Over the last two years I have had many conversations with good people who are at the front of the queue for the Big Brexit Chaos Bonanza. Their stories are all different. They are young, old, married, single, parents, grandparents. They are nurses, musicians, warehouse operatives, civil servants, cleaners, carers, students. They live across the UK and the EU. They like literature, popular culture, sport, cooking, eating, watching the Proms, Strictly and the GBBO. They like burgers and the theatre and pop music. They run businesses, they work for someone else, they hold down 2 jobs, they travel across the continent as consultants or as tradespeople or as carers.
Here is what they all have in common. They were deliberately denied a say on a question which affects their lives and their status. #the5million. I don’t think many of us thought too hard about that. Even now there is recognisable shock when my friend Nicky tells people how she was not allowed to vote because she has lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. They are even more shocked when she points out that losing our EU citizenship, for her, will result in losing a right to vote for an MEP in the Netherlands and she may even lose her right to vote in her local elections. She will have no political voice at all.
At the same time 16-17 year olds were also denied a say, young people who were perfectly grown up enough to have an opinion of their own are the ones who will live with the consequences of this referendum outcome for the longest time. Incidentally these are the same kids we are all relying on to pay for our pensions and old age care. I hope you were all careful what you wished for when you decided where to put that cross on the ballot paper.
Brextremists are very fond of saying it is undemocratic to campaign to stop Brexit because it was the “greatest democratic exercise in the history of the UK”. Well I have news for you – your democratic exercise was pretty stinky as democratic exercises go. It was flawed in a multitude of ways. Not only did leave campaigns (yes plural) cheat, not only was there lying and empty promises by them but fundamentally a huge group of people who would be affected by the decision were ignored as if they did not matter, as if they were objects to sort out later whether to keep or throw away, only measurable in pounds and euros and usefulness to those with British passports.
Brexiters, you deliberately stopped all EU27 citizens in the UK, regardless of how long they have been members of our communities up and down the country, from having a voice. the people immediately affected by the outcome were ignored. You stopped British citizens in the EU and elsewhere who had been overseas for more than 15 years from voting and many of the ballot papers to those who qualified did not arrive. You stopped 16-17year olds from having a voice even though you deemed Scottish youth to be capable of casting a vote only a year before in the indyref. You tried to tell them they would be okay – everything will work out, of course you don’t want them to leave, of course they would be protected. At best you guessed, at worst you blatantly lied about your intentions. The fact remains you have kept these people in limbo for 2 years and overnight millions will have a different status and will have to “register” to go back to their home that they never moved out of. Millions across the EU have been given no guidance or support by the British government and are relying on the countries of their residence to help them secure their status. What did Mrs May say when asked in the house of commons? “I hope they’ll be okay”. If this does not pull you up short on this subject I don’t know what will.
This Brexit is nauseating enough. The economic consequences over the short and medium and long term are ridiculously damaging and in themselves should ensure a rejection by a sensible parliament of Brexit – yes, I know we are way short of a sensible parliament. But the disenfranchisement of so many of our friends, our families, our neighbours underpins my greatest disgust, fills my head with anger and determination to fight.
On Saturday I will be marching for a Peoples Vote, for an opportunity for a new vote to examine all the consequences we now know will result from the so-called work the government have been doing for 2 years. A new vote requires a new franchise. I will be arguing that not only should we have the opportunity to examine the deal, not only should we be able to keep remain as an option, but there is no doubt in my head the franchise should include the voices of the #5million and the 16-17 year olds who will carry the biggest burden of Brexit.
It will be an opportunity for us to Right all the Wrongs of June 2016 and we must fight for all of that.