Brexit: How Did We Get Here?!
In light of Theresa May’s latest Brexit deal being rejected and deemed ‘dead’ by Jeremy Corbyn, it’s hard to imagine a time when Brexit wasn’t dominating our news and what it was like to not want to pull your own teeth out whenever the term is mentioned.
Political apathy in the UK was an issue before Brexit. Now, let’s not go there.
But, are the public any more clued up now, than they were when they cast their votes?
To say the majority of Britain didn’t know what exactly they were voting for, would be an understatement.
What happens when you put the vote to the people?
People vote emotionally. After all, in a situation like this, it’s all we have to go off. To assume every voter took this situation seriously enough to research what their vote would mean, would be hugely optimistic, but none the less unlikely.
And that’s not being pessimistic. According to a survey carried out by the Observer, around half of adults don’t know who their MP is while just 11 per cent can name one of their MEPs.
Another survey carried out on 1,942 British adults, found 69 per cent (more than two in three people) say they have “no interest” in politics and 59 per cent couldn’t even name the then-prime minister, David Cameron.
Among this surprisingly common political ignorance, the British people seem to have a fair few misconceptions around other matters, too. All of which, however, can equally paint a picture as to why some British people voted the way they did…
- British people thought that the severity of benefit fraud is 24 times worse than in reality.
- 29 per cent of those surveyed thought that Jobseekers’ Allowance is more expensive to the taxpayer than pensions, when the latter costs about 15 times more
- British people systematically over-estimated immigration rates
- In general, people thought that crime and violent crime rates were rising, when in fact they have been falling for decades
But, where is this misinformation coming from? Is it a generational thing? Or do we blame the media? At what point, do human beings become accountable for making their own mind up, based on facts?
Probably the only useful thing to actually come out of Trump’s government is the term ‘fake news’ which he’s vehemently adopted. And never has that term felt more appropriate when looking at Brexit coverage.
During Brexit, it’s safe to say the media took a strong stance on fear mongering, especially around immigration.
Some of the UK’s most popular newspapers, such as The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, spouted a steady stream of eurosceptic cynicism.
With headlines such as ‘Soaring cost of teaching immigrant children’ (this angle was false, as it defined anyone with at least one parent from the European Economic Area as a migrant child), or The Daily Mail’s “If you believe in Britain, vote leave,” speaking against the “greedy elites” of a “broken, dying Europe”.
Alongside this, the Daily Mail was also forced to run a correction on a front page story, depicting ‘European immigrants’, who were in fact from the Middle East. But, by which point the damage has already been done.
The Selfish Party
Fuelling this fire, was the ambiguous agendas of the numerous political parties involved (we’re all aware of the NHS-bus fiasco). This raises a larger moral problem of how the government can initiate such a question of such importance, to the general public, without ensuring full transparency on what leaving the EU would actually mean.
Why do we have a democratic government? We have one, because these people we vote for run our country. They (apparently) have the knowledge to be able to make the right economical decisions to stop our country being run into the ground.
So, palming such a big and controversial decision off onto the general public, isn’t fair. Sure, we’re all entitled to our opinions – informed or not – that doesn’t mean these opinions lead to a stable or positive outcome.
What happens when you put complex issues which no one really understands in the hands of the general public? Brexit. Brexit happens.
But Brexit was never taken seriously to begin with, which is how it got into the hands of us, the general public in the first place.
The Conservative party using the referendum as a mere bargaining tool within their manifesto, sums up how no one – including the public and the government, took this seriously at all.
Maybe David Cameron thought the public would chose to remain. A risky assumption, to say the least.
It’s safe to say a lot of people still aren’t certain what a ‘good’ Brexit deal looks like, let alone what a ‘no-deal Brexit’ even means. More so, the fact Theresa May is refusing to divulge what exactly is in her deal, goes to show how blind as a nation we really are to the repercussions of Brexit.
But before we go bashing the Leavers for landing us in this political mess, or the Remainers for preaching too much, maybe our angst should be directed to those who should know better. Like the prime minister at the time, David Cameron.
Where’s he these days?
By Francesca Sammut