Written by Briefings For Brexit
This article was first published in Briefings for Brexit and we republish with their kind permission.
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Below is an extended version of a letter written and sent to my local MP, on 20th October 2019.
I have believed all my life that democracy and fairness are very important aspects of British culture, and that they underpin our sense of national identity. I also believe that ‘Creativity’ and ‘Democracy’ are synonymous and that the UK has long been associated, with these mutually inter-reliant characteristics.
But we have already lost ground.
It seems clear that Parliament’s failure to enact the outcome of the EU Referendum will trigger social disenchantment and cause lasting damage to the concept of democracy, in UK and also throughout the world. A large section of the UK population who voted thoughtfully and in good faith when they were asked to, will be left demoralised and disenfranchised. There are others who want to make a similar claim, but only the majority group has the legitimacy to do so. One person, one vote, means that by democracy’s very nature we cannot always have exactly what we want.
During my lifetime, I have witnessed a rift develop in the UK, perhaps in part caused by the effect of membership of the EU. A split has formed between those who aspire to what they perceive as the more glamorous cosmopolitanism of other European nations and are ashamed of Britishness; and those who are proud of their roots and retain a belief in UK’s resilience, unique achievements and creativity.
Whilst utopian and idealistic, any sense of true kinship to the wider EU population is inevitably likely to be superficial in comparison. It is no simple feat to read the deeper, less conscious, instinctual ways of thinking and feeling that people acquire through family life, environment, language, education and employment, in differing parts of UK, Europe, or the wider world. Difference and dissonance often exist ‘below the waterline’ and it takes time, empathy and compassion to adjust and become attuned, when visiting or living in another location within Europe for instance, or elsewhere.
Like many others, I consider that the cultural rift in the UK has been revealed by the referendum rather than caused by it. Incredibly, people have split from their friends and families over the result and to me this highlights the extremist nature of the cultural schism, where some have come to think that membership of a trading block is more important to them than familial bonds or long established friendships. Such a lack of balance in personal and social priorities suggests a kind of brainwashing, hysteria or groupthink effect may be responsible. A synthetic veneer of narcissism and ego has superseded that which is innate, authentic, nurturing and enduring. The UK media has gleefully seized opportunities to aggravate the split of personality through its relentlessly manipulative channelling of news product.
I have been shocked and disappointed over the last three years to observe how little confidence some people living in the UK have in the UK’s prowess, and by implication in their own personal sense of agency as the individuals who constitute it, to secure trade, or even to sustain the basics of everyday life. Yet clearly by any standards across the world we have so much, and so very much to be grateful for.
Irrational fears and subversion of core values will continue to endanger the stability and cohesion of our communities. How will people find shared ideals to get behind, when a distant bureaucracy is given greater importance than love of family, friendship or the reciprocity of next door neighbours? What possible benefit is enacted when these ideals are denounced as anachronistic or as nostalgia for some lost ‘Little England’? How will we be able to respond creatively to inevitable global challenges when we cannot even get along at home?
As my Member of Parliament you voted to hold the EU Referendum, to invoke Article 50, and to leave the EU in your party’s recent election manifesto. Your constituency voted in a 53% majority to leave in 2016.
Parliament has had over three years to devise and put forward compelling alternatives but nothing has been forthcoming, only game-playing and time-wasting. Many of the key issues concerning UK’s continued EU membership such as sovereignty, governmental accountability, national security, the future ambitions of a United States of Europe or inclusion in the Eurozone, remain avoided or seemingly just forgotten in the frenzied battle to ‘win’ that we have all been subjected to. No wonder our young people’s mental health is in crisis when the attitudes and behaviour of their adult role models is so negative, pessimistic, judgmental and fickle.
Democracy still requires that a majority vote is honoured: it is the only fair and rightful path. Ignoring it in order to remain as we are now, will be seen as a backwards step, a damaging cheat.
It has been so very confusing and difficult to see the way forward. But I believe in your innate creativity and that you will find the strength to help restore the balance. We have an opportunity to face up to fears and to enable transformation, healing and renewal. It can be achieved. There is a route to restore harmony, which in the absence of a viable, creative alternative from the EU, is to leave it with or without a deal, if necessary.
Seize the day: let’s face up to the irrational fears and make a resounding go of it.
One of your constituents.
(The author is a practitioner and academic researcher in the field of Design and Creativity, and lives in the North of England. She prefers to keep her identity, and that of her MP, private.)