The future is ours to write: some thoughts on Britain after Brexit

Like most of my friends, I was heartbroken by the vote on Thursday. Heartbroken but not wholly surprised.

Let’s leave aside the dishonesty of the campaign.

This was a vote that has been brewing since the crash of 2007/08 when across the developed world governments supported the financial and political elites who created the conditions that allowed the crash to happen – and then demanded that the wider populace pick up the tab.

Elites can only command respect when their expertise and ability work for the common good. When they so clearly and catastrophically fail, and are not called to account in any way, if is not unreasonable for people to become cynical and distrustful.

The EU is an elite entity. It is not the Europe we are broken-hearted at being cast out of. That Europe exists as long as we want it to, as long as we are prepared to fight for it.

But for many, I think the EU – as with governments generally across the West – represented a failed and broken compact. One which looked after its own in the financial sector and punished the people of Greece and Italy and Spain rather than let the failures in the system be felt by those who designed and profited from it.

People feel powerless and a vote against the status quo is a way of expressing that. But it isn’t the EU that robs them of agency, far from it. It is globalisation.

At a local level, change is generational. Globally, by which I mean among the global financial elites, change is technological, and fast.

Globalisation inevitably means that skilled and non-skilled labour will be contracted out to the lowest bidder. The working class of the West will be – and are – the biggest losers.

A vote to “take back control” was a vote against that : against a no-opportunity economy, with low security jobs for now and worse on the horizon, against hollowed out communities starved of resources and starved of attention, which cannot compete with migrant workers in a race to the bottom.

These communities feel voiceless, their concerns unmet in parliament and scorned by many to whom they look for support and representation.

Anti-immigrant sentiment derives in large part from communities which are fearful, insecure and impoverished by forces which benefit the middle and upper classes but strip them of all protection.

Yes some leave voters are racist. Yes most of them were lied to – despicably – by the politicians. And yes, many will find that the EU – flawed as it is – was a bulwark against globalisation, not part of its vanguard. And yes, vote Leave was an emotional decision not a rational one.

But so was Remain. Europe is an idea that transcends the EU. We are still European. The future is far from decided yet. If we want England / Britain to be an open, outward-looking, tolerant force for good in the world, then it is still in our power to make it so.

Some Leave voters may be hateful. But many if not most voted out of fear, fear of a now that offers them little and a future that offers them less.

It is down to us to build the future that we want. It is our future. It is not about institutions and models of government. It is about habits of heart and mind, the generosity and kindness we bring to debate, the hope we believe in and enact.

Fuck what the nation voted one rainy day in June. If we want to pass on the nation that we grew up in to our children, we can still do so. We do not need the EU for that. We need each other.

We can do it – but not by despising those who made the wrong choice on Thursday. But by keeping in our hearts the values that are dear to us, and that we believe are worth fighting for.

The future is unwritten. Europe is a powerful idea of which the EU is a very poor expression – just ask the people of Greece. Let’s write a better future than either the old status quo or this new reality can offer.

Venceremos, my friends. Onwards into the dawn.