The words that have been written about Brexit could no doubt fill a small library’s worth of books, or cover hundreds of rolls of Andrex with their occasionally snarky, tightly-written script. I don’t intend to expound the arguments of either side, nor tell you who or what to vote for. Perhaps some day, but not today.
Much has been said over the last few days of the toxic climate of the debate. Particularly to the extent that it caused the awful murder of Jo Cox. I wonder if we would damn it so quickly had she not been murdered. Maybe we would just shrug and move on, not thinking about the words and images we have so quickly used to deride each others’ strongly held views.
We are going to vote on Thursday and we will either vote to leave or to remain. In either case there will be a significant minority who disagree with the result (perhaps as many as 2014’s 45% of Scottish voters). I’m not saying living together will be an issue; unless you behave like an arse, I think we’ll be okay, but building our country together could be more difficult.
With that in mind, it seems to me (for whatever that’s worth) that a few things are worth mentioning:
Migrants are not the problem. Migration perhaps, but individuals and families migrating to this country to improve their lot are doing a legal and reasonable thing. Whatever your thoughts on immigration policy, those people are not the immigration policy they are taking advantage of. They are people.
This isn’t winner takes all. In the possible case of a 55% leave vote, 45% of those who voted did not wish to leave, but will nonetheless. As a country we will have to seek out ways to leave which are particularly careful to suit the ideals those people stand for, whether they be workers rights or solidarity with mainland Europe. Likewise a 55% remain vote is hardly a vote of full confidence in the EU. We will have to push for reform of the issues which troubled those who voted to leave.
The the minority should pitch in. It seems to me that we all want the same things. Everyone I’ve talked to wants a reformed Europe (some of them just don’t want to be in it). Most want a strong British economy, good jobs for those less well off than themselves and a loving response to all those refugees who are fleeing crisis. All these things are more achievable, in my dubious opinion, if the minority group pushes for them with the same gusto with which they have fought for this debate…
…But not the same manner. If this debate has been toxic, misleading, unconcerned with reasoned argument, patronising, overly-memed, fearmongering and prone to desperate tactics, it is because we have made it so. We buy the papers and consume the media, we share the memes and write the ill-conceived facebook comments, we are rude to people we should care about and use argument to suit our position. I say “we” because I do this too (particularly the facebook comment one).
So what are the issues that matter to you? Honestly, take some time to think about a few issues that you have really cared about in this debate. Has it been sovereignty, immigration, the economy, TTIP, red tape, hospital funding, trade deals, workers’ rights, British values, green policy, European geopolitics, queues… Seriously, take a minute to think.
Dot Dot Dot.
Stop reading this, it hasn’t been a minute.
Dot Dot Dot Dot.
Mine top issues are immigration, the EU’s structure, and the treatments of Greece. These are issues which I want to keep a track of and upon which I want to hold the government accountable. I shall be forced to read multiple news sources and perhaps occasionally write an email to my MP. We can’t all be informed about everything, but since I this referendum has probably shown you which issues are important to you, you know what you want from your elected representatives next time it comes to a vote. This is just one possible course of action, but it seems reasonable to me.
This vote is going to be over by Friday, and we’ll all live with each other afterwards. Whatever the result, we have a choice about how we move forward, and if we care about that choice we should act on it. I think our futures rest, not merely on a generational choice, but a generational opportunity to work together or succumb to infighting. I think they rest on improving the standard of public debate and holding our politicians to account. If you agree, then what are we going to do about it?