As I sit here writing this blog, I’m looking out into the heart of Southgate. I can see a group of Polish men discussing the football, an Indonesian couple excited to catch up with their friends – a family of Indian descent. Behind me the barista, a lovely English lady, is happily chatting to a customer who happens to be West Indian.
This is the kind of London I’ve known growing up; a melting pot of people, cultures and tolerance. In my naivety, I thought this kind of integration extended far beyond our capital.
After months of campaigning and numerous televised debates, people finally took to the polls last week and casted their vote on whether to stay in the EU or not. I was hopeful that the race fuelled tactics and scaremongering wouldn’t have any effect, however I was wrong. The tactics had worked. We were leaving the EU.
I remember looking at my phone in disbelief for a good few minutes. The vote had been close as predicted, however it swayed in the opposite direction with the Leave campaign cinching 52% of the vote. The whole of Friday felt weird. We were going to leave the EU, the British pound had taken a beating and our Prime Minister announced his resignation. All of this before 9am. The decision to leave actually felt like we had cut ties with a friend and were currently in this state of limbo where no one actually knew what to say to soften the blow.
To an extent, we’re still in that state.
So what does a ‘Brexit’ win mean?
Well in essence… no one really knows. There wasn’t so much of a concrete plan announced during the campaign. According to the ‘Vote Leave’ website, leaving the EU would mean that we’d have enough money free to spend on priorities like the NHS, with ‘the EU costing us £350mn a week – Enough to build a brand new, fully-staffed NHS hospital every week.’ Well Nigel Farage has already dismissed this on national television, despite this element being a driving force in their campaign. Where that extra cash goes, no one knows.
The ‘Leave’ campaign also spoke about taking back control, restricting the number of immigrants coming to the UK and implementing an Australian points system, which would attract only the best people from outside of the UK. The issue of immigration was the most prominent point of the entire campaign which in the end, I feel and I’m sure many others feel, crossed a line and spouted a lot of racist rhetoric.
As Farage and Boris Johnson celebrate, thousands of people from Europe currently in the UK are worried about their future.
I’ve been against ‘Brexit’ simply because I believe we’re stronger together. I truly do. Free movement has not only allowed Europeans to come to the UK to make a living for themselves and allowed them to prosper through hard work, it has also meant that 1.2mn Brits are able to live and work in and around Europe too.
But the Leave campaign have used situations like the recent refugee crisis and open borders as a basis to fuel disgusting hatred towards foreigners. I have European friends who work hard and pay into our system, who no longer feel welcomed in this country and it’s hard to stomach knowing they feel this way.
The last thing we want people to think is that we’re a bunch of racists. However a vote to leave the EU suggests exactly this given the campaign presented to us over the last few months.
People talk about the UK doing so much for Europe financially, but they conveniently forget what Europe has done for us in terms of our social rights. It is because of Europe that we have the Equality Act 2010 which protects people in the workplace and in the wider society from age, disability, race and sexual discrimination.
There is special protection for pregnant women at work which prohibits them from being dismissed for being pregnant with the European Court of Justice ruling this as sex discrimination.
In addition to this, it was the EU that applied the first piece of case law anywhere in the world, which prevents discrimination in employment because someone is transsexual.
It’s only a matter of time for us to see whether these rights are upheld.
The one thing that has bothered me the most during this referendum is how the older generation among some ethnic minorities voted. Voting simply to keep immigrants out is kind of ironic considering they too were regarded as immigrants when they first came to the UK.
I’ve been told by Brexit supporters to respect the decision. I can’t when it comes to the campaign that was presented to the UK. Filled with lies and enforcing hatred towards groups of people is not a noble way to run a campaign. Despite a petition for a second referendum, it seems highly unlikely as Europe wants us out of the union as soon as possible.
How do we move forward? Well, for now the racial rifts and wounds that have been ripped open and are being felt by thousands of migrants need to heal. Brexit supporters may feel like they’ve made the UK a better place, but it is love and tolerance that truly makes a country great – qualities that the ‘remain’ camp have shown and continue to show in abundance.
We have a responsibility going forward, because without us, the ‘Great’ in Great Britain means nothing.