Leon, from Doncaster, felt unheard by Westminster and voted Leave in 2016. After so many disappointed hopes and Brexiters’ lies, he finally realised Brexit had been a mistake all along. A Remainer Now, he calls for a People’s Vote to stop Brexit.
On 23 June 2016, I finally felt like my voice was being heard by the Government.
For months, in the run-up to the EU Referendum, I had been arguing and campaigning that Britain would be better off outside of the European Union. That we would reclaim our sovereignty that had been lost to a fledgeling European Superstate. That we would be able to go it alone in the world, striking trade deals across the globe to benefit Britain. That we would no longer have our hands tied to an unaccountable, inefficient bureaucracy in Brussels. Finally, my voice and the voice of millions of others – people who felt left behind by an out-of-touch elite in Westminster – would be heard.
It is worth mentioning at this point that I never once actually expected Britain to leave the EU. I didn’t think the Leave campaign would win the argument. I thought this would be too big a change for Britain to accept. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from telling Westminster what I thought of their scaremongering.
You can imagine that when I woke up the next morning to see the result, I was shocked, but I was glad that so many others felt the same way. While I was nervous, I was also excited about what the next step would bring. For me, this was the start of a long road, not just in leaving the EU, but in fundamentally changing how we do politics in Britain.
I come from South Yorkshire, an area that for decades has been neglected by Governments of all stripes. People in my area feel that Westminster is some far away, out of touch bubble where the concerns of people from areas like mine don’t matter. If Westminster feels like it’s far away, imagine how far away Brussels feels? Leaving the EU felt like the best catalyst to begin talking about not just how we could take back control from Brussels, but how people can take back control from Westminster, and how we could devolve power further down. How naive I was.
The mess we were in soon became apparent. We soon ended up with a Prime Minister who had no plan for how to take us out of the European Union. I don’t put this down to the fact that Theresa May supported Remain; I put it down to the monumental task that leaving the EU is. However, I kept the faith and maintained that no matter the adversity, we would leave and we would be better off for it.
But it became clear that there really was no substance from this Prime Minister, only useless sound-bites such as “Brexit means Brexit”. That means nothing!
And when Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was finally announced, I was devastated. This Brexit wasn’t anything like that we were sold. But what was the alternative?
The only alternative seemed to be leaving without a deal, which I couldn’t even consider supporting. The impact on Britain would be enormous, and not in a positive way. But this was now what the Leavers were pushing for. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember that being seriously pushed during the referendum. I don’t remember that on the ballot paper either. We were told a deal would be easy!
It’s fair to say that I was feeling quite disheartened by this point. I kept thinking there must be another way to leave the EU in a positive way, one that wouldn’t harm the economy, cost jobs and would unite the country.
Then, I heard that Best for Doncaster, the People’s Vote campaign in Doncaster, was holding an event in Doncaster town centre. I decided to go to tell them why they were wrong to demand a People’s Vote.
I was shocked to find that I agreed with them.
I spoke to them for over an hour and talked them through my thoughts on Brexit and they really filled in the blanks for me. There was so much I thought I knew about the European Union that I had been wrong about. They made me realise the reason I couldn’t think of a good way to leave the EU is that there just isn’t one! Whatever way we leave, it will harm Britain, and I don’t think anyone voted for that.
I admit I did feel annoyed after this. I felt that we have been misled on Brexit and that I have contributed to something that has caused chaos. This is why I have been campaigning to put that right ever since.
I have used this analogy before but I will use it again: When you go to buy a car and the salesman sells you a lovely, shiny car and what comes round is a rust-bucket with wheels falling off, you don’t take it anyway. Knowing this, why should we simply lie down and accept the most significant constitutional change of our lifetime brought about based on lies?
The only way out of this mess is a People’s Vote. Not a re-run of the last vote, but one based on the facts we now have, knowing what Brexit will look like. Anything less than that will be spitting in the face of democracy.🔷
By Leon French.
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)