Ironically, the only agreement being made in the UK since the birth of Brexit is that there is an undeniable and rigid divide politically. What is doubly ironic is how the media is continuing to report on how the media brainwashed and manipulated both ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remainers’, with ’lies being spread by both campaigns!’ — to continue to exert influence. I do not deny this rhetoric. Though what I do contest and display in this article is the oversimplification of this, not only political, but social divide which, in reality, runs deeper and more dangerously than the conscious ’Leave vs Remain’ split.
BREXIT ITSELF — The flaws and potential future of the European Union
The 2016 referendum was a vital opportunity to create a more democratic and accountable Europe, with a clearer purpose for the future. Despite agreeing with this statement, these are not my words, but the words of the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, back in 2015. Yet this referendum did not play the catalyst in EU reform that I hoped it would. This article is not to inspire a change of opinion but an invigoration of unbiased liberalism. Though for the point of making my position clear— I would’ve reluctantly voted leave if I was old enough at the time. Hear me out; as to not would be the fundamental problem I later allude to.
Not only do I detest an undemocratic, colonial system which enforces laws upon member states disguised as an economic community, but the corporate lobbying that occurs within the European Parliament is also catastrophic. It is a basic denial of democracy. Back in 2014, The Guardian reported on the corporate influence within the European parliament, suggesting at the time there were as many as ’30,000 lobbyists and counting’. A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a client’s special interest. Who are these clients? Major corporations, who influence ’75% of legislation’ passed by the EU, such as Facebook, Tobacco companies and Shell. These corporations bribe and promise politicians future careers with the company to influence legislation through the ‘revolving door process’.
And what does the future hold for the EU? Just days before I was inspired to write this article, both, the French President, Macron, and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, pledged their support in the founding of a ‘true, European army’. My interpretation of this is an unelected superpower, ran on the influence, payroll and profit of corporations, who will grant themselves the power to deem who and what is right and wrong. Who asked for this? Who gave them that right?
I do recognise the downsides to Brexit. The uncertainty has already seen workers made redundant with European businesses losing all confidence in the UK economy, the London Stock Exchange replicates that of a rollercoaster, and it is predicted some more may lose their jobs. I would have voted Brexit to make a political stand, not for economic benefits because the reality is there are few (though economics is a science of opinion). Now the time has come, our proposed pathetic exit is regrettable. The negotiations have been calamitous and no good has come of it. I would probably vote to remain begrudgingly now as it appears we are locked in, with Theresa May’s disastrous draft agreement presenting us with a ‘not really in but we are’ situation. It is not Brexit I necessarily support — I believe in community over isolation — but a reform of such an out-of-touch system.
EXCLUSIVE GLOBALISATION — Apathetic isolation
Alexander Betts’, a ‘liberal internationalist’ at Ted Talks in 2016, presented data that showed those who lived in areas that benefited the most materially from the European Union also, on average, were the largest strongholds for voting to leave. What this is a result of is the isolation imposed on these working-class areas, who have become apathetic in years of political discontent and disconnect.
A key turning point in UK politics over the last decade was The Financial Crisis of 2008, which hit the poorest the hardest, despite it being the fault of gluttonous American banks. Though it did not end there. Years of austerity that followed did not impose a squeeze on the bankers, the politicians or corporations, but again, those at the bottom of this rigid, wealth chain. In no way am I implying this was the fault of the European Union, though I am firmly representing the working-class apathy towards our current political system which has seen them oppressed and forgotten for years.
Areas such as South Shield in North-East England, a town ripped apart and not repaired by Thatcher’s administration; the residents earning an average salary of just £18,242 (just over half of London’s), supported Leave as a majority. Brexit presented hope. The unrealistic, idealistic utopia that was promised, that I too thought impossible, allowed them to dream of a Britain that cared for its own. My agitations with the EU are clear, but I too could see leaving would not fix such a deep-rooted social catastrophe. For these people, who rely so heavily on trade with the EU, the likes of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who wore a mask of nationalism despite them being the very problem, offered hope; a lost concept.
The evidence is in the numbers. Well over 33 million of the electorate voted on the referendum, the highest figural and proportional turnout for a vote in years, astoundingly beating the 1997 general election turnout.
I see globalisation as the next, vital step in maintaining peace and order, by achieving a connected world which works together to tackle issues such as climate change, terrorism and war. Yet we see people being left behind through this exclusive globalisation. Domestically, the wants and needs of the most vulnerable and desolate in our society, like the residents of South Shields, have been ignored for too long, not by the EU, but via our current connection with the European Union as our major trading partner and legislative superior. Power and wealth have been centralised in the ‘pro-EU’ London for decades, following the closure of factories and mines, with our economy being based on importing and banking investments. Whilst the affluent, ‘Liberal’ middle class reap the benefits of current globalisation with cheap flights and a fresh European identity, these strenuous times have resulted in the forgotten communities of Britain seeking a dismantling of the London-based economy. Characters such as Nigel Farage, using catchphrases like ‘take back our sovereignty’ as a rallying cry, divert the blame for this socially-divisive disaster on the European Union itself, unfairly presenting it as a terrorist-sympathising, overtly oppressive, super-state. The problems are not rooted in Brussels; but right here, in Britain.
THE LIBERAL BUBBLE — The social divide, what may come and what we must do
The British media, political parties and the people have reacted dismally. The media have continued to spout opinion as fact, criticising all corners of the populace and all along the political spectrum. The political parties have come to a gridlock with the unstable Tories breaking apart internally and Labour failing to propose any tangible plan or united standpoint (except for complete rejection of any Conservative deal). All is unclear but this; no deal will be passed through Parliament. Hate crime saw a sharp rise just after the Brexit referendum and a blanketing branding of leave voters as xenophobic followed; this is a social and political time fuelled by hatred and selfishness.
Inside the liberal bubble, it is simply unthinkable as to why anyone would want Brexit. Financially comfortable, politically correct and socially popular, those within the liberal bubble have often boiled the decision to leave down to bigotry, ignorance and lack of intelligence. However, as I have described in this article, this is not the case. All sources of information have been from left-wing thinkers, politicians and media, showing there is a cause for concern with the EU on both sides of the political spectrum.
Inside the, for the sake of this portrayal, ‘Brexiteer Bubble’, calls of a second referendum, a ‘people’s vote’, is utterly disrespectful. The members of this dichotomic community disregard the shambolic negotiations, the new risks that have been revealed and the polls that have revealed a major turnaround in the polls. After winning the referendum, they brand the liberals as ‘Remoaners’. This is also not the case.
This dichotomic divide needs to be broken down. Despite your opinion regarding Brexit, this has been a period led by passion not thought. To suggest 52 per cent of the electorate who voted are bigots and, conversely, the 48 per cent should not be involved in these discussions as there was a democratic vote, is hypocritical and unintelligent.
Liberals and Remainers must reach out. End this isolation, visit disadvantaged communities, rally against austerity, diversify and communicate. Do not fuel this national tragedy by branding people as racist because they are led by hope and heart. This desperation and isolation along with out-of-touch politicians and a fuelling of nationalistic, utopic identity, have led to the rise of the far right in the US with Trump, Brazil with Bolsonaro and, in the past, seen Hitler rise to power in Germany. Prevent this by helping to rebuild this lost community by liberally seeking answers to why people voted for Brexit, not if they voted for Brexit; seek to understand.
Although I don’t believe in a second referendum, I do believe in a vote on the final deal; Brexiteers must not isolate themselves. Politics is constantly changing and so must the electorate. It is also the responsibility of those who voted leave to listen and consider alternatives to assist in breaking down this sociopolitical barrier. The politicians have failed us. If the people work together, build a cohesive society which respects the opposing side’s opinion and stop themselves from shutting ‘the others’ out, the future will be of a strong Britain.