EU referendum: '˜We all voted and now it's our responsibility'
Unlike some, Thursday's decision to leave the EU has left me not thrilled nor excited, but disheartened.
Together with many volunteers, we have spoken face to face about the EU with thousands of residents across north Northumberland in the last couple of months.
Some people, I know, will now be feeling angry, sad, frustrated, conned, while others will be happy and satisfied with the outcome. Many people will be wondering if the country has done the right thing.
Even on Thursday, I met people who were undecided, still unable to make up their mind after decades of receiving no information on the EU, but then being bombarded with endless claims and counterclaims over the space of a few weeks.
The level of anger I have heard on our doorsteps was disheartening, as much of it was targeted at immigrants.
According to some, ‘immigrants are all thugs and criminals’, yet so many immigrants make a positive contribution to our society and our economy, and we couldn’t do without them.
I am glad they want to come and work in jobs like those in our local hospitals where we cannot otherwise get enough doctors and nurses.
Each person I met had a different reason for choosing how to vote, but what I can say is that no one I met was taking this decision lightly.
But I am especially disheartened because I do not see the EU as the cause of our problems in the UK. It is part of the solution – enabling our economy to grow and to make a better life for us all.
Unacceptable levels of injustice, unfairness and poverty exist in the UK today.
In some areas of our country these problems may not be so visible, but they are still keenly felt by the individuals and families who are directly affected.
The lack of attention to dealing with these very real, very human problems is a serious fault of those in power – whether that be the media or successive governments. Either they do not know these problems exist or they do not care enough to do something about it.
It was so disheartening to meet many frustrated people who really felt the UK was not working for them, their families and their neighbours, and many told me they wanted to leave the EU.
But leaving the EU will not help solve these problems in Britain. A prosperous economy exporting to the EU and the rest of the world is the only way for this country to raise enough money from taxes to provide for decent local services that we all use and for a fair welfare state that protects the vulnerable.
Daily now, we see the absolute vulnerability of our economy to falls in confidence – from the stock-market and the value of the pound, through to business investment.
Limbo and uncertainty is no good for anyone, except market speculators. How many local farmers have just put on hold the building of that new shed or fence, which were all going to be built by local people, working for local companies? Sadly, jobs will be lost and households will struggle.
Even if we can, as individuals and a country, work harder and survive the economic situation we face, then I am even more disheartened for the next generation. I don’t want them, or us, to just survive I want them to thrive.
According to the figures, the next generation wanted to remain, and voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. Their future, their hopes and dreams have been dashed.
Freedom and opportunity is curtailed, for some, just a bit – a longer queue at the border, no EHIC on holiday. But for others it’s their studies, their jobs, their relationships which are on the line for the foreseeable future.
As for that future – well it’s rather uncertain. All I know is that the values I cherish, of hope, fairness, justice and opportunity, will be needed in the coming years more than ever.
I do hope that those who believe that we need a better future for the UK, for our communities, however they voted, will now really get involved in helping to move us forward – whether it’s taking part in their local housing association or community groups or standing for election.
After all, this was not a vote by politicians on our future – it was a vote by all of us as individuals. So the responsibility lies with each and every one of us to help fix the problems which this vote has raised. And to make the UK a better place for ourselves, for our children and our grandchildren.