Will the UK Brexit?: Interview with Young English Citizen

(Originally published on Odyssey)

June 28 2016

Typical of others brought up in the United States that take time to consider global news, I sometimes feel sheepish in the face of my scope, largely limited to news within my own country. Yesterday, there was a disruption to this. Despite the fact that the bulk of my social media feed is glutted with posts by fellow Americans, on June 27th of 2016, my feeds blew up with the results of the UK’s landmark European Union (EU) referendum  ̶  now being called Brexit.

This final result of this vote, determining whether the United Kingdom would decide to leave the European Union, depicted a 52 to 48% outcome, with the majority voting to leave the EU. As I continued to click through headlines and scour the content of mainstream news outlets, looking for answers to this rapid pandemonium, my mind wandered to a good friend of mine that lives in the UK.

Sam Lewis, a 26-year-old English resident will be directly affected by the impact of the Brexit results and what it may broadly mean for the UK as a nation.  For the purpose of this article, he has generously agreed share his perspective on the Brexit results.

Q: First of all, what were your feelings/concerns in general before the vote results were announced, and what was your initial reaction(s) after?

Sam: Before the results were announced I was hopeful. Worried, but hopeful. Usually in these sorts of things there’s a not insignificant percentage that just vote for the status quo. Scottish independence for example. That looked practically a certainty before the referendum was held, but they voted to stay. (Much to their eventual disappointment.)

The first thing I did when I woke up today was check the result, and my initial feelings were shock and disappointment. I’m still feeling the second of those, and I imagine I will be for a good while yet.

Me: What are your greatest frustrations/concerns now?

Sam: My greatest concerns are what this represents. Beyond the economic repercussions (which will likely be pretty dire, but we will survive, the UK won’t trade itself in for the post apocalyptic, 28 Days Later aesthetic because of this) this represents a victory for xenophobia and rhetoric over sound thinking and fact. It’s a God awful direction for a nation to take. There’s also the fact that this will likely fracture the UK. Scotland (which as mentioned have previously voted on whether or not to leave the UK) and Northern Ireland voted pretty solidly to stay in the EU, and there are already noises from both countries about wanting to leave the UK to try and seek membership in the EU.

Q: Where do you live in the UK and do you know what the voting results were like in your specific area?

Sam: I live in a teeny tiny town called Rugby (yes, like the sport) right in the middle of England, and yeah, I do. The residents of this town voted 56% in favour of leaving, as did most of the rest of England. Not surprising given the largely working class nature of this town. Even though the working class are the ones most affected (at least in the short term) they were also the most heavily influenced by the ‘Brexit’ campaign, it seems.

(You can find more info on who voted what and where here )

Q: How do you feel about the propaganda and potential manipulation UK politicians have been using surrounding the Brexit issue? For instance, this Good Morning Britain video shows Nigel Farage backtracking on his past claims about how the supposed 350 mil pounds a week being put into the EU would, following the UK vote to leave, be spent on things like the National Health Service (NHS)?

Sam: To put it mildly the referendum has been a farce from start to finish. Even a die-hard EU fanboy such as myself knows there were both pros and cons to staying, and anyone who said otherwise was either a liar or simply ignorant of the facts. Every single politician (save one, Jeremy Corbyn, who later got lampooned in the media for being honest) who spoke out about it pretended otherwise. That doesn’t say a great deal about the people campaigning. We’ve had the Brexiters comparing the EU to nazisim, we’ve had people in the remain camp talking about how it could start a war if we left.

As for that 350mil that we paid to the EU each week, the thing Farage and his merry band of xenophobes (so much for impartiality) didn’t want us to know, is that we got a lot of that back. Farmers’ subsidies for example. British farmers barely scrape by, and they relied on EU subsidies to survive. Obviously a huge chunk of that money would have to go to them. To say that we’re going to have an extra £350mil to put into the NHS was a blatant lie. I’m still scratching my head as to why anyone fell for it.

Q: How are you feeling about the announcement of David Cameron’s resignation?

Sam: This is very unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, I despise the man’s politics. Given my way I wouldn’t trust him with a goldfish, never mind my country. He is however the best of a bad bunch. The potential replacements are all much, much worse. As for why he did it, well, it was inevitable. He invested all of his political capital into this, and he failed. His ability to control his party would be severely diminished. Plus there’s the fact that someone who so steadfastly supported us staying in the EU probably wouldn’t be the best person to lead us out of it. Even when the other options are all Satan.

Q: Have you been talking to your friends and family about the Brexit voting results, and do they share your thoughts about it? Have you noticed any patterns about how, for instance, older generations are reacting to the results vs. those younger?

Sam: Most of my friends are as gutted about this as I am, because most of them are in my age range. My family are all gutted about it too. As for other people, well, I’ve made a point today to avoid socialising with people I know would have voted for leave. I don’t want to damage any relationships due to how butt-hurt (disappointed, scared, angry) I am.

Q: Do you worry at all about the potential fading of interest from people outside the UK? Or do you think the news is being covered as well as it should be in order to get the word out to those outside the UK – like in the U.S. for example?

Sam: From what I’ve seen people outside the UK have had a far easier time getting impartial information on the referendum, and those that want to be informed on it generally are. In some cases people outside the UK know more about it than those in, which is depressing.

Q: What do you feel is the most important thing for people in the U.S. to understand about this?

Sam: The most important take away from this for the U.S. I think is this: For the love of God, don’t count on others to vote the way you want. Don’t count on the voting public doing the ‘sensible’ thing (no matter how you see it). Voter turnout for the referendum was 72%, which is high, but that’s still 28% of people who didn’t bother to use the voice they’re given, and look where it’s gotten them. Democracy is a gift, one not all of the world enjoys. Don’t be ungrateful, don’t count on the populace doing the right thing. Vote.

That’s his final message, folks: if you’re of voting age and at all concerned about the upcoming U.S. presidential election later this year  ̶  vote. It’s alright and even admirable to want to have faith in your fellow citizens, but the only way you’ll know you did everything you could to get your preferred candidate in the White House is to submit your ballot.

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