For the Record: I Do Not Want to Leave the EU
I’m writing this blog post primarily for my readers from outside the UK. I want to put the record straight. So the UK has (very traumatically and blindly) voted to leave the EU. That’s what headlines around the world have stated and no doubt that angers many millions of people outside of Britain. Except that’s not strictly true…
51.9% of the voters who turned out on polling day voted to leave the EU. That’s a pathetic majority of just 1.9%. With a 72% turnout, that’s just 37% of the UK’s voting population of some 46 million people. If you take into account the rest of the population, including those under 18 and foreigners who are unable to vote, that is just 27% who actively voted to leave the EU. Firstly, it’s ludicrous that that percentage counts as a democratic result. Secondly, it proves that very few Britons actually wanted to leave the EU. Thirdly, endless polls and analysis show that those who did vote to leave the EU are statistically much more likely to be over the age of 55, with less education, from lower socio-economic groups and (bizarrely) living in areas with the least immigration.
What I’m trying to say to the rest of the world is: please don’t paint all us Brits with the same tarnished brush. The headlines and news snippets may tell you that “the UK voted to leave the EU”, but the reality is that the educated, young Brits living in cosmopolitan areas like London, the ones who you will encounter around the world, either exploring on their holidays or working hard to forge their careers and contribute to the world, are definitely not the ones who want to leave the EU.
As we’ve seen the British pound and the Euro plummet in the aftermath of the vote, as the economy in Britain and worldwide has spiralled into uncertainty, as $2 trillion was apparently wiped off the global markets, as we risk the destabilisation and possible disintegration of the entire European Union project, it’s very easy to “blame the Brits”. I’m not saying you shouldn’t blame the Brits, but please do just think carefully about exactly who you blame.
There have already been memes flying around the internet laughing at the mess Britain is now in and pointing out the irony of “Britain colonising the entire world, and then rejecting all immigrants”. This is what I am terrified of. None of these popular and very shareable memes state that “Britain colonised the entire world, and then an extreme right-wing, uneducated, ageing section of British society were tricked by lying politicians’ propaganda into rejecting all immigrants”. In the first version of this headline, I am also supposedly culpable. However, like most of the youth in Britain, I have always been exceptionally pro-Europe and I would rather cut off my right arm than vote to leave! But no headlines outside Britain will recognise that fact, and I’m scared that I’ll be lumped in with all “the terrible Brits” who’ve caused this global mess.
I’m terrified that we Brits will become the new Americans. (No offence to individual Americans, who are lovely people, but as a collective nationality you are not particularly popular around the world, for reasons I’m sure you know and which I won’t go into here). However up until now, Britain has been doing ok on the world stage. A friend of mine in Cameroon even wrote to me afterwards to express his condolences and say how much he used to admire our great country. But as of last Friday 24th June 2016, Britain’s global reputation has been shattered in one fell swoop, and I hate to think that anyone would ever assume me to be one of those “terrible Brits”. So I’m begging my readers around the world not to hate and castigate all Brits. Please don’t punish us for a decision that millions of young Brits did not sign up for.
There are so, so many negative consequences of this terrible news: for education, for our economy, for the other EU members, for diversity and multiculturalism, for freedom of movement, for unity within the UK itself – the list goes on. This blog post deals with just one aspect – our reputation in the eyes of the world – it’s a plea to anyone else in Europe or the wider world to not reject us and blame us all equally. To put the record straight: I did not vote to leave the EU. I voted to remain.
PS. I promise not to turn this blog into a political blog, this is a one-off, and normal service will resume shortly!