On the 23rd of June, Britain voted to leave the European Union. Writing those words seems strange and unreal, like the beginning of a chapter in a textbook. You’re following the story and absorbing the facts, but it’s not happening to you. You aren’t there. It’s not a decision that will affect you… only this time, it will.
I’ve never really liked discussing politics. It’s so easy to descend into a bitter argument – I tend to run a mile from that sort of conversation. Getting into a political debate is like playing Monopoly – it’s all fun and games until someone puts a hotel on Mayfair and suddenly the friendship is over. Dangerously competitive board games aside, I personally wanted to remain in the EU, mainly because I wanted to go against the xenophobic agenda of some of the supporters of the Leave campaign. I’m disappointed that the country has voted to leave the EU and I’m uneasy about the uncertainty that will follow in the coming years of transition. In saying this, I think I represent a considerable slice of the student population.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote for Britain to remain a member of the EU just to combat the bigots of the Leave campaign. I did my research: I read all of the leaflets that piled up at the front door, cover to cover, and I really did try to make an informed decision. The trouble is, even if you read all of the information you can get your hands on, you come out of it all the more confused. I thought it was my own ignorance (and I still do, in part) but after speaking to others around me I realised I wasn’t the only one who was a bit baffled. One of my university friends mentioned an article by David Mitchell in which he argued that average people like himself shouldn’t be given the power to vote on such a big decision – according to him, the public elects their representatives and it’s those representatives who should stress over which choices to make. Another of my friends who is quite disaffiliated with politics, used a similar argument to justify why they didn’t vote. Obviously it’s important to use your vote, but when you’re generally disenchanted with politics or simply a bit confused, I can see why people are put off.
I don’t like quoting my own articles, but during the last General Election, I advocated the use of the ‘None of the Above’ option. This wasn’t part of the ballot paper I was given yesterday, and it slightly annoyed me. My friend reminded me earlier that ‘ruining the ballot’ counted as an “I-Don’t-Know” vote. The thing is, that opinion doesn’t receive representation. It doesn’t even have its own official option on the balloting paper. If it did, the people who live in a democracy could then partake in that democratic system without feeling like they’ve made an uninformed decision instead of neglecting to vote, for which there really is no excuse. You’re probably thinking that the simple remedy would be for people to do their research, but with something so complex as the economic, social and political impact of having/not having EU membership, you could be going around in circles for days. Even for university students, who most people would class as ‘educated’, it is not as straightforward as it seems.
The absence of an ‘Abstain’ option did not stop a huge number of voters turning up to their respective polling stations and submitting their ballot papers. As baffling as it seems to me, most of those people wanted Britain to leave the EU. The thing to do now is not to berate or belittle the opposing side, but to accept that democracy has spoken. One of the positives that can be taken from the referendum is the sheer level of participants who demonstrated that they care about the future of the country. Despite the clear aim of Cameron’s government to remain within the EU, ultimately the people carried the decision. For me, this proves that the voters have the power and, although I don’t agree with the majority, it reassures me that the people are in control as opposed to an oligarchic elite – sorry, David.
For now, I’m very nervous but somewhat excited about the changes that will come as we live through one of the biggest decisions that our country is yet to make. Despite disagreeing with the result, I’m impressed with the level of involvement that people have had and how so many have really tried to engage with the barrage of information thrown at them. The real question though, is how ‘Brexit’ will affect the prices in Aldi… sadly, I’m only half joking.