Afew months on from Brexit, the country has felt the shock, reacted, and now settled down into looking once more ahead and making what we have and where we are work.
The nation was asked in a referendum, and by a margin of 52% to 48% the country has voted to leave the EU. 72% turn out, a margin of some 2 million votes.
Once all the emotions have subsided two things stand out to me; the resilience of the country and the impact on ethnic minorities living here. One of the great things about Britain is the power of our democracy and the strength of the institutions that run our country. The pound fell, purchases from foreign currencies rose. Interest rates went down protecting the market, the stock market fell then rallied. We had a change of government, new leadership, clear and strong direction forward. The country needs to move forward and I feel we are.
What has worried me though is the intolerance that was sometimes revealed felt legitimised in some areas. Reports of hate crime and racist abuse increased, some 500 incidents in the weeks since the referendum result. Polish people especially were singled out for attack with leaflets proudly displaying nazi slogans and signs “no tolerance” gangs of people challenging others to speak English told to ‘go home’.
Even amongst the Chinese community, in the main descendants from Hong Kong- a British colony- international students and law-abiding citizens from the ‘silent community’ were not spared. Two British Chinese friends were shouted at “you’ll be next” and verbally abused.
This hostile environment came out of the partially negative campaigning and irresponsible styles of some campaign groups, giving oxygen to intolerant views and beliefs in a push for support and votes.
It reminds us that we need to be vigilant and to challenge intolerance wherever we see it. The price for freedom of speech and free beliefs is to listen and have respect for all beliefs, views, values and to encourage others to do the same. It is an ongoing battle, but one that must be taken on always with pride and positivity. The alternative of acceptance cannot be. Brexit is not racist. And both remain and leave contain valid points.
Looking to our institutions, the Home Office responded clearly launching a new Hate Crime Action Plan, the police are taking action, our legal system is clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated. And neither will it be by the vast majority of citizens who are clear in their understanding that what unites us is greater than that which divides us.
They have hate: I have faith.
We are clear that it is completely unacceptable for people to suffer abuse or attacks because of their nationality, ethnic background or colour of their skin. We will not stand for it. Home Office spokesperson