Editor’s note: This piece was originally published June 25th. Today, a letter signed by Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, which begins the two-year process by which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.
I was born in a city called Liverpool in the North West of England. Most people know us for the football teams, Liverpool FC and our adorable baby brother Everton FC (no hate here, me dad’s a blue, but you’s are cute). Others know us for, obviously, The Beatles, the Cavern Club, the astonishing and world-changing contribution our music scene has made to like … literally the entire world.
And, most especially of late, in the last three years, everyone, especially the international world, has known us for the tragedy at Hillsborough.
Almost 30 years ago, due to incompetence and ignorance, police allowed and caused the crushing deaths of some 96 Scouse people (vernacular slang for Liverpudlians) while they tried to watch a football match at the Hillsborough grounds. Later, through pure malice, the police and press and, yes, the Government colluded in a lie that would echo around the world for three decades.
They decided to blame us.
The youngest victims were ten years old. The fans were packed into pens, the now defunct Terraces, a flat standing area that was designed as the cheapest possible seats for footballs fans, free in the early days and a few pounds on the door by the 80’s. Terraces were how the ordinary working man got to see the game. They were not well regulated and, on this day, were fatally overcrowded.
Now, for fair and equal context: this was at the peak of football-related violence. Football hooligans, drunken “fans” who turned up before, during and after matches to fight with one another, were dragging the sport and its fans through the muck. Some 18 months before, Liverpool fans had been found partially culpable in another stadium tragedy in Italy, when fighting and chasing between Liverpool fans and the home team caused a panicked rush of fans, which in turn caused a wall to collapse, which in turn claimed lives.
Across the football world were stories and tragedies. So, when Hillsborough happened, it didn’t take long for the police to find a way to blame the victims. And, when I say ‘didn’t take long’, I am not being hyperbolic: the police officer in charge of the event, who should have taken emergency measures and declared a major Incident while the tragedy was still ongoing and lives could have been saved … was on the phone. To the press. Blaming the fans.
While children and their fathers lay dying on the football pitch.
What followed was … like an assault. Liverpool as a whole, a city that contributed hugely to the UK war effort but was left to rot, with children making playgrounds of bombed-out old buildings and shelling craters, was pushed even further out into the hinterlands. The press, specifically a foul rag calling itself The S*n (I will not type its name or have its full name in anything I write) not only blamed us, but demonised us. We were accused of fighting with police — we were fighting to beg them to help our dying children. We were accused of preventing ambulances from helping — some fans took out frustrations by banging on ambulance windows and doors and asking why there was only one vehicle for hundreds of injured — dead and dying — people.
We were accused of robbing from our own dead. Urinating on our own dead.
Ever hear a joke about people from Liverpool robbing you, stealing your watch, taking the wheels off your car if you stay still too long?
Ever been called a murderer to your face? I have. I was nine.
That’s because of Hillsborough.
Lie after lie after lie was told by the press, the police and the government.
In recent years, inquiries into the incident proved us right. They found the police had changed their statements, destroyed evidence, hidden the truth. They lied about times of death to make it seem like no one could have been saved, even by the time the police did pull their heads out of their arses and do something. They lied about us. They let the lies and the culture of hate around Liverpool grow and swell and spread.
So, by the mid 90s, my city, my beautiful 800-year-old city, was rotting. Our town centre was a dump, our docks were falling into the Mersey river and, for a city full of almost aggressively friendly, upbeat people, the mood was … low, to say the least.
So, when people woke up yesterday and today and were shocked, shocked, that Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, the jawless, goon-faced poster boys for ‘Brexit!’ (which, let’s be fair, sounds like a shitty, shitty musical) had lied to them … Liverpool wasn’t.
I bet you’re wondering how Liverpool recovered. I bet you’ve recently been, or maybe you plan to, now that the Great British Pound Sterling is worth approximately mud (please do; we’re gonna need your money). If you Google it right now and navigate to “Images,” you’ll see a sparkling, shining gem; an iconic skyline; happy, smiling people who will welcome anyone with an open heart and open hands (though we were always like that).
Liverpool is back on the map as one of Britain’s favourite tourist destinations: a thriving town centre rammed with modern stores and high street shops, a buzzing nightlife, five-star restaurants and hotels, the docks totally renovated, a massive stadium and, maybe in a year or two, we’ll have a top-three football team once again. A girl can dream ….
It was Europe.
It was EU membership that saved my city from sinking into the Irish Sea; European investment in a city left behind by its own country that, in my lifetime, turned a run-down, half-dead city into the best part of the North West, if not the North as a whole — though I may be a little biased.
“So,” I hear you ask, “how does this relate to Brexit?”
Brexit is the vote by the British people to leave the European Union: a union of countries formed in the wake of World War II that aimed to unite and regulate the continent of Europe. By every country agreeing to the same rules and laws, the idea was to diminish tensions between the countries, open and simplify trade with other countries, allow for the free movement of peoples — and that includes the displaced — so as to avoid tragedy, warfare and bloodshed, but also to unite us all, so no creepy bastard with dead eyes and a shit moustache could ever again tear apart the planet and incite over a decade of just pathological insanity and carnage.
And why did it happen?
Because you people didn’t learn your lesson.
It’s what they do.
I spent yesterday watching the news reports — “Google Search for ‘What Does Brexit Mean?’ Spikes After Leave Vote” — watching Farage walk back his FUCKING LIE that £350 million a week leaves the UK for Europe; watching the news that, in the hours after, the vote the British economy lost more money than we did in the previous 40 years of EU contributions;, watching video after video of the average Leave voter explaining their logic and reason for wanting to go.
Not one person knew what in the living screaming fuck they were talking about. One woman voted Leave because she thought her boyfriend wouldn’t watch the Euros, a footie tournament, and she wouldn’t have to watch Eurovision. I’m not even joking.
One man voted to leave to “stop the Muslims coming into this country” and because he doesn’t want Syrian refugees to come into the UK. He failed to mention when exactly it was that Syria — which isn’t even in Europe, guys — had joined the EU (… they haven’t). He even clarified he doesn’t mind the movement of people around Europe, but it’s everyone else (brown people, folks) he wants to stop.
To make clear, his vote just stopped the movement of people around Europe.
One man didn’t like what he thought of as “unelected” officials telling the UK what to do — The Coalition wasn’t really elected, and Boris Johnson, who will likely take over from Dave Cameron as Prime Minster, was not elected either.
He claimed, “we can’t kick them out if they do wrong,” deftly ignoring the fact the Tory government has spent just over a year doing either fuck-all or more damage, and we can’t kick them out either. The House of Lords isn’t elected, but they make decisions for and about this country and how it’s run. And they can’t be kicked out.
One woman voted so she could “go back to a free England like when I was a kid.” She was younger than our 43-year membership to, in one form or another, the EU. She has never, ever, ever known an England that wasn’t in the EU.
People claimed they voted to stop Immigration because “there’s too many people here, this island’s gonna sink!”
For the record, fellow Britons, we have “built” on 2.27% of this country. More than half, more than three-quarters, of our landmass are natural, farmland parks, national parks, or just wild, open forests and moors. Should we sacrifice all our natural beauty? Of course not.
Could we live on a percentage more of our landmass and not only tackle the UK’s own housing problem, but make room and homes for migrants and refugees? Why, yes; yes, we could.
One woman claims: “It’s put England back on the globe!” How do I tell this jackass we just got spin-kicked so hard off the globe that our grandchildren will be born with their ears ringing, in the cold dark of space?
Many, many voters have, after the result, expressed shock and surprise their vote actually meant something. They talk about not really knowing what they were voting for, or not expecting the Leave campaign to win and just wanting to register a “protest” vote. Rather than spoil their ballot, they voted Leave. Rather than campaign on the streets, they voted Leave. Now, many claim, they are shocked! They were lied to!!
Welcome to reality, dumb-dumbs.
Many have asked what we stand to lose in the wake of the decision.
I’ll leave that to smarter people than I, at least the finances and the percentages and all the fiddly little bits that I understand myself but couldn’t explain very clearly to others.
But what we do definitely lose is a sense of security; a sense of multiculturalism; a sense of belonging to something bigger and greater. I have friends, co-workers, neighbours and family who now find their futures, their jobs, the lives they have built in the UK, in jeopardy. They don’t know what their bosses may decide; they don’t know if their right to be in the UK might be suddenly snatched from them; don’t know the future of their English-born children.
There are millions of British expats living in Europe. These men and women want the sun, sand and surf of the warmer parts of Europe but not even a glimmer of the culture. They open English bars, pubs and restaurants, sell English-only food because heaven forbid you might go to Europe and eat **shudder** European food! Their ability to do this, the ability of any British person to up stakes and make a home or retire in France or Germany or Spain, has been quashed — their cost of living will skyrocket; their legal place within their newly adopted country will come under scrutiny. They will need to apply for visas to live and work and, now we’re not in the EU, they, like our trade agreements, will fall to the bottom of the list for any such agreements and deals. The ability to just take a few weeks’ holiday somewhere with warm, sandy beaches has been obliterated. A two-hour sprint through the airport just got stretched to hours of standing in line, being cleared through customs, when before we just had to flash a passport on the way to collecting our luggage. These are the least harmful aspects of the Brexit vote.
My reaction is, of course, an emotional one, so please feel free to engage in some further reading. The cold, hard facts speak for themselves.
If you need me, I’ll be hiding under my desk and stockpiling apocalypse food. I am angry and I am sad and I am scared and I am so tired. The hate and the division is soul-crushing.
In the days before the referendum, a British MP, Jo Cox, was brutally slaughtered. I can’t speak for what her EU vote would have been, but Jo wanted to help people and she valued the multiculturalism of this country.
I will leave with her words, all the more poignant than ever before.