Brendan Lambe. Lecturer in Finance and an Irish European, reflects on the meaning of the referendum.
On the morning of the 24th of June we awoke to a Britain which had changed utterly. A palpable sense of bewilderment remains with us still. In no quarter was the sting of this decision felt more keenly than among the citizens of the other EU states who have made Britain their home. Women and men who now, by virtue of this decision, have become marginalised in a country where they work, invest, spend, teach, build, create and contribute in the myriad of other ways. I am amongst this number, as are many of my colleagues and students.
We teach, work and learn here at this University. Just like every University in the country, Leicester draws from a pool of individuals from across the globe willing to come here. Alongside what they may learn, many take back with them a sense of what it is like to live in this beautifully liberal and progressive society. For those who are not fortunate enough to come from a place that permits them to live in the way that they desire I think that they go back home with a vision of what could be. And let’s not forget that through this exercise we generate a lot of money that contributes to the prosperity of every person in our land.
But, I have to get used to not referring to any of this as ‘ours’, because it’s not ‘ours’ anymore, is it? The country where I have made my home, spent my energy, applied my skills, built friendships and gave everything I have to appears to no longer welcome me or others without UK passports. ‘Our’ beautiful creation might fade into history, but are we to let it?
At the time of writing over 4.1 million people have signed a petition to hold this referendum again, under terms which would ensure a proper majority of the electorate. The argument for this approach is reasonable and is not without precedent. In 2009 the Irish electorate were asked to vote for a second time on a referendum to accept the Lisbon treaty, they did so after 17 months of deliberation and informed rational debate, and the second response was resoundingly in favour. The reason for the difference between the two sets of results was that the second time the electorate were more informed of the implications of their decision.
Parallels can be drawn between the Irish situation and ‘our’ own. Arguably the performances of this country’s politicians did little to help the electorate arrive at a fully considered decision. I use the term politician loosely because the two leading figures in the leave campaign were unelected to the House of Commons and therefore are unaccountable to the electorate either for the promises made or the validity of the invective used against their opponents. Already the backtracking has begun with the £350 million has now been exposed for the empty claim that it was. More promises are doubtless to be rescinded as each morning we wake up to a reality more stark and grim that that of the day before.
Enough has been written about the holes in the Leave campaign’s argument. Few of the two million strong group of teachers, nurses, doctors, builders, designers, university professors, factory operatives and businesspeople who work here and who hold EU passports were convinced by them. None of us truly believed that we were surplus to requirement and perhaps more poignantly, we didn’t believe that you did either. Few could imagine that the British people, whom we count amongst the closest of our friends could engage in what amounts to an act of collective xenophobia.
And yes, we have heard that we will get to stay, that all we need to do is to fill out whatever point scoring cards which will help us determine whether we are worthy to work for, not with, you. You forget, we have already given you our skills and experience and this has contributed to the relative prosperity that together we enjoy. Britain never would have reached the economic strength that it has without us or the generations of immigrants who came before us. We have enriched this society and continue to do so, make no mistake about that. Yet, we, like you, want to believe in the society to which we give everything, but how are we do this now?
In Economics, the Latin phrase ‘Ceteris Paribus’ translates roughly as ‘all things remaining equal’. Predictions through economic modelling are often made on the assumption that all other conditions remain as they were. The predictions for future prosperity put forward as the economic rationale to leave relied heavily upon all things remaining as they were. The promised benefits through Brexiting were to be added to the existing economic strengths enjoyed here.
But, things have not remained as they were. On the morning of the referendum 2 million EU citizens living and working here believed in the collective project of the UK, an endeavour based on strength through togetherness. The very next day that belief had vanished. We may continue to live and work amongst you but how can we be ‘for’ you, how can we be ‘for’ Britain when you have shown that you are not ‘for’ us?
There is some hope, the referendum is advisory not binding. Everything can go back to how it was, we are ready to believe in you again if you will do the same for us. Add your name to the petition for another referendum, add your voice to those who are calling on parliament to debate the legitimacy of invoking Article 50. Join the protests that are being held across this land that may somehow convince this nations politicians to have the strength to call for a rethink. We have stood alongside you every day as together we have worked to produce a society that we can all be proud of. Now, stand with us.
Originally published at http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/management/