Some people who voted for us to leave Europe will privately admit that if the vote was held again, they might not vote the same way. The chaos and division that the road to Brexit has brought to our country will take decades, maybe many decades, to repair. It is quite conceivable it never will be. Others, I know, cling to the view that Brexit will all be worth it if we stop EU citizens from coming to work here. They’re certainly getting their way because EU migration represents much less than a third of migration to this country. Perhaps, we can leave the rest of the world, too?
I wish this Brexit malarkey had never started. It’s entirely David Cameron’s fault, of course, because he tried to settle the Tory civil war once and for all by holding, and he hoped winning, a referendum on our EU future membership. That went well. The man has no shame, though. Having set fire to the country, he left the stage, leaving it up to others, including inadequates like Theresa May, to sort it out. May has made things far, far worse.
Is the EU perfect? I doubt it. Nothing is perfect, apart from Steely Dan’s album Aja. And possibly a well kept pint of Exmoor Gold. The EU has its faults. I tend not to dwell on them.
I look fondly at the years of stability we enjoyed during the EU membership years. We never lost our sovereignty, we maintained our borders, Gordon Brown kept us out of the Euro, we were able to restrict EU migration if we wanted to. Successive Labour and Conservative governments chose not to do so. We gained big things like environmental controls and safer food regulations. We gained little things like not being ripped off my mobile phone companies when we are on holiday in Europe. Above all, the EU has helped keep the peace. Winston Churchill would have been very happy, until 23 June 2016, that is.
Somebody that I used to know, as Gotye memorably put it, always dreamed of living abroad when she retired from work, taking advantage of EU freedom of movement. Having concluded she was too old to emigrate, she naturally cast her vote in the ‘leave’ box on her referendum ballot paper, presumably to ensure that if she wasn’t going to emigrate, then why should anyone else? Or maybe she wanted to stop those wretched Europeans coming to work here? I have no idea and I don’t really care. And since she promptly unfriended me on social networks for making the more general observation that older Brexit voters had effectively stopped the next generation enjoying the right to live, love, travel, study, work and retire abroad, I couldn’t honestly care less.
I’ve not lost any friends because of Brexit. However, I have lost some Facebook ‘friends’ (who are not the same people as friends, unless they are real friends as well) and acquaintances. The idea that all remainers are clever and leavers are stupid is simply nonsense. Many leavers knew exactly what they wanted out of Brexit and that was mainly less migrants coming over here. I disagree with that reason but respect those who are honest enough to say that. It is, in some areas, a point of genuine debate. As the son of migrants, I naturally feel that most migration is a good thing.
I would have preferred it if life had carried on as before. We could have polite debates about the rights and wrongs of the EU and got on with our lives. We would not have had nearly three years of Brexit dominating the political agenda to the detriment of literally everyone in the land, except the very few at the top who are doing very nicely out of Brexit. And we could have concentrated on saving the NHS, ensuring schools were properly funded, ending the obscenity of homelessness and rough sleeping, dealing with the social care crisis and ending poverty, especially among children. Instead, we have spent three years breaking what didn’t need fixing. Or not much.
Was the referendum worth it? Not on the basis on which it was called, which, I repeat, was for narrow political reasons within the Conservative Party. But narrow political reasons have sent this country to the very edge of catastrophe. And for what? Slogans like Brexit means Brexit? Leave means Leave? No deal is better than a bad deal? Christ, even Theresa May who came out with this nonsensical rhetoric now says a very bad deal – hers – is better than no deal.
What started as an internal party political squabble has broken Britain. I find it hard to see how Britain can now be repaired and the politicians, almost entirely from the hard right, the small state English nationalist disaster capitalists, are the people who broke it.