On the morning of the Brexit result I woke up to a tsunami of anger. It swirled on my social media, tweets of disdain mixed with tweets of grief. From across the Channel I watched. I might no longer live in the UK but I still call it home. I was also eligible to vote in this referendum but my vote hadn’t arrived in time. That stung.
That morning as I learned the Brexit result my heart broke. Outside the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. It felt like a cruel irony. I was flying back home later that day. I was flying back to a broken home. I had watched from a safe distance as the campaign for Brexit had unfolded. I had felt a curious mix of being removed yet involved. I was removed in that I was over the other side of the Channel. However, I was very much emotionally involved. As the campaign hurtled closer to judgement day I had become increasingly disgusted by the tactics used on both sides of the campaign. Both sides resorting to fear. Both sides using scare tactics, hurling lies at each other and catching voters in their cross-fire.
I sat in Jersey airport feeling numb with grief. All around me people were muttering about the result, shocked voices spoke of disbelief and eyes studied the airport TV watching the news. When we landed in London I found myself scouring London for signs of a changed city. There were some. It might have been my imagination but London felt subdued, its independent spirit muffled by the result. As my train drew into Victoria station I spied banners hanging from flat windows. White banners stained with black paint that screamed “Vote Leave”. The banners surprised me. I hadn’t expected to see that, not in London.
Yet the majority had spoken. The UK would no longer be part of the EU. It would be going alone.
Alone. No longer united. I spent the weekend in London and all thoughts of Brexit were pushed to the back of my mind – that was until the Sunday morning. As I stood at the tube station waiting for the gates to be opened, people milled around. A mixture of hard core clubbers returning back home mingled with tourists and people going to work. We were a diverse bunch, a snapshot of what makes London a great city. A city that is welcoming. A city that is proud. However, that morning as different groups huddled together, London lost its sense of pride. The tube station became a snapshot for everything that is now wrong with the UK. From nowhere a fight erupted amongst the smart briefcases and the discarded crisp packets. They pushed and shoved each other, weaving in between families and tourists. A fight filled with vitriol and xenophobia. A fight that was spiked with racism and dripped with resentment. Their voices raged over a sleeping baby. Their anger threatening to wake the baby from her peaceful slumber in the pram. The mum gently rocking the pram and shushing, soothing away the hatred that had spilled onto the floor of this tube station. The men squaring up to each other, still spitting words of violence and contempt. On that early Sunday morning I watched appalled as it unfolded. I watched these two angry men at breaking point. Yet no one was stopping them. They were going full throttle at each other and no one was intervening. Should I intervene, I thought? Looking around I was aghast to realise that most of the people standing alongside me were on their phones. No, they weren’t trying to avoid what was going on. They had their phones held high, they were trained on the fight. They were filming it. Yet as they watched and filmed they seemed emotionally devoid. No flicker of sadness or worry crossed their faces. Instead they were intent on capturing the moment, recording it for posterity. They were merely the audience. As a result of the filming they weren’t there. I realised that I was in the minority, I was one of the only ones there. I was one of the only ones in the moment. I was one of the only ones reacting. On that morning in the tube station I felt alone. I felt scared. This was not the home I loved. Where were the compassionate, welcoming and open-minded people? Who were these indifferent people, numb to what was happening in front of them. Did this small group of people represent why Brexit had been allowed to happen? Did Brexit happen because of indifference?
I found myself relieved to leave my home behind. Brexit means that the UK isn’t the same, familiar home anymore. I was utterly disgusted by what I had witnessed at the tube station. I had seen the very worst of human nature and it had left me feeling tainted. I wanted to go back to Jersey. I wanted to flee my home. I am now terrified for my country’s future. Thanks to Brexit I no longer think of the UK as my safe home.