My grandparents, who have lived in London almost their entire lives, voted to leave the European Union last year. They have also been accepting and open-minded towards people of all cultures, beliefs and ethnicities.
These two facts seem to clash with many people today.
It has become ingrained in many people that a vote against the EU was a vote against immigration and foreigners and a vote for UKIP and xenophobia.
If I could vote I would certainly have voted to Remain, but even so, I think this kind of stereotyping is ridiculous.
‘The dark side’
All too often, I hear people say things like “The Brexit vote really showed the dark side of our country” or “The Brexit vote shows that Britain is more divided and racist than ever.” Many Remainers want to blame their loss on evil motives – they can’t accept that many people had very intelligent and informed reasons for wanting to leave the EU.
And yes, some people did vote leave for very bad reasons and, yes, racism exists. But I believe that the majority of the 52% who voted leave did so because of restrictive EU laws, EU taxes, the non-democratic nature of the EU and British Sovereignty.
In fact, a poll of over 12,000 leave voters showed that for 49% of them, the number 1 reason for voting leave was that “Decisions affecting the UK should be made in the UK”.
And even though many people voted to leave because of immigration, it is wrong to assume this was just blind bigotry – it was often about housing, jobs and the NHS. The Leave vote was a reasonable political movement and it should not be simply branded as extremist and offensive.
Just as I would have voted Remain, I would (if I was old enough) certainly vote Labour at the general election. But I think that a weakness of the left is that it assumes anyone with concerns about immigration is racist, or anyone who questions the free movement of people has offensive views. This attitude makes voting for Brexit seem automatically hateful, rather than a legitimate, informed belief.
Respect in disagreement
So Leave voters should not be shamed. Its fine to disagree – I do with my grandparents – but the Leave vote was no stain on our society and nothing to be ashamed of.
Let’s stop treating Brexit as a hate-fuelled movement, and start respecting those who went out and voted for what they believe in.
Danny Kuhrt is in Year 10 at Dunraven School, Streatham. This article was originally published on This Is Local London as part of a Young Reporter scheme.