On Friday morning I woke and was unhinged by a metaphorical broadside that I hadn’t expected. Our country had voted to leave the EU and the sickness in my stomach and the fear of what the future might bring was overwhelming. I hadn’t really had that feeling since my father died and that was almost 30 years ago.
The blanket coverage included a map of the regional splits of the voting patterns and, as I scanned the UK, it was a wake-up-and-smell- the-coffee moment. In my poncey middle-class metropolitan home in West London, with ambitions of bi-folding patio doors and kitchen islands, I realised that I had forgotten about those in the poverty-stricken council estates, the marginalised, the disenfranchised and those with little hope and, more importantly, little cash to splash around. They had nothing to lose, they made their point and, suddenly, idiots like me with retirement plans and a tax-efficient Audi were going to pay. I had built a protective fence around my comfortable lifestyle while people in these areas were watching immigrants, prepared to work for peanuts, drive wages into the floor and, really, none of my stupid centre-left politics and compassionate words had helped.
I might blather on about social justice and generosity to my fellow man, but what have I done about it? Well, bugger all (apart from a bit of volunteering for meals for the homeless – yay, go me!) and the thing is I am a self-professed Christian, and the worst kind; loaded with hypocrisy and eloquent words, so completely at odds with the Jesus I choose to follow. This is the man who stopped the establishment stoning adulterers, who turned the tables on the money changers, who mixed with prostitutes, tax collectors, the marginalised and desperate, and was ultimately nailed to a cross for it. But that’s not all he was. For most of his life he was a carpenter, pricing up quotes for people who wanted a new fence or their roof fixing. He is the archetypal white van man, the stereotype so vilified by the middle-classes for not having enough basic intelligence to vote.
So we’ve been chastised, but what is left for us now? The saddest thing about it all this is that those who needed this the most won’t actually get what they want. Within two hours of victory Nigel Farage admitted that the spurious £350m that goes to the EU won’t go to the NHS. Then Conservative MEP Dan Hannan accepted that the future outside the EU will still mean a deal that will result in free movement of labour to the UK – everything the working classes didn’t want. The elderly who voted ‘out’ will see their pension pots evaporate as the stock market goes into freefall and you can bet your life that Cornwall, one of the most emphatic Brexiteers, will not see the £60m in EU funding matched by any future UK government. With an economy that went from the fifth biggest to the sixth biggest overnight, the likes of Cornwall will be standing at the back of the queue.
I said last week that people should be careful what they wish for. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove looked like they were attending a funeral after the result. They don’t want to press the Article 50 button and Theresa May is insisting there should be no rush despite the fact that the French and Germans say there should. You kind of get their point.
Whichever way you voted, you’d be impossibly naïve if you are not expecting anything other than a serious detrimental impact on the UK’s economy. Short-term pain for long-term gain? I think not. The last recession hit us in 2008 and we’ve only just recovered. During that time I got made redundant twice and it was horrible, but I almost got made redundant three times had it not been for European regulations that offered me enough protection to keep me in work.
And what of the UK? Expect Scotland to leave – and quite right too – and expect them to take the oil with them, but more worrying is the impact this will have on Northern Ireland, and this is where all the economic arguments for and against Brexit pale into insignificance.
We spent years trying to get a peace settlement in Northern Ireland and now we’ve thrown a ruddy great can of petrol over the embers. Since Northern Ireland will no longer be a member of the EU, we’ll have to introduce border controls to stop the immigrants coming in. Anyone with half a knowledge of Irish history will understand that this will be more than enough to antagonise those spoiling for a fight. The Orangemen of Drumcree would rather die than unite with the likes of Sinn Fein. Bloodshed, I am afraid, is inevitable.
So it’s all unravelled in front of us and, as much I think this has been a dreadful, dreadful mistake, I am not calling for another referendum. Democracy has had its way and the voices of those who had been previously ignored have now been heard. I do not blame those who voted for this – they had their reasons and they have to be respected – but I do blame those who led this campaign and peddled nothing but barefaced lie after lie to the British public. We deserved so much better than what we got, and I suppose all we can do now is just get on with it and hope and pray that it all turns out alright.