Last Saturday’s march by 700,000 people who are trying to stop the disastrous Brexit Theresa May is leading us to has naturally been greeted with contempt by the hard line, middle aged and old Brexiters who are somehow proud that Britain is pulling up the drawbridge to the rest of the world. To date, I have not lost any friends because of differences over leaving the EU although that cannot be said for some acquaintances whose principles and politics are very different to mine. Which is fair enough. It just means I don’t have to waste my time debating things, particularly on social networks.
It is the hate and division that Brexit has brought to our country I find so distressing. The hatred towards foreigners which has led to a dramatic increase in racist crimes. The disdain for our children who will be denied the opportunities that my generation enjoyed, being able to live, love, study, work and retire abroad unless we try to negotiate a deal that leaves things just as they are. And the sheer ignorance of people who demand hard borders and the end of free movement and yet expect that we will be left with soft borders and free movement. It’s only those pesky foreigners, some of whom have dark skin (a real problem for many on the hard right) who should be denied free movement. Middle aged white people like us – well, that’s different.
There was me thinking things were going perfectly all right before David Cameron tried to end the internal war in the Tory party by holding a referendum. We could have eased back on EU migration any time we wanted to, the government itself has admitted our sovereignty was never once compromised by our EU membership, EU workers were a net benefit to our economy and of course we were allowed to live, love, study, work and retire abroad, as millions of Brits have done. But people did think there was something wrong with a strong and peaceful Europe and 18 million of them decided we should leave.
The abuse from some Brexiters is so disgusting. It’s as if those of us who see Brexit as an unmitigated disaster are not allowed to say that. The referendum, which was sold to the electorate on the basis of lies, must always be allowed to stand; the electorate must never be allowed to change its mind.
Let’s put it this way: not every leaver was a racist, but every racist was a leaver. If I found myself in the same political camp as Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, Boris Johnson, Nick Griffin, the Socialist Workers Party and every crackpot hard left and hard right organisation in the land, I might wonder if I was in the right place. But then, if my views came from the extremes, maybe I’d be very happy.
I am not going to allow dripping sarcasm or outright abuse to change my mind. I’ve campaigned against racism and in favour of internationalism all my life. A vision of a hate-filled Little England holds no appeal me.
Above all, Brexit is entirely selfish. It was mainly older people who voted to pull up the drawbridge to Europe and to take, at the very least, an almighty risk with the country’s present and future. At times the fear and loathing of some of the Brexiteers can be overwhelming. Regardless of this, I’m not going to stop believing in the kind of Britain, the kind of world, I want to live in. Love, not hate, is the answer. I hope.