With news feeds awash with hyperbolic eulogy’s to Britain’s membership of the European Union, it can be hard to imagine how the UK could have ever decided to leave. Looking beyond the educated left-wing liberal bubble that is my friends list and you begin to realize just how divided the Kingdom has become. The banner adorning the guardian’s homepage is frustratingly clear in its display of the dichotomy that has entered British politics, a class divide stretched wider by recession and austerity. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain, Wales and the rest of England to leave. People’s perspective on the major issues of this campaign could not be more different. Young remainers living in major urban centres feel limited hostility towards immigration. Older working-class leavers in many northern cities and smaller towns were mislead to confuse the damage of shrinking welfare state as the result of an uncontrollable inflow from Europe.
Much has been made in the post result analysis of how “remain was tone-deaf to an insurrectionary mood that suffered fools more gladly than experts”. The electorate heard academics, policy makers and veteran journalists warn time and again the catastrophic impact a Brexit would have on the UK, but after years of disillusionment with the political class they came out in droves to give the middle finger to sense and reason. Johnathen Freeland put it well when he wrote “There is a yawning class divide, pitting city against town and, more profoundly, those who feel they have something to lose against those who feel they do not.”
That those who voted remain stare in a daze of shocked bewilderment at how our country has opted for the path of division, economic turmoil and political uncertainty. Scotland has been shunted out of Europe against it’s will, giving the SNP a clear mandate for a second referendum, one that will surely mark these divisions on a map, solidifying the 48%’s sentiment that we do not want a part in this new disUnited Kingdom. Calls for unity from Cameron, Boris and Gove do little to bridge the gap in sentiment at the result, yet unity is what we need more than ever. Brexit is the first major democratic event in the era of post-truth politics, and given the death of intellectualism that has surrounded this debate it does not bode well for the American Presidential race, and a Trump administration that would dwarf the geo-political impact of this result.
Now is a time, more than ever to counter hysteria with thought, xenophobia with tolerance, and a disUnited Kingdom with the olive branch of acceptance and resolve to maintain British Greatness, both home and abroad. The vote was tarnished with the brush of Farage’s naked racism, but leave voters were legitimately concerned with issues of democracy, the judiciary and a Europe that refused to reform. We must move beyond snide remarks about the 52% that voted leave, and in the form of Sadiq Kahn “focus on what unites us, rather than that which divides us.”
Daniel Sharp, President