europe. To throw away the freedom to travel, to work abroad and to cut ourselves off from such a positive union, at a time when the world needs unity rather than division, is such a loss to the youth of our country who will have to live with the consequences of an ageing population who are stuck in old mind-sets and backward views.
And if many people felt well informed enough to determine that remaining in the EU could be detrimental for our economy, for me this speaks of an equally negative mentality as one based on archaic and deluded ideas about using foreign immigrants as scapegoats for any manner of social problems. The mentality is one of a selfish, self-interested and self-righteous nation. The UK has been in such a position of privilege within the EU, with the ability to retain our own currency and control over our borders outwith Schengen only a couple of the benefits we felt in our membership.
I have spoken to many people after the vote. Young people like me, who no longer feel proud to stand alongside people who would strip us of our freedom and turn their backs on others in greater need than themselves. Others who voted leave as they genuinely thought it was the best thing for our country. And others still who remain apathetic to politics, particularly Scots who feel disillusioned by a lack of representation in Westminster. It is a divisive topic that continues to be at the forefront of conversations and will do for a long time. But unfortunately the decision has been made, and I doubt we will have much hope of turning back the clock unless the UK disbands completely. An independent Scotland that might not even be accepted back into the EU, a United Ireland under Sinn Feinn, and a far-Right Westminster that dines with Trump and le Pen. The options from here on look pretty bleak from all angles.
I was in France when I heard the news. I felt heartbroken, my stomach in knots the whole day. I felt incredibly sad to return to the UK; it was a different country than the one I had left behind. And I was a stranger, no longer proud of my own passport and unsure when I would next go abroad and indeed if I would come back next time. My opinions about what it means to be British, Scottish and European have changed, and I wonder what the future will be like not only for my generation and my country, but also for the world. It doesn’t seem that global relationships are getting stronger, in fact it seems that we are regressing. Interviewing locals for a friend’s newspaper article, one woman told us that we need to keep out immigrants. My friend told her that she was Finnish, an immigrant herself. The woman looked embarrassed but laughed and assured us that she only meant the “terrorists” from the Middle East who might shoot her in the street. And she honestly believed it, like so many others. It is becoming less and less possible to tell myself that this is a one-off opinion, that won’t make a difference. It has already done so.
I’m currently listening to Tame Impala’s “It feels like we only go backwards”. How apt.