In the wake of the referendum, we’re left now with concerning uncertainty, growing confusion and big decisions being passed around like a hot potato. The referendum has been a big one, confirmed not only by the large percentage of voters, but also the way the unavoidable coverage of each important, yet simultaneously vague, announcement from the MPs. And as we sit idly, waiting on decisions, announcements, answers about what is coming next, there seems to be one niggling discomfort, the elephant in the room, as we move forward with the result. Xenophobia.
I say it’s the elephant in the room, but it’s not quite. There have been stories coming out all the time: hate letters being posted through the door of a Polish family, shop owners being asked if they’ve packed their bags yet, malicious tweets. Moreover, according to the Independent, Baroness Warsi ‘has warned that immigrants and their descendants are being stopped in the street and ordered to leave Britain’. These are just a few examples, selected from a sea of casual abuse. They are awful in themselves, but what’s perhaps even more awful is the predictability of it all.
And how could we expect any less when the Leave campaign was only somewhat supported by economic and political justifications. As pointed out often by the Remain campaign, immigration scares were their biggest weapon – and they used it well. As we stepped ever closer to voting day, it seemed the nation’s xenophobia was being exploited for the benefit of the MPs. Scaremongering and false immigration promises. The politicians were successful and we began to see xenophobia being revealed in places we never knew it hid. This is my central reason for being so concerned with the referendum’s result. The result was not exclusively supported through xenophobia, of course not, but such taunts were undeniably the reason behind too many of the UK’s votes.
As I walk through my hometown, a large town in the North West, I wade through a population whose votes reflect the referendum’s result. I also wade through a population who I began to lose any faith in. This is a town that have largely justified their votes with false immigration facts and that same old, empty phrase: “We’ve got to take our country back!”. “From what?”, I ask. From the single market? From the confines of the EU’s set legislation? I hardly think so. From the hands of those you blame? More likely.
As I return to East London, an area with a wonderfully diverse population, it pains me to consider that a vibrant, thriving and hardworking population like this is the scapegoat for many politicians, a scapegoat that is equally accused in the public sphere. As Sadiq Khan spoke out after the result, consolidating the hard-working European immigrants of London, it was comforting to know that the political support for the European people stands strong for us in London.
But comfort in the capital just isn’t enough. There’s an issue across the UK, on a larger, more malicious scale than it was, perhaps, expected. And something has to be done. It seems clear that this xenophobia has been exposed and then casualised in the wake of the referendum. But, perhaps we can use this exposure to our advantage.
Exposing the issue is the initial step in working towards a solution. Only once we know it’s there, can we begin to stamp it out. And, as always, education seems to be the answer. The stress on the hard-work and economical benefit, paired with the evidence of this, needs to be upped; there just can’t be too much. Only then can we have any chance at grasping the cohesion the UK desperately needs.
To find out about the events following the referendum, search #EUreferendum on Twitter or go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/eu_referendum