Brexit has revealed divisions in the not so United Kingdom

By Brendan Callaghan

The result of the recent EU referendum in the UK has left almost half a nation angry, disillusioned and anxious about the future of their country.

It was a decision which shocked many around the world; including, by the looks of it, one of the principal advocates for the leave vote – Boris Johnson.

It is a decision which has led to the resignation of David Cameron, the installation of Theresa May as PM.  It has left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fighting an internal battle for survival with his own MPs and it has also resulted in the political world’s answer to David Brent, Nigel Farage, stepping-down as UKIP party leader.

Nigel Farage - is he an Arthur Daly or David Brent type character?
Nigel Farage – is he an Arthur Daly or David Brent type character?

(Although I do silently hope that this man’s legacy will live on euphemistically; in that from now on anyone who enthusiastically leads other people into a dire situation before quickly running-off without offering any help whatsoever will be accused of ‘Pulling a Farage’).

As the dust settles on a turbulent few weeks for British politics, there are a few points which I think are important in understanding this result and the repercussions it might have.

Firstly, it is now clear that those who voted to leave were motivated either through a narrow-minded fear encouraged by the scare-mongering tactics of the media and the anti-EU parties or, alternatively, through a simmering bitterness towards the political elite more generally for having neglecting them for so long.

In either case it is quite clear that the reasons for voting to leave were based on irrational, emotional drives, which do not reflect the political complexities of the modern world and which are also a damning reflection on the two major political parties in terms of their representative appeal to the nation as a whole.


The second point to focus on is the complete lack of planning on the part of the political parties for the prospect of a Leave vote. The hasty flying-away of Messer’s Johnson, Cameron and Farage is, in my opinion, testament to this worrying fact.

And so, what we are left with is a country that has lost faith in it’s leaders but which is now, ironically, more reliant than ever on political figures to ferry the country through a no-doubt tumultuous and bruising Brexit process.

All the while the country becomes more insular, independent and reliant on it’s own resources and tools for recovery.

Admittedly, this independence could be seen as a possible source of strength for the country if the Kingdom was in fact as United as it’s title suggests; but what this referendum revealed above all else is the deep divisions that now exist within Great Britain – divisions between Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales – divisions between young and old and most obviously, between those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain; those who opted for a vague, out-of-date notion of nationalism as opposed to the open, inclusive and the positive message of the remain campaign.

Yes Supporters pictured on STV Scotland
Yes to Scottish independence Supporters pictured on STV Scotland

It will be a long time before we can fully appreciate the magnitude of this decision and without any clear direction coming from any of the major political parties it is nearly impossible to speculate on the future of the UK; be that in terms of it’s future role within Europe or whether indeed it will still exist in it’s current form for much longer.

What is clear is that before it can tackle the difficult problem of safely exiting the EU, the UK will first have to unite internally and bridge the numerous party and national divisions that this referendum has painfully exposed. 

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