Roger and Gabi talk about BREXIT

We slowly trickle into the auditorium – it’s small and loud and filled with students; it also means we all have to stay behind after hours. But it’s definitely worth it: today, Roger and Gabi Oldfield, married, 70 years old, have come to talk to us about last year’s Brexit. He is from Manchester, UK, Gabi is from Germany; they’re united in an Anglo-German marriage, and they are here as “remainers”. They are not alone with their views – however, this view is unusual for elderly people, as it is mostly younger people who act strongly against Brexit.
Gabi begins by telling us how different our German take on war – Krieg – is compared to the UK. We have both made negative experiences with war but but while Europe as a whole (and Germany especially) sees it as something very negative that challenges our European unity, the UK seems a lot more indifferent towards the lessons we should learn from war. For them, belonging and being incorporated into the advantages of the European Union isn’t as important as their own individuality as a free and sovereign country. Maybe this can help us understand the current topic a little better: Brexit, the prospective withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
The referendum to either remain in or leave the EU was held on 23rd June 2016, and 51.9% of the participating UK electorate voted “leave.” It was a very narrow decision, but one that had and still has great impact on both the UK and the rest of the EU. Prime minister David Cameron had promised the referendum as being a way to get people involved which (in Gabi’s words) was the first of many wrong decisions to come: because this meant that a very complex issue would be voted on “just like that,” without thoroughly informing the public about both the advantages and disadvantages of their vote.
First and foremost, not enough people actually bothered to come to the referendum, either because they didn’t care or because they were too confident of a positive outcome for the remainers. In fact, only about 37% of the UK as a whole even voted at all, which shifts the referendum into a whole new perspective: it shows us just how narrow the vote was, and how differently it could have turned out – had only the campaigning gone differently, the public been more informed, and more people been allowed to vote: Europeans living in the UK and, likewise, Britons living in the EU were not allowed to vote.
The primary problem seems to be that of the two campaigns. The Leave-Campaign, even though it spread deliberate lies, was simply the better one. It was public knowledge that their information often consisted of false truths, but by that point the information was already ‘out there’ – just like their whole campaign was more out there, more appealing, more positive – and suddenly people had the most ridiculous notions , e.g. that there are laws in Europe that ban curved bananas from being sold in supermarkets, for instance. Right Wing papers served as additional manipulation devices. Then there is the fact that an apparent majority of the UK sees their country as an island, and not really as a part of Europe at all. To a lot of (admittedly uninformed) people, the Brexit is a chance to regain their sovereignty as an individual nation.
David Cameron’s Pro Europe Campaign was kind of a disaster. Some people literally just voted Leave out of spite towards the Prime Minister, not because they actually wanted the Brexit. The campaign itself focused mainly on the economic aspects of either outcome and failed to mention other things of importance. Little information actually concerned people and their everyday life; there was no real communication between politicians and the public. The campaign mostly tried to scare people into voting Pro Europe by naming only the negative consequences of the Brexit instead of offering helpful and objective information.
So both voting groups ended up accusing each other of lies and deliberately avoiding each other – the hostility towards foreigners, for instance, has increased, while at the same time there is more support for them than ever. The most pressing question for now is whether the UK’s separation is going to be a soft or a hard Brexit. Meanwhile the country is divided, families are divided, friends are divided.
Emily Schuster-Woldan, 11