Andy, from Stamford, a Eurosceptic for many years, voted Leave in 2016, but has since changed his mind after fact-checking the Brexiters’ claims. A Remainer Now, he would like to vote Remain in a new referendum.
I have been a Eurosceptic for years, pretty much since the 1990s when I was still in my twenties. I have voted for the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and when Ukip first appeared on the political scene, I voted for them too.
I have always been a swing voter, and as such have always been open to changing my view on anything. However, one subject on which I had a static opinion was our membership of the European Union.
Having taken an interest in Ukip in their early years, it bought the issue into my mind long before any thought of a referendum had ever been mentioned. The idea of being an independent sovereign state with the ability to make our own laws and forge our own way forward always appealed to me.
I have to confess I didn’t really know anything at all about how the EU worked. I had no idea about the differences between the EU Commission, the EU Council and the EU Parliament, and it shames me to say that I didn’t really care. Ukip always sold them as the entity to which our own sovereign parliament had to answer to in order to pass some laws in our own country.
Eventually, David Cameron made the promise that should the Conservatives win a majority at the 2015 General Election they would hold a once in a generation referendum concerning the issue of Europe. Of course, they won that election, and as promised, they announced the date of the vote. 23 June 2016.
Although I was reasonably sure that I was going to vote Leave, I still wanted information. I spent many nights watching the news, the campaigns and live TV debates. The main issues for me were sovereignty and trade, and the information being fed to me by people such as Andrea Leadsom was that we were prevented from trading freely with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and that we were unable to do so because we were locked into the EU trade arrangements in which, it was portrayed, we had very little influence.
The EU was also sold as being ridiculously bureaucratic. An organisation in which we had very little say or influence at all, and whose members were appointed rather than elected. “If you’re not happy with us, you can sack us!” was the line we were given over and over again. Of course, once a line like this becomes fixed in your mind, it obviously implies that you can’t do that with the European organisation.
The view to vote to Leave became the best choice for me.
The day came, I made my mark in the Leave box, and walked out of the polling station convinced I had made the right decision. Leave won. I was happy. We would be ‘free’ at last.
What followed afterwards can only really be described as chaos. Although the argument was supposed to have been settled for good, there followed over two and a half years of bickering, indecision and anger. I felt like my vote was being ignored.
I had dared to have an opinion which many people were telling me was wrong. I had been labelled stupid, a racist, self-obsessed, uncaring about the future of the youth in this country and naturally, I felt attacked and angry.
Twitter arguments about the issue eventually became a daily ritual with me steadfastly defending Brexit as if I were a Beefeater and it was the Crown Jewels. I voted. I won. Respect it. That’s democracy.
Over time, I started to read back over some of the arguments and debates I was having with people I didn’t know and had never met, and things started to change.
I was also having plenty of phone and text debates with a close friend of mine who had voted to Remain, and I could always see his point of view.
I started doing fact-checks on the information I had held as accurate and realised that a great deal of it was false.
The news on TV had, by now, started to refer to what was happening as a ‘crisis’.
The penny was starting to drop, and I finally came to terms with the fact that I simply didn’t agree with the Leave argument at all. It had no real plan, no direction and no clear end position. Nothing we were promised was true, and I had to finally accept that.
The final nail in the coffin for me though was a brilliant thread on Twitter by the former Vote Leave staffer Oliver Norgrove explaining why he couldn’t support Brexit anymore. This thread mirrored my own thoughts, and I finally admitted I had changed my mind.
The response I have had from Remainers ever since has been amazing. I am now proud to be one of you, and I hope I get the chance to place my mark in the Remain box in a future, fair referendum on this issue, and based on facts instead of lies and deception...🔷
By Andy Martin.
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)