So What Now?

June 26, 2016

Our world has never been more connected, but our country has never felt more fractured.

The goalposts shifted this past week. How we adapt to the new field of play will determine just how great a nation we really are.

I always believed that the Britain in which I was born, grew up, studied, graduated, built a career, home, family and business was a progressive and inclusive one. Everything was possible. Nothing was out of reach. Hard work and the love of family and friends would get me there – wherever that may be. But today everything feels uncertain and divided.

North vs south. Young vs old. Richer vs poorer. Scotland vs England & Wales.

Like most of the UK, I rejoiced when Scotland narrowly voted to stay part of the UK in September 2014. Proudly, we are better together. But now I absolutely support their desire to hold a second referendum. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to remain part of the EU if the whole of their country wants it? I only wish London had the same option because it’s clear the rest of the UK hold very different views. We’re supposed to be one nation but it doesn’t feel like that right now. Maybe the people of Cardiff are feeling the same – another capital city that seem at odds with the rest of their country. And Northern Ireland and Gibraltar too.

The EU has its faults. A lot of them. But we can never now help change and eradicate those faults from within. We will just do what Britain does well – moan about them from afar. But the EU has – like it or not – helped to create a relatively peaceful and inclusive continent since we all signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Some have thrived more than others – but that will always be the case, be that a classroom, sports field, workplace, or country.

Each day we learn new skills, innovate, discover, travel, create, design, converse, compete, train, build, teach, explore – together. Even those that live or work alone can still have as much or as little access to the world as they choose to have. Our learnings feed ingenuity, which in turn creates amazing advancements in how we work and live. Those innovations are the very being of our world right now – from the machines that make every part of our professional lives easier and more productive, through to the mobile devices that keep us connected.

Like many of my friends, I even came to question my parents this past few days. The very same parents that worked so hard and sacrificed so much to give me the start in life that they never had, voted to leave the EU for seemingly narrow minded reasons. It didn’t even occur to them that the result could dramatically impact on the very business and life that I’ve been working so hard to build myself.

I wonder how many of our parents’ generation would’ve voted differently if they’d been made to realise how precarious and uncertain they would be making the jobs and businesses of their children and grandchildren. But at least we’ll have fewer immigrants eh.

Some talk about wanting more democracy. Others talk about regaining control. Both are wonderful things – but only if we have a thriving economy to have control over, or to vote people in on. If our economy is shrinking then we will all have less money to pay for everything – including the NHS. Its clear that those lower paid workers that voted for Brexit will be the first to feel the effect of companies moving their operations overseas.

Whoever takes the Captain’s armband off David Cameron when he leaves the pitch has one hell of a job to do. If it’s Boris or Gove then they will have the whole country looking at them to prove their points. Let’s see what happens when we DO really take control back. I totally understand that this was an anti-establishment result, voting against the negativity of the campaign rhetoric unwisely employed by the Remain camp, and the perceived bureaucracy and money wasting of the EU – but those Brexiters now have to deliver the fantastically successful utopia that they promised for the UK.

The beautiful county of Cornwall voted to leave the EU. The irony in this is that Cornwall is actively trying to do all it can to promote and enhance its tourism and trade. It has received £1bn of EU aid over the past 15 years with more than £400m in the pipeline until 2020 because of its relatively weak economy. That funding has provided fibre broadband, a university, sixth form colleges, dual carriageways, airport investment, rail improvement, support for farmers and all kinds of business. So whilst the local community has voted to leave, the business community in Cornwall is going to have to work out ways of securing the investment without that vital EU support. If they don’t get it, then all of the rejuvenation projects won’t happen, which in turn means jobs will be lost, contracts cancelled, and the much-needed increase in tourism and trade will be impossible to achieve. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot.

Our world in 2016 is constantly looking forwards. Outwards. Upwards. And beyond. But the vote to leave the EU just feels like we are now stepping backwards. Backwards to a time so beloved by our parents. A place that had far less – if any – of the connectivity that our generation has conceived and grown accustomed to. So whilst the rest of the world is looking outwards and forwards, little Britain is heading back to a time that most of us weren’t even alive to remember. The grass is always greener after all. Even grass that is 50 years old.

But it simply isn’t the same world that our parents want to take us back to. Since many of them retired, things have changed in the world of work beyond their recognition and comprehension. They’re constantly changing too. And that’s just the way it should be – each generation moving things on using learnings from the previous generations. Making things better. Or so we thought.

Let’s not forget that many countries thrive having on independence. But most of those nations are geographically huge. And Switzerland has always operated on its own agenda. Our generation has grown up in an inclusive and open Europe – everything we’ve learned has been with this in mind.

The majority of people that will be taking Britain forward through this period of uncertainty over the next 20 years will be those under the age of 50. Of those, YouGov say that 75% of 18-24 year olds and 56% of 25-49 year olds voted Remain.

Interestingly, should we have opened the vote to 16 and 17 year olds – as Scotland did in their 2014 Referendum – the result could have been so very different. Online forum The Student Room conducted a poll – on the day the Brexit result was revealed – to find that 82% of voters in the age group wanted to Remain. With 82% of the 1.46million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK voting Remain – the number would have matched the 1.2 million difference between Out and In.

And that’s what makes me (and all of my peers) feel so very frustrated – because Britain feels like it’s on the brink of taking a huge uncertain step backwards, and the decision to make that step wasn’t born out of facts, it was born out of very individual, narrow minded hunches that good old Blighty will be better off doing things like it did it 50 years ago. But the people that will be living with the impact of this referendum the longest weren’t even alive way back then. They shouldn’t be forced to go backwards and adopt the life of earlier generations – for thousands of reasons. They want to be part of an international community, based on peace, collaboration and connectivity – far different to the world of 50 years ago.

But we have to look forward now. What’s done is done. There are enough brilliant people in our country – from all walks of life, and from within every county – to get us out of this mire.

So let’s embrace this new dawn that has been thrust upon us. Let’s take all of the opportunities that the people outside of London and Scotland are telling us will be there. Let’s not complain about anything any more – because this is what we’ve all decided we want for our country. Let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s do our collective best to make this work. Because we simply HAVE to make us a United Kingdom again.