We’ve just passed the fourth anniversary of the worst day of my life. Nothing has ever made me feel sick to my very core like the result of the 2016 referendum. It was the single most stupid, retrograde, bigoted act of exceptionalism ever made and the consequences have already been felt by millions of people. Everyone’s understanding of what Brexit is has changed massively over those 4 years, but in spite of all the evidence, zealously supporting this disastrous plan is a badge of honour that many people won’t relinquish.
Here are ten reasons why I will never get over the Brexit referendum and accept people’s reasons for supporting it:
1. Legitimising racism and hate crime
Sure not everyone who voted for Brexit is a racist, but look at the people leading the campaign and both the overt and dogwhistle racism they employed throughout it. How can anyone not have seen that supporting them meant supporting a more bigoted, racist society? Although not everyone who voted for Brexit was a racist, every racist voted for it. In the months following the vote, there was a massive, well-recorded surge in hate crimes, and those who voted for Brexit are, in my eyes, directly responsible for this. It was clear that this would happen and it did.
2. Enriching the super rich
As well as the overt racism of the vote leave campaign, there is also the question of who was funding this campaign and why. Also, how on earth did anyone ever believe that Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson could possibly be on the side of the working class communities? These are very rich men supported by even richer men to act in their interests and everything before and since the referendum shows they will only ever act in the interests of their financial backers. If you want to read more about it, this website has huge amounts of detail.
3. Legitimising lying
Throughout the campaign, lying was front and centre to everything the Brexit campaign did; from £350 million for the NHS to Turkey joining the EU. They were called out time and time again for lying and they just didn’t care. Now, the government regularly takes the same attitude; that they can lie without fear of having to resign, because there is no longer any honour in politics. They’ve seen that voters don’t care if you lie, so long as they are basically persuaded by your argument (whatever lies it’s based on).
4. Denying opportunities to my (and all our) kids
Just as I was a climate activist before I had kids, so I was pro-European, too. It’s always been a massive part of who my family see ourselves as – part of a bigger world with different languages and cultures that are all fascinating. However, knowing that my kids will never have the same freedoms as I did to work, travel and study, visa and hassle free, makes me sad and angry on their behalf. Even if you thought voting for Brexit wasn’t going to remove those rights, look at what’s happening now and see how wrong you were. Why do you think all the Brexiters are getting dual nationality or basing operations in Ireland if there’s no value in being based in the EU?
5. Accelerating Climate Breakdown
European standards are a minimum for EU countries, not a maximum. To pretend that being in the EU would slow down any attempts we’re making to reduce our emissions, or our ecological footprint on the world generally, is completely false. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. There is no way we can tackle this crisis alone and we need to work together with our nearest neighbours in order to get anywhere near the speed of change necessary to leave a habitable planet for the younger generation and their children.
6. Giving Trump and Putin what they wanted
Donald Trump was very keen on Brexit. Vladimir Putin was very keen on Brexit. Do you need any more reason than that to realise it was a bad idea? How can any sane person think that if Donald Trump would rather negotiate a trade deal with the UK on its own, rather than with the EU, we would get a better deal? Likewise, why would Vladimir Putin be so keen for Brexit to happen, unless he saw it as a weakening of his strongest and nearest democratic neighbours? If you think either of these men have Britain’s best interests at heart, you must be seriously deluded.
7. Making this country a laughing stock
Nothing about Brexit makes sense. Only those who steadfastly refuse to look at facts and to accept that they made a mistake cannot see this. The world is laughing at us and I feel embarrassed to be British now. I have always felt ashamed of the UK’s colonial past and how our wealth is built on stealing the resources of other countries, but the fact that people really think we can return to the days of the British Empire is such a tragic delusion that it’s beyond parody. Not even the most ardent Brexiter still pretends that the country will be financially better off, so the world just looks on in disbelief at how any country could inflict such damage on itself.
8. Enabling the Tories to take control
Cameron and the Lib Dems had destroyed so much of the fabric of society under the guise of austerity up to 2016, so when it came to the referendum, people voted against the government, as much as the EU. The problem is that this was not the purpose of the vote and the result meant inflicting an even worse sort of conservative government that was much crueller and pushed austerity and the destruction of public services further than Margaret Thatcher would ever have imagined possible. Boris Johnson is only PM because of Brexit. He will be remembered as our worst ever PM and the poor people of this country who desperately needed change are going to suffer more.
9. Endangering millions of jobs
What was dismissed by the expert bashers as “project fear” now looks to be a pretty mild version of what will happen to this country if we crash out with no deal, as looks increasingly likely. Farming will be decimated. Manufacturing will be destroyed. Even our service industries and tech companies will struggle when barriers go up. To pretend that it would be easy to strike deals and that losing our ability to trade freely with our nearest partners (although they denied that would happen initially) was anything other than disastrous was the biggest of all lies.
10. Doubling down – the most divisive issue ever
I have never seen such a divisive issue as Brexit. Nobody really cared about it outside of the Tory party until 2016, but because of the seismic nature of what was done, nobody now wants to admit they were wrong, even when the facts were very clear. “Alternative facts” (fake news reports) were born to prop up the most pathetic arguments. There are some people who’ve admitted they got it wrong and opinion polls now show only 36% of voters still support leaving the EU, but still we push ahead with shooting ourselves in the collective foot. Somehow, for a short time in 2016, the anti-democratic, law-breaking leave campaign managed to persuade enough people to vote for something that nobody understood. They blamed foreigners for British problems. Now, everyone apart from the super-rich who bankrolled this disaster will suffer.