I want to start off by saying that I am not looking for sympathy or pity; many others have it far worse than I do. I am British, born and bred. I am married to a British wife and have a young daughter. I grew up in London in the 1980s and 1990s. I saw first-hand the issues regarding race tensions and the campaign of terror of the IRA – and lost a serving friend to them. I never gave in to hatred for anyone. I was raised to respect anyone and everyone. I grew up proud to be British, proud of our resilience, and – in later years – I became proud of our tolerance. I genuinely thought that perhaps we had turned a corner and stopped thinking of others xenophobically.
All of that changed last year, but in truth, I had seen the signs for a while. I even predicted to my wife in the winter of 2015 that we would probably be stupid enough to vote ourselves out of the EU. I wasn’t surprised on 24th June, I was just ashamed and bitterly disappointed. I had fought vocally against leaving (and still do), but I had encountered blinkered Leave rhetoric constantly. That it was a pack of lies made no difference because successive governments in this country have used the EU as an excuse for any failure of government policy and for any lack of investment. Since the late 1990s it became fashionable to blame immigrants (although in truth we have always blamed any immigrants in this country, Irish, Black, Indian – you name it).
NHS grinding to a halt? That’s the immigrant’s fault, despite the fact the immigrants are propping up the NHS by doing jobs we can’t or don’t want to; despite the chronic lack of investment – it’s all the immigrants fault.
No jobs? Blame immigrants; even though British people don’t want to do the poorly paid jobs and refuse to pay more to make those services viable for British people. Ignore the fact that the Government has driven up the cost of living and down the real terms wages.
I’ll give two examples of what I heard during the referendum campaign from Leave voters.
“Bloody immigrants coming here and taking our benefits and clogging up the NHS. That’s why I am moving to Portugal” – She failed to see the hypocrisy in the fact she was leaving here to become an immigrant in another country.
“We need to leave the EU because they gave the killers of Jamie Bulger anonymity” – an utter failure to understand the rights of minors to anonymity for their crimes is enshrined in UK criminal law.
In 2007 I started a new career. The EU directive on Energy Performance in Buildings came into existence and I decided to change career and get involved in the new industry. Coming on for ten years later, I am still doing this job. I don’t make a lot of money but I support my family and give back to the local businesses and community. Everything I have, everything I have saved, is wrapped up in the business.
From 24 June 2016 I now am officially completely in limbo. Because what I do is based on an EU directive, there is no compunction for the Government, post Brexit, to keep the legislation on. It depends on what value the Daily Mail fearing Tories put on what I do – and the Daily Mail hates what I do. Within days of the Referendum result there was already a petition calling for what I do to be scrapped.
Within two years I could lose – overnight – my entire business (with no compensation or notice) or it could be kept on. No one knows. Thus, I am unable to plan, unable to invest and unable to justify using local businesses to support my own. That’s the Brexit effect.
Because I am British, I will likely be able to find a new job if it comes to it. I won’t be deported and my family aren’t subject to verbal abuse. I don’t want sympathy or pity for my position. As I said, others have it far worse.
The thing I lost on 24th June 2016 was my country. We didn’t take back control, we lost it. We lost it to a rush to the right wing – a new era of intolerance, lack of compassion, lack of sympathy and isolation. As I write this I am looking at a photo of my 4-year-old daughter and I am sad for the opportunities she has lost. I fear the culture and country she will grow up in.