They say you should never talk about politics or religion, and for the most part, I try to stick to that rule.

I kept silent (here on the blog, at least) throughout the Scottish Independence Referendum, for instance: not because I didn’t have strong feelings about it, but because I found the endless arguing exhausting. No one ever changes their minds during those arguments. Not once did I hear someone say, “You know, you might have a point there…” or anything even remotely like it. I did, however, see a lot of friendships ruined, and a lot of people being attacked for their views, and that was enough to persuade me to keep my opinions to myself – or to share them only with the people I trusted not to attack me for them.

Today, though, I’m going to talk a bit about politics – and yeah, I’m going to illustrate it with a photo of cupcakes, because I’m writing this on my laptop, and it’s the only photo I have handy. Those cupcakes, though, are actually a pretty good way into this post, now I come to think about it.

Terry and I bought them yesterday afternoon, on a rainy day in Glasgow, where all anyone could talk about was the EU Referendum.  Everywhere we went, I overheard snatches of conversation, and they all seemed to revolve around the same theme: shock. Total  and utter shock.

On the way back to the car, we passed by a cupcake stand, and saw that all of the products had been reduced in price. “It’s to try to cheer people up,” the stallholder explained, as she wrapped them up for us. “After the referendum, you know?”

What struck me about this – other than the fact that the cakes were delicious, obviously – was how willing this woman was to talk to two complete strangers about her views: to tell us she was devastated by the result, and to assume that we would probably feel the same. We did, as it happens, and I figured that if someone I don’t even know can be “brave” enough to share her opinion without worrying about being attacked for it, I can probably do the same. So here goes…

I voted to remain in the European Union for the same reason I voted for Scotland to remain part of the UK in the Scottish referendum: because there’s a great big world out there, and it seems incomprehensible to me to want to box ourselves into one little corner of it – to put up barriers to the outside world, and to work on emphasising the differences between people, rather than the similarities. That’s never made sense to me, and it makes even less sense now, in the wake of this week’s vote.

My husband is a first-generation Scot, born to Greek immigrant parents. I have one brother-in-law who moved here from Greece, to marry his Scottish wife, and another who made the move in the opposite direction, going from Scotland to Athens. I have a third brother-in-law who moved to the south of England, an aunt and uncle who emigrated to Canada, and countless other friends and relatives who saw the world as their oyster, and decided to make the most of it.

Even here, in my tiny village in central Scotland, I have neighbours from China, Africa, Pakistan, Ireland and England – and those are just the ones I know. I don’t consider this country to be “mine” any more than it is theirs, just because I happened to be born here, and I also don’t believe that just because I was born here, that this is where I should remain. I’ve always dreamt of living abroad: of one day buying a house somewhere warm, and running my business from there. The UK’s membership of the European Union made that dream a real possibility: now I don’t know if it will ever happen.

My point, here?

There’s a great big world out there, and it’s full of possibilities – or it should be.

I’m not saying there are no issues with immigration (or with anything else, for that matter): there very obviously are, and those issues desperately need to be addressed. I don’t have all the answers  – but I somehow don’t think we’ll find them by NOT working together.  So this morning I feel sad that this is what it’s come to. Sad, and honestly a little bit scared: because right now it feels to me like the world just got a little bit smaller – and I suspect it’ll take more than a few cupcakes to me feel even remotely OK about that.

(They were really nice cupcakes, though…)

cupcakes make everything better

31 Comments
  1. Amber, I’m so glad that you talked about this. I’m in the US (we have our own problems – namely a cheeto-colored megalomaniac, but I hear your country is unfortunate enough to house one of his golf courses) and this strange rise in nationalism is so scary. Obviously, you don’t have to answer this, but if they hold a new referendum for Scottish independence, would you now vote yes on the assumption that Scotland would vote themselves back into the EU? I hope that things work out for everyone, but I have a feeling Londoners especially that voted to exit will be kicking themselves for a long while. I would assume they will lose a lot of their banking industry as well as experiencing (a much needed) bubble burst on the property prices. The ASOS site crashed yesterday with us Americans trying to maximize our purchasing power with the dropping pound.

    On a positive note, those cupcakes look amazing!

  2. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this. I appreciate hearing from real people instead of posted facebook memes.

  3. I’m not even going to pretend that I know all the details of this vote or what it will entail, I have a hard enough time keeping up with all the US stuff though I do try, but I’m glad you felt like you could share your thoughts! It helps me understand more what’s going on, finding personal views. We have one state that is always wanting to leave and do their own thing and I’m glad that every time it comes to a vote it never happens, we just work better as a whole I feel.

  4. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your thoughts and sadness. Being an EU citizen myself (from Hungary) I cannot begin to explain how sad I am, and it must be even worse for those living in the UK. I really love the idea of our countries belonging together and trying to make everything work for the best for all of us (I happen to work on EU issues and regularly going to Brussels for meetings with the other member states) and I strongly believe all the different perspectives are necessary to find reasonable answers. I would love to say something that starts with “I hope that…” but I am not so sure what to hope any more.
    What about “Hope to visit Scotland one day, no matter how many borders I have to cross?” 🙂

  5. I’m absolutely gutted about the result and worried about the future of my child, and all the other young folk in the UK that by and large voted to remain. I have Polish neighbours and as a small gesture I took a cake to them because if I’m terrified I can’t comprehend how they must feel in a country (as a whole) who doesn’t want them here.

  6. Oh Amber I want to give you a big hug and squeeze you tightly. You have spoken exactly how I’ve been feeling with this whole EU referendum debate and what my thoughts been like. Last year Richard (husband) and I went travelling around Europe with an interrail pass and it was brilliant! It was a trip of a lifetime and we both came away feeling really appreciated and love for our European cousin, as everyone we met and said hi (or Bonjour) too was really friendly. We are so frickin’ lucky to have such amazing countries on our doorstep, just a hop on the eurostar and you are in main land Europe. We shouldn’t be isolating ourselves – the facts is we’re all human at the end of the day. xx

  7. Such a sad result Amber, For all the reasons you mentioned.
    Tragic.
    The irony of it all is that the people who voted out, to say “get stuffed” to Brussels, are going to get well and truly stuffed by the people who mislead them there.
    Depressing.
    As for independance. I voted yes…because I had a feeling that the xenophobes would edge this EU vote and it was Scotland’s only chance to stay in Europe (I am English with some Irish and Aust
    Remember how the scaremongers told us that if we voted YES we would be out of Europe? More irony.
    We will be ‘punished’ by the EU too, as a warning to others who think about leaving.
    Things are going to get pretty bad.
    {It’s a good job blogging is a global venture}
    Kudos to you for having the guts to put your feelings out there.
    There are always people who will disagree and have different points of view but these blatant racists scare me.
    Using a stereotype as a scapegoat for the real political and social problems is unacceptable and our unfortunate reality.
    XXX
    Samantha

  8. That’s very interesting, thank you.
    I am not shocked about the result, I am not happy nor sad. It was just expected. However, I believe that many people and the media is overreacting.

    As someone who is not from EU and not from UK, I have been to both.
    Despite not being required a visa for both, just for visiting them, I have noticed that the UK is really exacting while EU is perhaps excessively lenient.
    I have a feeling that, at least lately, UK people are scared of people getting access to the UK via EU. This indirectly affects how they treat people that they don’t need to treat well (like non-EU people). For that part I was shocked.

    Maybe if the EU countries weren’t so lenient on their borders, this would not happen.
    I mean, just a little bit to balance this issue.
    I could write a long book about these experiences, but if I write too much, no one is going to read my comment…

    Best wishes.

  9. I’m Canadian, but my parents emigrated from the UK at different times. This makes it hard for me to understand how our own family members can go on to their faces about what a terrible thing immigration inherently is. For some reason (we know the reason) it’s suddenly ok by them if its white Brits going to Canada, I guess.

    For my part, I feel lucky to have grown up in a place where so many different cultures are visible and often celebrated. When I think about where I might like to live in the future, I find the diversity of any given city to be a draw. That some people, as you say, want to box themselves in instead is not just contrary to my political views – it’s downright bewildering to me! Bewildering and sad. I’d much rather live in a freer and more vibrant world.

  10. I do think it is a big mistake to assume that all the people who voted leave did so on the basis of immigration (obviously there were some who did!) – I did vote leave but actually immigration was not part of my decision. The deal that Cameron has negotiated meant that the UK was changing to a point system to control the rate of immigration any way.

  11. I too, am very sad and concerned about what the future holds for us in UK, and the EU as Holland and perhaps France are talking about pulling out as well. Of the member countries only about half are net contributors. What is surprising is that those areas in England that have had substantial EU finding are the ones that voted to leave. But they are also the most deprived and can see no future for themselves. What will happen in the next ten years is anybody’s guess

  12. I don’t think we are putting up barriers, I think we are releasing ourselves from having to follow laws, rules and regulations that have no bearing or positive impact on our country. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can develop and improve over the coming years on our own. It’s a fantastic opportunity.

    1. Almost every law that is a positive human rights and change comes because of the EU – equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, agency worker rights, child rights, child care, education rights, anti-discrimination rights within work, sexual harassment – I could go on. All of this will be slipping away once the EU is not there to reign the UK in. The misinformation and complete lack of research is what upsets me. But I guess we get the government we deserve.

  13. Glad you wrote this and entirely agree with everything you said. I’m absolutely gutted by the result – I can’t believe any good will come of isolating ourselves like this. I’ll be very surprised if we’re not heading back to another recession now too, and that was SO much fun the last time. I just really hope something happens between now and 2018 that reverses or halts this decision. The people it will most affect didn’t even get to have a say in it, which doesn’t feel remotely fair to me at all.

  14. I think you’re brave to put your opinions out there. As it so happens, I agree with your decisions both ways, but I would still have respected your decision even if it disagreed with mine. You made an informed decision based on your values. It is when people make a decision without fully knowing the implications of what they are deciding, based entirely on media hype, that’s when I get worried.

  15. Amber, I couldn’t agree more. I live in the U.S. And, Lord knows, we currently have a monstrous problem: You know the one who is always shouting and has had the worse comb over for the last 30 years! But like I’ve always said: Today, for better or worse, we are all “in bed” together. Now, let’s play nice and not hog sheets or kick each out onto the cold, hard floor.

  16. Two points in particular make me sad:
    – From what I saw on television, those who voted to leave did it for the wrong reasons. They did it because they were unhappy with the way the EU parliament handled certain issues. In essence they just wanted to say “That’s bad for us. Make it better.”. Well, they didn’t. And now they will not only have to come up with a solution themselves (as the EU is no longer responsible for them), but will miss out on everything they received in the past years to make their work load more bearable.
    I believe they had something else in mind when the voted “leave”.
    – Statistics show that the majority of the older population (60+) wanted to leave, while the majority of the younger population (<30) wanted to stay in the EU. This means that these people will now have to live for decades with a decision they did not want, while those who wanted it will be gone in a few years anyway. Okay, this is essentially how democracy works, but it's just sad that this decision about the future of the country did not lie in the hands of the people who actually get to live in it…

  17. Hi, Amber. Let me just say: you have my sympathy for that. When I try to formulate my core values and wishes, one of them surely happens to be “Big and friendly” word. Because it’s awesome, right? Also I usually formulate it in Russian, because… well, I’m Russian. And there are lots of people in our country, who go “all separate”. I think, it just makes them feel so bloody special, or helps to oversee our oun problems by searching for the image of an outer threat. Anyway, it bothers me deeply and makes me scared of ending up in some Kim-Il-sung-ish society. And now watching all the world shattering just makes it worse. I hope it will get better. Also thank you one more time for your travel advices for our Scotland trip: I was a bit shy to say it right upon return, but they really came in handy. Although we were terribly lucky with the weather, I think. And well, traveling is surely one of the ways to understand each other somehow better and try to keep together, while we still have an opportunity.

  18. I couldn’t agree with you more Amber and I really respect you for voicing your opinion here. Becoming smaller and more inward looking is never the way forward.

  19. Thank you very much for this post, Amber, I totally agree with you.
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years and I never thought I’d write a comment on such a topic. Waking up on Friday to the results of the Referendum was the most shocking experience I’ve had in my 9 years in the UK, and although I don’t face the risk of being forced to leave the UK (I am Russian and British citizen), I feel very sad and so do all my friends in London (British, European, Russian…)
    I strongly hope it all will somehow sort itself out…

  20. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad the cupcake lady felt confident talking about it and you did too. Maybe it’s easier because in Scotland the majority of people voted remain? I recently moved from London to a rural English town. The county we are in voted by a majority too leave and I have rarely felt so out of step with where I live (before London I lived in Scotland and NI). For me the result was pretty devastating.

  21. I’m in my teens and im not going to pretend to know all of what is going to happen due to the result, however I do not believe that the result is negative in any way. People are afraid of change but in england I truly believe that it was the right decision for us to leave the EU. People are just picking up on the negatives but there are a lot of positives also. On Facebook most people are saying food prices are going to rise but are they?? We are made to throw out tonnes of food on a daily basis because of absurd laws saying that food has to have a certain shape/colour/size etc. (For example bananas) so for us to leave i feel that some- im not going to say all- of our food is going to drop in price because less of our food is going to go to waste because of the many ridiculous rules and regulations that we are made to follow.

  22. American here. I am horrified and sincerely, truly worried. The rise in nationalism is scaring me, though I do try to hide it (no point in spending your day in fear). I was really, truly rooting for the UK to remain, because, as selfish as it sounds*, I worry the nationalist attitude will be used as fodder for the fire with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named over here in America. And I do not mean Voldemort. So far, it would seem I am right… anyway, it IS a great big world out there and I wish more people could see that instead of getting an attitude because their tiny little sliver of it has to be a little bit different than yesterday.

    Anyway, best of luck, and I do hope it works out for you guys over there.

    *ok, so I was a little worried about the world economy too, not just a bad comb-over wearing, hateful old man, but really, it’s hard to escape his mug over here.

  23. Amber thanks for being so honest and sharing this. Incredibly brave of you. I know there are arguments on both sides but I really really wanted to remain in the EU. It’s the freedom to work, travel and live in 27 other counties that I always thought was so amazing. And the workers rights! Regulation is useful sometimes. We are here now and I’m going to focus on getting my MP to protect workers rights and work to remove the fear and xenophobia that’s been stoked by answering questions about complex problems with simple solutions. I wish the two campaigns had just told the truth, quietly and calmly.

  24. Goodness, catching up on your blog and late to the party here commenting-wise. But absolutely agree with your voting pattern; it seems crazy to me as well to keep getting smaller and smaller.

    I didn’t have a vote in Indy ref 1 as I was still living in London, but as a repatriated Scot I will have one if it’s ref 2. And I honestly don’t know right now what I would vote then.

    One thing’s for sure though – so much totally unnecessary nastiness post-vote. It was brutal after Indy ref 1 and it was after the EU ref too. The bottom line is we are all entitled to our opinions and we should listen to each other’s reasons.

    I still need cupcakes 🙁 .

  25. Amber, as one who is catching up on your blog, I just wanted to say a huge “thank you,” for this brave post.
    My husband is from the UK and the recent political climes have absolutely shattered our previous view of the world.
    However, I am very thankful for your sentiments because it means that although we are disappointed and shocked, there are still people who can see the light. “There’s a great big world out there, and it’s full of possibilities” might be my mantra for a little while. Because while it doesn’t seem like it right now, the light (metaphor, of course) is out there working. Dumbledore comes to mind of course, so maybe these two will go hand in each. We can get by.
    Thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone for us. I know this reader right here appreciated it one hundred percent.

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