but it didn’t. It happened here and however much 48% of us wished it went the other way, we woke up to a country we scarcely recognised on June 24 2016.
I am talking of course of the Brexit Referendum, which has been splashed over newspapers and news sites around the world since the shock result last week. The world seems to be as shocked as nearly half of the UK populationat the way things turned out. Everyone assumed it would go the other way, with a small lead in favour of Remaining. It just goes to show you that you should never take anything for granted.
Voting is an essential part of democracy and while we may not like the result we get, everyone has the right to their own belief. There has been a lot of bitterness in the UK since the result, on both sides, and this is not based on the way people voted, necessarily, but on the realisation that decisions were made on pre-Referendum promises that could not be delivered.
This is not a political blog – and there are plenty of articles out there for you to read, should you be so inclined – but I wanted to express my sadness that we are heading out of a union that sought to help European countries work together, rather than in isolation. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but it had unity at its heart. Many of us pro-Europe voters don’t just feel British, we feel European. It’s part of our identity and now this has been stripped away by politicians who have used it to further their own political ambitions.
Immigration was only part of the argument used to sway the vote in the run-up to the Referendum but it was the element that the right-wing press jumped on, whipping up a wave of jingoism not far removed from Hitler’s own nationalistic rallies in pre-war Germany. Hitler blamed the Jews (amongst others), while immigrants here are accused of taking all the jobs and putting intolerable pressure on the health, education and social sectors. The Daily Star splashed ‘Now let’s make Britain great again’ on its homepage, a sentiment that harks back to Hitler’s promise to make Germany great again after it had purged itself of undesirables. Swap Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and others for immigrants and the parallels are scary.
Back in 1985, I came to the UK as an immigrant, the daughter of two English parents who themselves had been immigrants in Canada. Since that time, and up to June 24, I told people I felt more English than Canadian, and one of the reasons I cited was because I loved the humour, the liberalism and the tolerance of this country. As I read another story of a racist attack on, for example, a Polish Community Centre, I realise this Britain I once called home is changing… and not for the better.
I want Europe, and the rest of the world to know that not all of us wanted this. There are still many of us in the UK who treasure our relationships with other countries and who welcome the diversity and multiculturalism they can bring to our own. So many of us are wearing a simple sign to show how we feel – the humble safety pin. If you see it you know where we stand – alongside you.