On Thursday, I too participated in an act of national insanity and voted to leave the European Union. This is how the next 24 hours unfolded for me.
I’d checked the polls again in the morning, and Remain was ahead, just as it had been for the majority of the campaign. Sensible people were going to vote in, and I could have my protest vote. For me, the polls reflected reality: I live in London, and I'm in my mid-twenties. I barely knew anyone else who was considering voting to leave.
I wanted to give the establishment a kicking. I was disappointed at the result of the general election last year and wanted something to change. After working for five years in graduate-level jobs, I’m still living in a pretty grim flat share, with more than £20,000 of student debt.
There was no way I was going to let the leaders of all the political parties, Tony Blair, big business, or President Obama bully me into a vote. The claims from Britain Stronger in Europe were downright ridiculous. If you’re reading this, David Cameron, I’m still waiting for that official statement from Isis that they’ve welcomed Brexit.
Plus, let’s not pretend the European Union is perfect. The far right is on the rise, there’s mass unemployment, the euro has been a total disaster for countries such as Greece, and the European Commission is unelected and opaque.
The In campaigners on social media were dismissive and obnoxious. It doesn’t help to call everyone who is considering voting to leave racist. Think next time before you post a preachy status telling everyone else how to vote, because they might not actually respect your opinion and could be inspired to do the exact opposite.
6 ways Britain leaving the EU will affect you
6 ways Britain leaving the EU will affect you
1/6 More expensive foreign holidays
The first practical effect of a vote to Leave is that the pound will be worth less abroad, meaning foreign holidays will cost us more
2/6 No immediate change in immigration status
The Prime Minister will have to address other immediate concerns. He is likely to reassure nationals of other EU countries living in the UK that their status is unchanged. That is what the Leave campaign has said, so, even after the Brexit negotiations are complete, those who are already in the UK would be allowed to stay
3/6 Higher inflation
A lower pound means that imports would become more expensive. This is likely to mean the return of inflation – a phenomenon with which many of us are unfamiliar because prices have been stable for so long, rising at no more than about 2 per cent a year. The effect may probably not be particularly noticeable in the first few months. At first price rises would be confined to imported goods – food and clothes being the most obvious – but inflation has a tendency to spread and to gain its own momentum
4/6 Interest rates might rise
The trouble with inflation is that the Bank of England has a legal obligation to keep it as close to 2 per cent a year as possible. If a fall in the pound threatens to push prices up faster than this, the Bank will raise interest rates. This acts against inflation in three ways. First, it makes the pound more attractive, because deposits in pounds will earn higher interest. Second, it reduces demand by putting up the cost of borrowing, and especially by taking larger mortgage payments out of the economy. Third, it makes it more expensive for businesses to borrow to expand output
5/6 Did somebody say recession?
Mr Carney, the Treasury and a range of international economists have warned about this. Many Leave voters appear not to have believed them, or to think that they are exaggerating small, long-term effects. But there is no doubt that the Leave vote is a negative shock to the economy. This is because it changes expectations about the economy’s future performance. Even though Britain is not actually be leaving the EU for at least two years, companies and investors will start to move money out of Britain, or to scale back plans for expansion, because they are less confident about what would happen after 2018
6/6 And we wouldn’t even get our money back
All this will be happening while the Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, is negotiating the terms of our future access to the EU single market. In the meantime, our trade with the EU would be unaffected, except that companies elsewhere in the EU may be less interested in buying from us or selling to us, expecting tariff barriers to go up in two years’ time. Whoever the Chancellor is, he or she may feel the need to bring in a new Budget
After voting, I called my 90-year-old grandfather, a Second World War veteran living near Cambridge. I’d expected he was going to vote Leave, but he told me he’d voted to stay in. We had to make decisions together. Doubts started to trickle in.
That evening, I headed to a friend’s house to watch the result. We’d all voted Leave as a protest. We stocked up on jam, scones and tea, and ironically decked out the room with Union Jack bunting.
As the first results came in from Sunderland, we all cheered. We were winning, we were right. People had had enough.
Then as more results came in, the reality started to bite. Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Scotland and London had decided they wanted to remain. This wasn’t funny any more, the Union was at stake, and the economic powerhouse of our country thought it was a terrible idea.
At around 4am, the BBC declared it a win for Leave. Panic set in.
The slightly more sensible Vote Leave campaigners disappeared from the TV screens, awaiting David Cameron’s official speech. For about three hours, we were left with re-runs of Farage making that moronic victory speech about no bullets being fired, despite a Labour MP being tragically killed the week before. I started to feel sick.
The pound went in to freefall. The FTSE dropped. David Cameron resigned, and he’s set to be replaced by a far more right-wing alternative. Donald Trump arrived in the UK to declare this a “great victory”.
What have we done? If I could take my vote back now, I would. I’m ashamed of myself, and I want my country back.