Thoughts on national identity and the EU Referendum

I’m hoping my understanding of what this means is wrong. That I was wrong to vote remain and that somehow, despite the opinions of almost every expert I respect, this will work in our favour.

Whatever way we had voted we were waking up this morning in a mess. Clear on our view of the European Union but with division and brokenness across our own society.

We must make standing against the ugliness that surfaced on both sides a priority. The suspicion, the mistrust and the blame throwing. Even at times in the reporting of the vote the denigration of the working classes as ill informed and xenophobic and the political class as asset stripping and corrupt was abhorrent. The scapegoating of immigrants equally so.

We have a problem in our culture and it is called fear and we’ve been drinking from its fountain for a long time. It bubbled up on both sides of this debate almost everyday but knowing the result doesn’t make it go away. The debate didn’t cause it, it exposed and exacerbated it.

We’ve voted for change and change done badly can be messy and can divide. We’ve voted for uncertainty and uncertainty held badly can breed fear. We’ve voted for cessation and cessation done badly can lead to isolation. All these three can be done well and we really need them to be.

If you pray then pray for our country. Pray for our leaders and government that they can lead us through change, uncertainty and cessation well. Pray for peace. Pray against division. Pray against suspicion and pray for unity.

And work hard at being the answer to those prayers. We are all in this together even if we didn’t choose it.

Do not be afraid. Love your neighbour as yourself. Be kind always.

Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called children of God.


The character of our country is not defined by this vote. The type of country we want to become won’t be defined only by results of elections and referenda, but by how we interact and treat one another. The heart of this group of nations is not defined by who we trade with or the chart position of our economy but by how neighbours live together and how strangers are welcomed.

If you, like me, are devastated and concerned at the result of this vote choose to respond by creating the type of nation you want to live in. Create a national identity, by visiting a lonely person, by smiling at strangers on the street, by buying someone their lunch. Apologise to those whom you have wronged and continue to bring joy to the lives of those you know. Over tip your waiter. Thank the bus driver. Let people out at junctions and always give a thank you wave.

Put your arm, physically or metaphorically, around the shoulders of those who are afraid; afraid for their jobs, their mortgages, their savings, their businesses. Call your immigrant friend and tell them you love them and that you’re glad they are here.

We’ve been led here and over half of us have followed. Leadership is not only held in the hands of politicians but it exists in every moment of our lives. Choose to lead towards hope, peace, love and joy.

The result of this vote does not define who we are. It defines our place in Europe. We get to define who we are in every moment of interaction. Be the type of person you want the nation to be known as in the world.

One thought on “Thoughts on national identity and the EU Referendum

  1. A very balanced article by you, Rob. As a native Englishman now living in New Zealand, I was afraid for my fellow Poms at the result of the Referendum. However, it is, seemingly, ‘ the will of the people’ that Brexit has gained the ascendancy Let’s all hope and pray that the result will be of benefit to both the U.K. and Europe and not a source of iconoclastic separation.

    Fr. Ron (kiwianglo)

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