So the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU yesterday. According to my Facebook stream, the sky is now falling. Can we gain a little perspective please?
I woke up this morning, before I knew the referendum results, and looked out over the city onto a beautiful sun-soaked skyline. The sun had risen as normal. The birds were tweeting in the trees. It was as peaceful and serene as ever.
Then I found out the result, and I looked again. The sun remained in the sky. The birds continued to tweet. No bombs went off in the distance. The only possible difference was the stifled sound of sobbing bookmakers drifting with the wind.
Sure, the pound (predictably) tumbled in the markets as people who shorted our currency won craploads of cash. Knee-jerk bankers panicked like the twats they are, but they’d have artificially boosted sterling had the vote gone the other way, so it’s business as usual. Cameron the idle, as I labelled him last week chose to give up his job instead of manning-up and leading us into the brave unknown. But the sun didn’t burn out. I can still breathe oxygen. I’m still alive.
Yet, according to the posts on Facebook and Twitter, the end of the world is now nigh.
I think someone has overstated our importance on the political stage of Europe somewhat.
Firstly, am I happy with the result? Well, ‘happy’ is a subjective term. In an impossible situation, dumbing down the unfathomably interwoven fabric of our relationship with Europe to a binary decision and asking the public to pick one, isn’t simple. There’s lots (and lots) of grey. Neither is a good outcome for us, so it comes down to having to choose the lesser of two evils, or shut up and stop complaining when it doesn’t go to one’s liking. So I used my democratic right and voted.
There have been miles of column inches devoted to soundbites already, most of them expressing worry or using apocalyptic terms such as “I woke up to a new world”. Understandably so; on the whole, people fear change. But let’s step back a moment to the weeks and months before the vote and look at the fear and lies that were spread. I heard the following repeated ad nauseum about what the world would be like today:
- A vote to leave puts Nigel Farage in power, we’re all racists, blah blah. [No, it hasn’t, and it’s unlikely, thankfully].
- The EU has brought peace to Europe. [No, it hasn’t; there are countless other factors at play. But war hasn’t broken out this morning, so presumably our role in maintaining Europe’s stability is coincidental].
- Mass unemployment will ensue and industry will pull out of Britain. [I’ve still got a job this morning and, as far as I can tell, cars are still rolling off production lines for the time being. The prudent thing for industry leaders to do would be to ride out the storm and wait for deals to be forged with neighbouring territories instead of employing scaremongering ultimatums in advance].
- We’d be awash with cash so we can build a hospital per week. [No more money has flooded into the country today, and even if this mythical money does find its way here, it’s unlikely to be felt for a good few years].
- Boatloads of Syrians will row ashore. [Admittedly I can’t see the coast from where I live, but I know someone who lives near the beach and asked them: there’s nobody on the horizon].
And so on.
The bottom line is that today is the same as yesterday. Nothing’s different. And nothing’ll be different for a good while. Being part of the Euro club potentially gives us more clout on the world stage, but the difference between being “In” or “Out” of Europe is fundamentally whether we adhere to the rules in the Maastricht Treaty. The most significant part of that — besides access to the European Court of Justice — puts limits on a member state’s interest rates, inflation and debt. That’s pretty much it, and the reason for those controls is to try and prevent a runaway common currency — of which we have never been part. I’ve oversimplified it, but paying our dues to the club means we abide by the club rules, regardless if those rules help or hinder its members as a whole.
All the shouting and hand-wringing and calls of “I’m leaving the country” and woe-is-me furore is the typical human knee-jerk reaction to change. When the dust settles and the bankers have spent all their winnings on drugs and hookers, people may come to realise that the process of disentangling us from Europe is going to take ages.
A lot can happen in years. We have time to think, time to decide which bits of Europe we want to trade with, and how. Time to forge relationships or break them. We might end up having less buying power and different import/export levies. We might end up having more. It all depends on the deals that whoever is head of government can strike. And guess who those in power work for?
Yes, we have control; something we seem to have forgotten amid the media propaganda. We can steer the country, just as we could yesterday, just as we can tomorrow. Perhaps this is the wake-up call Britain needs to realise that hope does not live or die with Cameron, his successor, or Corbyn, or anyone else in Westminster. They are our representatives. They are put there by us to do our bidding. They are our bitches, not the other way round.
We can either cry and moan about the result on social media, sit back waiting for doom to hit and say “told you so”, or we can take the reins for once and tell the donkeys we elected — the same donkeys who bizarrely gave us an impossible referendum choice — exactly how we expect to move forward and prosper.
Am I happy? No more than I was yesterday. Am I sad? No more than I was yesterday. But by being part of the voting process I’ve made a commitment to my little boy, and I’ll live with the decision that has been bestowed upon us to do what I can to help make this messed-up world a better place for him. So he can see more beautiful sunrises like I saw this morning.
We have time. We have power. Please use your voice for positive change.