It’s been 3 weeks since the historical EU referendum in Britain, and I think it’s safe to say that the country has been in turmoil since. We’ve had it all: the resignation of our Prime Minister, the appointment of a new one, the opposition party crumbling and seemingly the disappearance of all Brexit politicians. But whether you voted to leave or remain, I think it is now important to use this historical moment to hopefully learn some lessons that we can take with us as we begin our future without the European Union.
1. Don’t take your vote for granted:
One of the biggest issues to arise from this vote was the way in which many people wasted it by not voting at all. We as a society need to treat our right to vote as a mandatory obligation, rather than just optional participation. How can less than half of 18-25 year old registered voters actually exercise their democratic right and yet still see fit to blame the older voters for deciding a future they would not see? I also see a lot of the same excuse from every aged voter, of “I didn’t understand the issue so I chose not to vote at all”. Not understanding is not an excuse to abstain from voting. We all know politicians twist the truth (which I’ll come onto later) and so it is up to us to educate ourselves on both sides of any debate and come to our own conclusions. With all of the information in the world accessible to us from our mobile phones, it’s strange that so many people choose to remain ignorant. We HAVE to take initiative for our own futures, or else who will?
2. Democracy is far from perfect:
This has always been true, yet I think the referendum and aftermath has truly highlighted this. Our system allowed our leader to step down in a time of extreme economic and political vulnerability, with no Deputy Prime Minister stepping in to keep things under control. Furthermore, the Labour party has completely fallen apart, and yet a vote of no-confidence being lost by an overwhelming majority has no legal or political basis for the mandatory resignation of Jeremy Corbyn. Not only this, but no elected MPs have been accountable for their actions. As soon as the referendum was over, the lies began to show and now there is not one significant ‘leave’ campaigner left to help guide the next step. The British parliament has done itself a disservice: by fighting for their sovereignty they have shown the world just how weak their independence is.
3. Planning is key:
In the 3 weeks since the vote took place, not one plan has been published regarding what happens next. Linking to my last point, these few weeks have been spent by politicians cluelessly looking around for an answer that no-one has, much like Hodgson looked in the dugout during the Euros. Even before the referendum, the ‘leave’ campaign talked about immigration with no realistic plans for change, and the ‘remain’ campaign exhausted the word economy with the same lack of direction. We were led into such a historical vote blindly, with the politicians themselves equally as clueless. I am sure members of parliament are meeting now to discuss plans, but we as the public and electorate have a right to also know what happens next. What should we expect in the next 5, 10, 20 years? This confusion could and should have been avoided.
4. We cannot forget our history because our future is changing:
This is a point that I think is particularly significant after it was recently reported that hate crimes have increased by 42% since the referendum result: a truly shocking figure. This country was built on multiculturalism and immigration; in fact, my grandparents came to this country from India in the early 1950s as Britain needed workers from around the world to help rebuild society after the Second World War. We mustn’t forget the immense contribution that migrants have made on our society and only united can we make this transition out of the EU a strong one. We also cannot take for granted the power the EU gave us when we needed it most. We first applied for membership in 1961 during decolonisation and the height of the Cold War; a weak period for global relations. We had to prove that we were a worthy nation to be a part of the European powers, and we only did so in 1973 when our second application was accepted. Despite our decision to leave, we should still respect the institution and be thankful for what it gave us: strength for our economy and global diplomatic ties.
All in all, this is still a time of uncertainty, and will be for a while. But hopefully this experience has taught us a lot about what it means to be part of a diverse democracy, and we can take these lessons with us for the future.