A week ago today, citizens across the UK flooded to polling stations to decide the fate of our country: to remain in the EU or to leave it. The polls closed at 10pm that night. Cue ten solid hours of me flicking back and forth between the results being announced live on the BBC and people responding to it on Twitter.
Honest to god, you guys, at one point it was so close. SO CLOSE. It flipped from 50.01% in favour of Remain to 49.98% against and back again in the space of about two minutes. Literally two minutes.
As you’ve probably heard, eventually we landed on Leave at 52%. I’m proud to say Edinburgh (my home for the past five years) voted 75% in favour of Remain. My home county? Not so much. In fact, the town that racked up the highest Leave vote in the entire country – Boston – is less than an hour’s drive from my hometown.
Anyway, that’s enough with all the percentage bullshit, eh? Numbers. Blargh. What it all comes down to is this: leaving the EU is a catastrophic idea – and something nobody really thought was going to happen. Not the Leave campaign, not the Leave voters, not the government, not the EU, and definitely not the Remain voters (though we were certainly nervous about it).
Within a couple of hours of the results being announced, the Leave campaign was doing a 180 on its biggest promises, like sending £350 million the NHS’s way every week. Promises made just for the hell of it, I guess, since they didn’t really expect to win.
I won’t go into all the details, since they’re available far and wide across the web, from people who are much more knowledgeable on the subject than me (though this Hitler parody is probably my favourite summary).
I was up until 8am watching those results and the ensuing carnage unfold. Then, you know, I needed some fucking sleep. When I woke up, after a mere two hours, I planned to write a rage-fuelled battlecry. Fortunately, that didn’t end up happening because, well – I’d only had two hours sleep. Everyone knows writing a rage-fuelled battlecry on two hours sleep is a bad idea.
So, I didn’t write it. Instead I spent a few more hours on Twitter going WTF with everyone, followed by a thoughtful amble to the beach. The main things that concerned me (and many others) were:
- The prospect of no longer being able to live and work in 27 other countries across Europe.
- Our currency going to shit (which, yes, has happened).
- The uncertainty of it all. What’s going to happen to our country in the future? Will this Brexit thing even happen? When? What will our public services look like after that? Will we be a divided nation, with Scotland and Northern Ireland fucking off and doing their own thing? Will the pound rise again? When, and how much? No one knows.
The next day, I woke up feeling relaxed and blissful – for all of five seconds. Then I remembered what had happened and my spirits slumped. I got that same awful ‘oh fuck’ feeling you get when you break up with someone. Only this time we broke up with 27 countries, fucked up our lives, and we don’t even get to keep the dog.
Why I’m Sad About Brexit
The division. Our country is split down the middle. Half of us want one thing, and the other (okay, slightly more than) half want the exact opposite. Our values couldn’t be more different, and it saddens me that more than half the nation wants to sever ties with 27 other countries and force out our neighbours who’re already living in the UK. Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t ALL countries be united? Can we not just be Earthlings? Sigh.
The racism. Today is not a day to be proud of being British (although it is a day to be proud of being Scottish, with the Scottish nation voting unanimously in favour of remaining in the EU). Hate crimes on the street have risen dramatically, with many horrifying accounts being reported on social media.
The pound bombing. See you later, money! This is going to make my trip to the US in August a lot more pricey. As if it wasn’t already expensive enough. Uggghh.
The doors this could close in Europe. Suddenly we’re faced with the possibility that we may no longer be able to travel, work and live freely within 27 other wonderful countries. Heartbreaking.
What I’m Doing to Remain Positive
Enjoying the small things in life. The day of the results, on my two hours sleep, I meandered down to the beach. On the way I stopped to smell the flowers. I felt the sun on my face and the light drizzle when it came. The tide was out and the wind was down. Gentle waves lapped at my feet. I revelled in the peace on an otherwise emotionally chaotic day. On the way home, I stopped for a rare McDonald’s, which was exactly the lowbrow treat I needed on a day when I definitely was not going to cook anything and was craving salt and fat and sugar in my sleep-deprived state. Then I sat outside and had an ice cream in the sun. When everything is going to shit around you, there are still nice things to be had. There is still good in the world.
Celebrating the fact that I can live and work anywhere. Even if free movement across the EU does end up coming to halt, which doesn’t seem all that likely, theoretically I will still be able to visit those countries, taking my laptop with me and working from the road. I may even still be able to live in them for prolonged periods, all being well.
Remembering the world is so god damn beautiful. And there’s so much of it! Even if Europe wasn’t an option, there’s plenty of world to explore – enough for a lifetime.
Acknowledging that it’s probably going to be more than two years before anything actually changes – and that it’s looking increasingly likely that we won’t end up leaving the EU at all. Nobody wants to hit the big red button (except perhaps that Gove chap, so let’s please not let him anywhere near it).
Realising that I’m privileged to live in this country at all. Even with its flaws, we’ve still got it a lot better than many. Most, even, perhaps. I speak English. Our currency is generally strong. Free education, free healthcare (please don’t fuck that up for us, you right-wing bastards), freedom of speech. It could be a lot worse.
Relishing that I live in Scotland. I am half Scottish. My company is registered in Scotland. Not only does this mean that I am surrounded by other lovely folk who want to remain in the EU – but also that I may be able to remain a part of the EU in the end. Even if the rest of the UK leaves, Scotland may not. If the big red button gets pushed, Scotland will almost certainly have a second referendum for Scottish independence, and it will almost certainly vote in favour it. And then we’ll request to please come back to the EU, and hopefully they will say yes. Then hello EU passport!
Understanding that referendums are advisory. Just because 52% of the country voted to leave the EU doesn’t mean that’s what will actually happen. So maybe it won’t. With all of the Leave campaign’s backpedalling, and so many Leave voters claiming they wish they could change their vote… who knows. Maybe we’ll have a second referendum, now that people actually know what’s at stake. Or maybe the government will just be all, ‘Haha! Kidding. We’re not going to leave really.’
Doing good work. I am still in control of my own life and what I do with it. How I spend my time. I choose to use my power for good. Like a superhero. A foul-mouthed, laptop-toting god damn SUPERHERO. I’m not going to wallow in what-ifs. I’m going to focus on what I can do – and doing it well. I’m determined to be a force for good.
Thinking about the future. What’s next? If this isn’t a time for action, when is? I had already been planning this, but I’m probably going to finally take my business on the road later this year (that’s why I started it, after all). All this Brexit bullshit just makes it seem all the more urgent. My first stop? Europe, of course.
Some Words of Comfort for British Freelancers
If you, like me, are a Brit running a business from your laptop and are similarly worried about everything going to shit, here are some things I want you to remember:
- Working for yourself is a good thing right now. Nobody can fire you or make you redundant if nobody employs you. There will still be plenty of work for you. In fact, if we dive deep into another recession, there may be MORE work for you, as companies let go of permanent employees and outsource to freelancers instead. Keep doing good work. You’ll be fine.
- Yes, the pound has plummeted. This sucks. But do you know what else it means? Your prices are suddenly a LOT cheaper elsewhere in the world. Now would be a good time to start pitching your services to companies overseas. The USA is a good place to start. You can get paid by PayPal. It will be easy.
- You can sling your laptop in a bag and go and work elsewhere. You can still head off to work in Europe right now if you want. Or anywhere else in the world for that matter. And that fact probably won’t change, not even if we leave the EU.
No doubt, this is a time of turmoil and political incompetence. But we’ll be okay. Be kind to others, even if you disagree with their views. But stand up for what you believe in. Keep doing what you do, with a smile on your face and resolve in your heart. Be a force for good. And keep doing good work. We will be okay.