Comment

We are being blinded by our obsession with Brexit

It’s the age of political division in Britain. We will never be able to have rational public discourse ever again after Brexit opened up anger in the country, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. It has started a fire that will not be extinguished anytime soon. People question if we will ever be able to heal from this.

I remember getting a feeling of the true chaos Brexit had made of Britain whilst watching Bob Geldof, standing on a boat in the Thames giving Leave voters the wanker sign. A truly amazing sight to behold. This was the beginning of a new Britain.

From the morning after the vote on 23rd July 2016, I have felt conflicted. For a long time I believed that a second referendum was inevitable, I thought Vote Leave voters had been misled by twisted facts and figures and would soon realise their mistake. But as time has passed it has become more transparent that for a lot of people, they saw voting Leave as a long overdue middle-finger to the establishment.

Some genuinely saw leaving the EU as a way to improve their lives and have their voices heard. For others it was a vote built on underlying notions of xenophobia and racism. More recently, I’ve been less inclined towards a second vote. Sir Craig Oliver, the man who was in charge of the Remain campaign, recently said in an interview with The Times that he believes that although leaving the EU is a mistake in his eyes, a second referendum would only enrage people, have them questioning the establishment and Leave would win once more.

But there is a serious issue in the fact that those who ran the campaigns promoting leaving the EU have been devoid of any possible responsibility for the aftermath. They riled voters up, got the vote they wanted and now are nowhere to be seen in the public sphere, aside from Nigel Farage occasionally appearing on Good Morning Britain to clash heads with Alasdair Campbell and somehow make Piers Morgan seem almost bearable. Almost.

Political commentators claim that some, if not, many, Leave voters were misled on key issues such as immigration and healthcare, with the infamous bus that advertised the claim that the NHS would gain £350 million extra a week if we were to leave the EU the prime example. Yet, these comments seem to neglect the fact that a lot of people simply just wanted out of Europe and even after the claim was found to be false, they still want out of Europe.

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Could Brexit result in a second independence referendum?  Credit: Daily Business Group 

Ever since the Scottish referendum we have seen many politically disengaged people become increasingly more active in politics, a sense that along with the Brexit vote there is a feeling that voters can bring about real political change other than through a general election every five years.

Voting behaviour in deprived communities can sometimes be about hitting back against a government, and potentially society as a whole, that has failed them. People wanted change. Anything could be better than the situation they find themselves in and the best way for a voter to show anger at the status quo is sometimes to vote against it.

So, when countless economists and so-called experts repeatedly told us that jobs and the economy would be at risk should people vote leave, they’re not going to care, and why should they?

Internal spats over the last two years between politicians makes for great news but sometimes has diluted the actual mess that we’re in. You only have to look at headlines to realise that negotiations surrounding Brexit have turned into a chaos in which everyone points the blame at someone else while failing to come up with a viable solution.

The Tories and the Labour continue to squabble within their own parties over everything, each of them desperately trying to score any political points they can while their critics point the finger.

The Conservative party are at their weakest in 60 years and yet Labour have failed to capitalise on this, bickering among themselves as Corbyn failed for a long time to take a clear stance on how he would handle Brexit if put in charge. For decades the leader of the Labour party has been a Eurosceptic but when he found himself in charge of a party that was pro-EU organisation, he was somewhat forced to campaign for Remain. A large number of Labour voters are on record saying that during the campaign they had no idea what side the party explicitly supported.

 

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Corbyn emphasises that our government needs to focus on the social issues  Credit: Sky News

However, Corbyn’s rhetoric has changed in the past few months, stressing that it is time to “move on” from Brexit and focus on the real issues Britain faces; food banks, austerity and poverty. As much as I agree with Corbyn on our need to focus more social issues, in particular the crippling roll-out of universal credit, he continues to say that electing a Labour government is the only solution to negotiate a better Brexit.

Yet the Labour party is not going to get elected if it continues to argue among themselves. The 2017 general election saw Labour pull off something of an upset by gaining 30 seats but have failed to gain any real momentum, with party division continuing to hinder any concrete chance of gaining a majority anytime soon.

Labour activists have consistently called for Corbyn to back a second referendum (referred to as the People’s Vote), with some party members claiming that his stance may result in them leaving the party they have supported for decades.

Even former PM Tony Blair has very publicly backed a second referendum numerous times and appeared on talk shows to clarify his stance. But Blair and Corbyn seem to agree that there are bigger social issues at hand, with the former stating on his think tank’s website (Tony Blair Institute for Global Change) that “the Government is preoccupied by Brexit to the exclusion of all else when so much else requires urgent attention.”

Brexit swallows up the news feed. I see a wave of articles, facts and figures about Britain leaving the EU. It’s easy to forget what’s going on in the rest of the world; Yemen faces a humanitarian crisis that leaves a child under the age of 5 dying every 10 minutes and people in Libya are being sold for the price of the latest iPhone.

Right here in the UK, Scotland alone, there is so much going on. The devastating effects of universal credit are taking place in which the supposed flagship reform of the benefits system, rolling together six benefits into one, online-only system, has led to thousands having to wait up to six-weeks for their first payment yet I feel it is an issue that is criminally under-reported.

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Amber Rudd is facing criticism regarding Universal Credit  Source: BBC

The National Education Union has stated funding for English schools has not kept in line with cost pressure and recent research by the Education Policy Institute claims that almost a third of local authority secondary schools are unable to cover their costs, a number that has increased every financial year since 2014.

I, Daniel Blake recently aired on BBC. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted out a message for people to watch it in order to understand “the human cost of this Tory Government’s cruel welfare policies.” After watching it for the first time I wasn’t sure what to think, I wanted to escape what I had just watched. I didn’t want to think that there were people in contemporary society who went through what I had seen; a toxic social security system which dehumanises people.

I understand Brexit’s importance and many people, including myself, desperately want to try reverse the decision to leave the EU. It has been labelled by more than one as the biggest political decision of a generation and I understand its dominance of the headlines. But I totally agree with what Corbyn is saying; we cannot let it overshadow and neglect social issues that are affecting millions of people in the UK and the rest of the world.

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