I am not a massive supporter of politics nor do I think the EU was perfect to begin with, but when the results of the EU referendum were revealed it well and truly struck a cord with me, as I am sure it did millions of other British and European people. I will not delve into the benefits of remaining an EU member, how doing so grants us access to the single market, free movement of people, goods, services and so on. I will not inundate you with every reason as to why I would wish to remain in the EU, but I will in part explain the feelings behind my despair at the outcome of the referendum. To me, leaving the EU does not represent the progress I wish for the world, for my future offspring and the children of the future who will bear the ramifications of the vote. Aside from my anguish at the prospect of my children – as well as myself and my peers, for Brexit will be put in place before I even finish my degree – being deprived of free movement to work in different countries in the EU without a Visa, the opportunities that would have come with the ease of living outside Britain, being deprived of possible friendships that could have been made, marriages that could have taken place, and all the things that would have been learned living outside Britain, I despair for what is going to happen and is already happening inside Britain.
I understand the Prime Minister was attempting to fulfil his promise that there would be a referendum, but I must say it baffles me that something of this magnitude would have been entrusted to the public, of whom many do not fully understand the political system and the way in which the EU works. A friend of mine remarked that it was funny how the public elect politicians to deal with the important political issues and yet these very politicians still get the public to somewhat do their job for them by trusting us to make these important decisions, of which a large proportion of the public have little knowledge about.
I am a big supporter of development and innovation; positive change is healthy and always placed in high regard by me. I am an advocate of any change that is for the better. However, I am not certain this change is really going to be of great benefit to our society in many respects, and instead has displaced us some steps backwards. I do accept the result, and by the manner in which current events are unfolding I feel it is highly unlikely that politicians will go against what was the majority vote by giving us a second referendum. This is despite however much we protest or however many people have come forward to claim they regret their vote, or felt they had been deceived or misled by the Brexit campaign.
I am aware that a central issue of the Brexit campaign was the complaint against immigration, and making it appear a significant problem for the UK. What really saddens me in particular is the increase in hate crime in Britain since the referendum. Instead of progressing we are moving backwards, and have catalysed the path to an intolerant, dare I say xenophobic, and discriminatory society. There has been an increase in the use of racist attacks, people telling others that now we’ve voted out of the EU they should go back to their country, violent hate crime such as the beating up of Polish people, Romanian children being told by other children to leave the UK, immigrant workers being told to “go home”, as well as people of colour being told to “go home” despite living in the UK all their lives. The immigration discussion has proven to be toxic and has mobilised the application of vicious racism and far-right nationalism. Instead of being an outward looking, tolerant country, we have encouraged a close minded, discriminatory mentality whereby anyone who is not British-born is essentially vermin and should be removed from the country (regrettably, this talk is to a certain extent reminiscent of Nazi Germany – and we are all well aware of the indescribably heinous nightmare of a world that was).
Encouraging immigration, although perhaps not seen as politically attractive, can increase the proportion if people in work and thus support Britain’s aging population; the elderly population accounts for 55% of welfare spending, for pensions as well as social and health care. Immigrants from outside the UK bridge skills gaps, are on average more educated than natives, contribute to the local economy, and are also less likely to claim state benefits. The Prime Minister had already negotiated that migrants who did not find work within six months would be forced to leave the country and were banned from claiming jobseeker’s allowance in the first three months of arriving in the UK. There was therefore little need to be concerned that taxpayers were funding permanently unemployed foreign people; the people claiming benefits are mostly natives and not the immigrants. I am not endorsing free flowing, illegal immigration by any stretch of the imagination – I do understand there are a select few who can abuse the system – but the majority of immigrants are working and contributing to our economy, helping to diversify our society, and having a positive impact. Unfortunately, post-referendum there is said to be a surge of illegal immigrants planning on entering the UK before Brexit is put into action, which is entirely counterintuitive for the Brexit supporters because this is exactly the type of immigration we did not want.
It was perhaps naïve of me to believe that racism was a thing of the past, and that in this modern day society, the majority of people were accepting, willing to have new experiences, meet new people, appreciate different cultural backgrounds. Many, if not all British people, are by no means of sole British descent – we are all bound to have heritage from outside Britain; even our beloved Queen is descended from Danish and German ancestry. Being British is not determined by the colour of your skin, your religion, your race. We are all British nationals. We all live in Europe. I have friends who are white and “English-looking” (if there ever was a thing) who do not hold a British passport, I know people who do not live in Britain and yet by parentage hold a British passport, I have friends who are Indian, Asian, Nigerian, Pakistani but have lived in Britain all their lives so are by nationality British. Whom out of these can we claim to be the most British? I am British-born, as is my brother and my father. My mother who was not born but converted to British citizenship has contributed just as much, if not substantially more, to our economy than the average person who was born British. In living and working here, we contribute to the British economy and have every right to live in the UK as much as anyone who does not look “foreign”. We all make up this country. The hate and prejudice has, and will always have, absolutely no justification.
It has been said that post-referendum, no matter the outcome, the rich will still be rich and the poor still poor, and we will still manage to blame immigrants. This mentality of putting the blame on others instead of delving deep and solving the problem from its core needs to cease. I understand it is somewhat human nature, to deflect the blame away from ourselves, but unless you begin to take responsibility enough to tackle issues, the issues will never be resolved. You will just fill yourself with bitterness, and waste your energy on resentment instead of self improvement. It is easy to blame others; there will always be someone else to blame, whether it’s a lousy PM, immigrants, the EU, laws, foreigners, whoever. It has been confirmed that there is no post-Brexit plan – perhaps instead of putting all that time and money into making so many complaints, spreading false information, and slagging off the EU, a plan could have been generated to demonstrate why it was such a great idea to make our exit. Perhaps instead of people complaining that foreigners with perfectly valid degrees and skills are taking all the jobs, you should be working towards building your own skills and experience so that you too can secure a job.
Whether you were pro-Brexit or pro-remain, Europhile or Eurosceptic, I urge you in the midst of all the political propaganda and mixed messages, to remember your humanity, and that immigrants are merely people too and are not the cause of all your problems. We have already proven to be a split nation; let us not be a nation of racists and xenophobes too. I understand that there are so many decent people out there who do not stand for any of the attacks on immigrants and foreigners, and I am by no means pointing fingers. However, if the rather irrational fear of immigrants spurred you to vote out of the EU, please reevaluate what it was that you really voted for.
Wishing you love, light and laughter,
© Shannon Feetham and withlovefromshannon.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Feetham and withlovefromshannon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.