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Samuel’s Stories: Brexit

The results of the referendum are entirely known by now, and (political opinion disclaimer: I think remaining in the EU was the better choice) unfortunately we lost. I stayed up all night to watch the results come in, and I am slightly jealous of my friends back in the states who were able to hear the final call from the BBC and still be in bed at a reasonable hour.

The day of the referendum was bound to be incredibly long, of course. I met Sal in the city of York, where she had made plans to campaign there with the local party. We began leafletting on the high street, before eventually going out into residential parts of the town and knocking on doors. This was the exact type environment that I had hoped to experience during this internship—the goal being to see if I could contribute to a team of political activists in another country. I had an enjoyable time learning about the campaign in York as well as finding out what had driven the locals there to become a part of the LibDems. The answers were so completely different from those I had heard in London, and there was a very different feel to how people viewed the campaign. Relative to my experience in the “London Bubble”, I heard much more criticism of the organization of the campaign and got a taste of the problems that would prove to be fatal just a few hours later.

That afternoon I took a train back to London and continued to make calls until 9:45pm. While we could not guarantee at that point that anyone would be a sure yes vote, certain London leaned very heavily towards remain and we wanted to drive voter turnout as high as we could in those areas. When the voting booths closed at 10pm, the mood in the office was fairly optimistic. The polls had shown a slight uptick in the previous days after a disastrous week prior, and the team felt that just enough had been done to keep Britain in the European Union. For my part, I had been completely won over by the Remain arguments over the course of the campaign and was just as invested as everyone else there. We had all worked together over many long days and nights, and I felt as much a part of the team as everyone else there.
Within a couple hours after voting booths closed, the first results already indicated that it would be a rough night.

One statistician I follow essentially called it for the leave side with 99% probability hours before any of the major news networks did so. Unfortunately the vote took place on Thursday, and I have classes on Mondays and Fridays, meaning that I did not get to see firsthand the response of the LibDems until the next Tuesday, long after the initial reaction speeches and such had taken place. However, the decision had clearly been made to look forward. The United Kingdom had made its decision, and the party would respect that, even as they continued to advocate for European integration. Even though this process will take years, long after I’ve left, I’m very curious to see how Parliament (whose members were strongly in favor of remaining) strikes that balance between respecting the referendum result and maintaining the relationship with Europe.

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