On Thursday, the United Kingdom had one simple question to answer: Should the UK remain a member of the European Union? And by 7am on Friday, the decision was announced: The UK had decided to leave the EU, with 51.9% of the vote. On the road to this decision, both campaigns have been confusing and spreading misinformation, and both not without their faults. However, one side had more evidence from independent and reputable sources to say that the other would be a bad idea and spoiler alert: it is not the one that won.
I’m not here to talk about the ups and downs of the campaign trails though. Rather, the public’s response once the results had been announced on Friday morning.
As you would expect, many Remain voters were angry and upset to wake up to such a result, especially voters under 25, who may now feel like the last shreds of a prosperous future has been pulled from under their feet. After six years of a Conservative government which have proved time and time again they do not care for this generation (which I am a part of), whether its the abolition of EMA, the trebling of tuition fees, the cuts to housing benefits for people under 25, or the introduction of a higher “living” minimum wage which they have been excluded from, this generation that are finishing their education and are exploring the big wide world alone for the very first time have been the ones constantly suffering throughout this government.
In terms of the EU referendum, this initially seems irrelevant – after all, MPs from both sides of the Commons fought on each side of the referendum. But when you consider the vast majority of people under-25 voted to remain, my generation’s anger and resentment is understandable. Depending on your source, 64%-75% of young people voted to remain, whereas 56%-60% of those over 60 chose to leave. Many feel like their parents and grandparents – who are frankly not going to live long enough to feel the effects of their vote – have chosen a bleak future for them that they did not want. They are angry and they want everyone to know it.
— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) June 23, 2016
However, much like anything any millennial does ever, this was not without criticism. Many have opposed this outcry, calling it whinging and undemocratic. Many more, including a lot of millennials, have taken to the likes of Facebook to denounce the unhappiness of their peers (if I have to see anything along the lines of “everyone thinks they’re a politician around voting time” again I will scream), as if referendums and elections don’t greatly affect people’s lives. Many declare this backlash as aggressive and undemocratic, as if the campaign to Leave was a bus of honesty it wasn’t) and as if a woman wasn’t literally killed in the name of British Nationalism during the campaign.
To me, what seems wholly undemocratic is a campaign tarnished on both sides by falsifications and the spreading of misinformation; that an entire generation’s opinion being mocked and ignored because of their alleged immaturity, as if that very generation hadn’t been researching both sides and trying to find whatever legitimate information they can; potentially getting a new Prime Minister and entirely new government that we may not get the chance to vote for; some parts of the UK such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar facing crisis as they too are dragged into leaving the EU against their will, for better or worse; older generations claiming they are voting out “for their children and grandchildren” when those very kids and grandkids are telling you that is the exact opposite of what they want or need; people being silenced because the vote is over and everyone should just “get over” this massive issue.
52% is a very slim margin to win by, especially with a turnout of around 70% – meaning the mandate to leave is around 36% of eligible voters. After last year’s General Election there was a lot of upset as our current Conservative government received a similar percentage. Much of the same people who were upset about that twelve months ago are the same people who listened to Michael Gove’s call to ignore the experts, who believed a Leave campaign funded and fought by many in favour of NHS privatisation would spend that imaginary £350 million a week on the NHS, who claim any rebuttal favouring a stay in the EU is a lie, even when its backed up – even when the value of our currency dropped overnight and our economy went from 5th to 6th largest in the world! But even as the Pandora’s Box of Brexit has opened, none of this has been questioned at all.
The beauty of living in a democratic society is that we are free to air our opinions and concerns, and are free to do so whatever the current political climate, without our government censoring us. While you may not personally agree with public political rants, to write them off as aggressive and unreasonable is just disingenuous. Many are even more scared of what their future holds than they were on Wednesday, and as the damage of Vote Leave’s deceitful and often factually-incorrect campaign becomes clearer, its not hard to see why. A 52% majority is barely a confident and decisive result, and a 48% minority is only just that, with a large enough voice to (hopefully) bring about some sort of positive social change, even as we leave the EU.
What this referendum has done has shown the many ways our country has fractured, and has allowed the politics of hate, fear and distrust to win. My only hope is we can rise above it, but I am not optimistic.