Regret, joy all around as Britain tries to make sense of vote to exit EU

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 25, 2016 19:01 IST
A demonstrator draped in an EU flag sits on floor during a protest against the outcome of the UK’s June 23 referendum on the European Union. (AFP Photo)

There was more regret and despondency than joy as Britain struggled to make sense of Friday’s vote to leave the European Union, sparking a series of developments in London, Brussels and Edinburgh, including moves to hold another referendum in Scotland.

A petition on a parliament website calling for another EU referendum was quickly signed by more than 1 million people, making it eligible for a debate. Another sought a referendum on independence for London, which overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.

Scotland moved closer to holding another referendum on its independence from Britain after a cabinet meeting on Saturday in Edinburgh, while EU leaders in Berlin and Brussels took a tough line, asking Britain to expedite the process of leaving the 28-member union.

Credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Britain to a negative rating.

Read | Over one million people sign UK petition for second EU referendum

“Even the Brexiters do not realise the momentous nature of the vote. What have they got us into? No one quite knows how it will all pan out and how this country will look like in six months, one year or five years”, Remain supporter and researcher Roger Salter told HT.

Some polls suggested that students and most people below the age of 30 voted to remain, prompting anger at the Leave vote.

Late on Friday, Google said questions such as “what is the EU” and “what happens if we leave the EU?” were the top searches from the United Kingdom, suggesting that some may have not known the consequence of their choice when they voted.

Read | Brexit: How Britain leaving the EU may change the face of travel forever

However, most Leave supporters insisted that the vote enabled Britons to “take back” the country from Brussels, which is seen by many as a ‘super state’ taking over ever more powers from Britain and other member-states. But some regretted voting Leave and said if another referendum were held, they would vote to Remain.

Life continued as normal in Southall and Hounslow, which have large communities of Indian origin. The EU vote did not figure much in conversations - construction worker Satinder Pal remarked: “Sannu kee? (how does it concern me?)”.

The Sikh Council UK said the community was “disappointed” at the Leave vote and expressed concern about Sikhs experiencing religious discrimination.

Gurinder Singh Josan, head of political engagement for Sikh Council UK, said: “Whilst the exercise in democracy is to be applauded, we are concerned at the tone of the debate particularly in relation to some of the hateful rhetoric towards immigrants and immigration”.

“As a visibly identifiable minority community in the UK, Sikhs often suffer the brunt of racism and racist attacks. Any rhetoric that exacerbates this or enables these views to become mainstream political commentary is to be condemned.”

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