THE night of the Brexit referendum, I go to bed with an unfamiliar sense of trepidation. Dread, almost. What if they actually do it? Naaah.
They’d never be that stupid. Would they? (My bed is located on the south coast of England — if it were in another EU country, I would be fast asleep, dreaming of unicorns). At 4am, I wake up. It’s just getting light.
They had said they’d have known by then. Dare I check my phone? A friend, breastfeeding in the middle of the night, has sent a message: “I think we’re in trouble.”
When I wake again, at 8am, just over half the people of Britain have voted to leave the EU. Oh, boy. Already, the fascist leader of the UK Independence Party is on breakfast TV, saying that one of the main Leave promises — that the £350m a week saved by leaving the EU would be given to the NHS — is not, in fact, going to happen. Jaws dangle.
Meanwhile, the prime minister, David Cameron, announces his resignation. It’s like waking up inside some fifth-rate dystopian novel filled with terrible, terrible characters, one-dimensional and self-serving, climbing all over each other to grasp power, manipulating the powerless, the uneducated, the readers of right-wing tabloids owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch hates Brussels, because nobody listens to him there. On the day of the Brexit vote, every right-wing paper in the land had the same front page, instructing their readers to vote ‘leave’. And they did. The utter, utter idiots.
The principal idiot in all of this is Cameron, who, in January, 2013, told the electorate that if they voted the Tories back in again, in May, 2015, there would be an in-out EU referendum before the end of 2017.
Predominantly because the fascist isolationist, Nigel Farage — unelected, other than as an MEP — was breathing down his neck, pretending to be a man of the people, stirring up all kinds of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
Far-right groups were popping up, all flag-waving and jack boots and hate. “We won it without a bullet being fired,” says Farage on the Friday morning, as the results are announced. That is, apart from the bullet that, eight days earlier, killed the Labour MP, Jo Cox, a tireless champion of those in need, who was shot dead in the street by a man who gave his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
I am an immigrant. My home is here, my children born here. I moved here because I like the values of the English — the live-and-let-live, the diversity, the non-judgement. The freedom to walk down the street with knickers on your head, if you choose.
That’s all just lurched to the far right — what does ‘British’ mean now? Flags and jack boots? Time to trade my children’s British passports for Irish ones. Immediately. My own Irish passport has never felt more precious. As that old Chinese curse goes: ‘may you live in interesting times’.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved