Where next for Brexit Britain?
This post has a bit less psychology and a bit more opinion on Brexit and our society.
I voted to stay, and we lost. That is one side effect of democracy. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, half the population of the UK is surprised. A good chunk of that half is also very angry (I was this morning for sure). Social media today is full of people berating Leave voters for being ‘stupid’, ‘selfish’ or ‘racist’. People need to blow off steam, but they also need to step back and consider what comes next, and who we want to be as a nation.
Many commentators have (and I am sure will continue to) split the in and out voters along broad lines – haves and have nots, urban vs. rural and young versus old. This is simplistic stereotyping at its very worst. I bet you within a mile of me I can find a young urbinate who voted leave and an old farmer who voted stay. I can also find bright and not-so-bright people in both camps, and those with strong (and absent) moral compasses too. We know from social psychology categorising people in this way reduces them to a few basic attributes and removed individual difference. It also fosters negative interactions between groups which increases the likelihood of conflict and makes agreement harder. Be under no illusion we need to avoid this.
Britain now faces a challenge, and for me three clear questions – First, how do we interact with Europe? Secondly, what sort of country do we want the UK to be? Third – what can we do to get where we want to be? We can only answer these questions constructively together. It will not be easy, but I hope we can rise to this in a way which shows how we are a nation which is a (as we have long been) compassionate, fair (in relative global if not in absolute terms) society which is open to differing peoples, cultures and beliefs. I hope we can also remain a nation which looks outwards as well as inwards and can become a responsible world leader in the new geopolitical climate (which, I predict will involve a very turbulent EU over the next decade). In my prevote blog on Brexit, I highlighted how seeing yourself as having some common identity helped reduce conflict. We need to do that now by finding common ground between camps. Failure to risks an already divided nation falling into disarray- as I highlighted before, mass civil unrest seems unthinkable until it happens (the London Riots are not so long ago!). I also suggest that by coming together we can solve problems. Let us not pretend we don’t need that either – there will be plenty coming our way. The campaign was ugly, and neither side did the UK proud. The fallout could be worse.Stereotyping those we disagree with makes it hard to solve the problems we face. Click To Tweet
Do I think the outcome was the best one? No. Do I think it is helpful to hurl insults at people who exercised their right to vote? No to that as well. Do I believe Britain can rise to the challenge? Honestly, I am not sure, but I know the choice is ours.