While I was in London I asked everyone I met, 'Did you vote Brexit or Remain?' listening to the arguments carefully. One thing that was resoundingly clear is the confusion. Some of the Brexiters wondered if they had made the right decision. Clearly the momentous result reflects a divide in the UK. One friend said that the government has to go ahead with Brexit otherwise we could face civil war - personally I think this is rather far-fetched, but certainly there could be unrest, protests etc. from hardline Brexiters. There was an anti-Brexit protest on 2nd July attended by 1000s, but whether it will instigate a change in government policy regarding the referendum I wonder? Now lawyers (represented by an independent nameless group) are issuing a case arguing that the outcome of the referendum is not legally binding and needs to be voted in parliament before article 50 can be invoked; as we know legal cases such as these can be a protracted affair. As for our political landscape it is a shambles, with mutiny in the Labour party, Corbyn refusing to budge until perhaps after the publication of the Chilcot report on 6th July, mass resignations within the Labour shadow cabinet, Cameron's resignation, Boris Johnson's stepping aside and now Farage's resignation (although he's done that a couple of times before). Presently, we are facing a political vacuum which is tantamount to living in one party state since Labour is currently unelectable. It's a mess.
The referendum was superfluous and hasn't helped to resolve anything in the short term apart from exacerbating divisions within the country and detract from other vital policy making. We've lost our AAA credit rating, seen the pound at a 31-year low and firms threatening to pull out of the UK while the rest of the world is feeling the ramifications. The immediate winners are foreign nationals going on shopping sprees taking advantage of a low pound.
Theresa May seems to be the front runner for leader of the Conservative party, she is pro-Brexit, but I wouldn't say she's a pioneering politician or a visionary, rather a safe option. What is interesting is that it is women who have come forward to clean up the crisis made largely by male politicians. Will they fare any better? If Thatcher's leadership is anything to go by, women can be just as ruthless and uncompromising as men. But in Europe we are seeing the rise of women in politics with Angela Merkel, Le Penn in France and many more. Aside from gender politics, whether you are a woman or a man what are they going to do to tackle the post-Brexit uncertainty?
There are rumblings from other EU members, principally stating that there will be no access to the free market without freedom of movement, there are others who are more conciliatory. It's confusing. China's leaders seem disgruntled with the UK's decision to leave the EU, so all this talk of access to huge markets in Asia seemed a little premature. The question of immigration remains uncertain with the probability that levels will not come down since the UK will still accept people from outside the EU and other EU migrants. All the arguments put forward to leave now seem misleading.
What are the solutions? Current EU members accept that there needs to be reform within the EU, but they can't be seen to be making Britain's exit easy, since they don't want to encourage other people to leave either and instigate the subsequent disintegration of the EU. Ideally, as people see Britain's economy thrashed and the pound continues to decline the Brexit referendum vote will be ignored and Britain will stay in the EU on the condition that there their grievances and issues are addressed, many of which are legitimate. Or Britain leaves, faces potential job losses, a weak pound, and will be at the 'back of the queue' when it comes to negotiating new trade deals within the EU and other countries. Which option would you choose?
So why did people vote Brexit? I spoke to one cab driver and he argued, 'I read about an Ethiopian man who raped a girl in the UK, he was put in jail, then when he was released he did it again, when the UK tried to extradite that man there were unable to because the European Court of Justice overruled the decision saying it contravened his human rights. What about the rights of the victim?' he shouted. 'I have two daughters and I want to protect them from men like this.'
A friend of mine who voted Brexit argued, 'It might be painful at the beginning, but I would rather we make our own decisions than listen to an unelected body in Brussels that do not understand this country.'
Another said the vote reflected the educational divide in the UK. It was the educated that voted to remain and the uneducated that voted out. It was their way of protesting against the elitist nature of politics, the increased disparity and lack of opportunity in certain parts of Britain that comes from globalisation.
Personally, I feel the referendum arguments put forward were not clear, people were fed misinformation and this undermines the outcome. The British people have spoken but they have made a critical decision on the basis of a deeply dubious Brexit campaign.
We are facing a potentially incendiary situation unless the government responds quickly to restore confidence. The question of Brexit or Remain is still unanswered despite the vote. If the government doesn't act swiftly and we incur job losses, a continuing plummeting pound and political uncertainty the far right could take advantage and try to consolidate inroads made post-Brexit - history tells us where that could lead? More hate crimes against minorities, more social division, more instability, which does not body well for the future.
Post-Brexit in London I was shooting 0n Brick Lane with the Bangladeshi photographer Enamul Haque for my film project A Portrait of Madness on Brick Lane. Brick Lane is probably one of the best examples of people of different cultural backgrounds living side-by-side, despite the fact that there are pockets of extremism in their midst. I want to see a Britain that embraces diversity that is dynamic and open, not myopic, insular and in effect going backwards.
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