Funny how swiftly a mood can change. I wrote a fairly despairing piece about Brexit, just over a month ago. It was a bit of a rant, an expression of my deep frustration at not seeing a way forward, a way out of the mess.
And suddenly, just in the last few weeks, the thing that I didn’t dare hope for, that I want so badly, is being talked about openly.
It’s not straightforward, obviously. The loss of face for May & co. will ensure that they set their faces against it. And, sadly, Corbyn seems unlikely to come out as a Remainer and lead the charge against the government. I also know that if it is stopped, damage will already have been done, and recovery will take a long time.
But the tide does seem to be turning. Surprising numbers of people who want Brexit to happen, as well as people who want to ensure it doesn’t, are now saying ‘if’ rather than ‘when’.
Those of us who voted Remain have been told, over and over again, to shut up and accept it. To get over it. We’ve been called whingers, ‘snowflakes’, ‘Remoaners’. We’ve been accused of being traitors and saboteurs, of betraying the Will of the People. Some of us had death threats.
Funny kind of snowflake, that withstands the vitriol, the hate, the threats and keeps on keeping on. Because we had to call out the lies that tricked people into voting for Brexit, and the incompetence and ignorance that characterised the government’s attempts to negotiate with the EU.
We didn’t do that out of pique. We’ve kept on about it because we believe that Brexit is an act of national self-harm, and that whilst we will all pay dearly for it, those who will suffer its consequences most acutely are the most vulnerable in our society (the poor, those most in need of the NHS), and the young. We’ve kept on because we care about and love this country.
Whilst I do get tetchy about the assumption that it’s my age group that landed us in this mess, statistically there is some evidence for Brexit appealing particularly to a generation that can remember the old (blue? black? who knows/cares) passport, pre-decimal currency, imperial measurements, and all that nonsense. The people who got terribly agitated because Big Ben’s bongs might briefly be silenced. The people who want to return us to some fantasy version of the 1950s – post-rationing, pre-counter-culture.
But, to put it somewhat brutally, many of those who look back with such fondness to the past won’t be around by the time Brexit really kicks in. Whereas the generations that will have their freedoms curtailed by this ‘taking back of control’ will be losing so much and gaining what, exactly? A different coloured passport. Perhaps a crown crest on their pint glass.
I want freedom of movement, for myself and for my children and their children.
I want the economic benefits of EU membership, for myself and for my children and their children.
I want our nation to continue to be diverse, to embrace people from Europe (and beyond Europe) who can contribute to our economy, our culture, our health service, our education – and those who need asylum. I want those Europeans who have made their homes here to feel secure, to feel that they are indeed at home, and welcome.
I want to be part of Europe, part of that group of nations forged after horrific conflict, based upon shared values, facing shared challenges. The greatest challenges we face are global – terrorism, climate change, the flow of refugees from war zones and famine. Our best hope of dealing with them is to work closely with our neighbours, not to shut them out.
I am convinced that there are many people who voted Leave – for a wide variety of reasons – who now regret that choice. Many must have been horrified by the open racism that followed so swiftly on the vote, the abuse offered to anyone who appeared to be ‘foreign’, the glee with which they were told they didn’t belong here any more. Others have been dismayed by the disparity between what they were promised and what the government now says about what might be delivered, and the obvious disarray of those who are responsible for negotiating on our behalf. I am also convinced that there are many who didn’t vote, maybe because – like so many of us who voted Remain – they assumed Remain would win. If those who voted Leave and now regret it, and those who stayed at home on polling day and wish they hadn’t, were to join forces with those who voted Remain and still believe it was the right choice…
So, strengthened by the solidarity of on-line communities that are pressing for an exit from Brexit, I will not only not shut up but will go on, and on, and on, relentlessly, until we find a way of stopping this madness.
And my vote – at local and national level – will go only to those who are pledged to the same cause.
The EU was built on the words of Winston Churchill. It was founded on the same values that we recognise as British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect.
The European Union has enabled neighbouring nations to overcome historic differences, create new alliances and build bridges where previously there were walls.
For the past 70 years, the United Kingdom has enjoyed peace, prosperity and enhanced standing in the world as a result of its role at the heart of the European Union.
- In democracy and the rule of law.
- In the sovereignty of the UK Parliament.
- That the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union amplifies the rights, freedoms and interests of the British people.
- That UK and EU law underpin our economic, social and political rights.
- That the UK can only be truly global and outward facing as a fully committed member of the European Union.
- That the life prospects of young people and future generations of British citizens are augmented by continued UK membership of the EU.
- That the four nations of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are stronger when united as a sovereign country, and as a member of the European Union.
- That continued UK membership of the EU is necessary to ensure the UK is relevant and effective in tackling global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, the displacement of peoples, and global economic adversity.
- All forms of hate, racism and xenophobia that have been exacerbated by the referendum campaign and ballot.
- Nationalist protectionism, imperialism and isolationism.
- Treating EU nationals, EU member states and the EU itself as our enemies rather than our friends
A strong, free and united European Union, with Britain at its heart, is capable of facing up to the challenges of today and tomorrow, and of playing a leading role in championing international peace and prosperity.