Sarah from Christchurch voted Leave to express her anger at ‘the establishment’. She has since changed her mind after seeing the government’s shambolic negotiations. She is a RemainerNow and would like to have another say to vote to Remain.

First published in June 2019.

In October 2018, I faced-up to the realisation that I no longer thought the country should be leaving the EU. I say ‘faced-up’ to as no one likes to admit they had got such an important decision wrong, and some of my reasons for changing my views came from the way the Government was handling the negotiations, which came to light around that time.

I tweeted in October 2018 that I had made a mistake and, all things considered, I thought we should remain within the EU. @RemainerNow saw my message and made me aware of others who like me had changed their minds. I found this comforting as I had (and still have) a feeling of guilt over what I had done with my vote in June 2016.

As most people would do, I spent some time going over in my mind why I had voted Leave and how I feel now. Here are my thoughts:

To some extent, I bought into the “they need us more than we need them” statement that was frequently quoted, that we would be able to get a great deal as we were the fifth largest economy in the world and hugely important financially to the European Union.

Politicians, economic experts, financial experts, etc. on the Leave campaign told us that it would be easy to leave and to ignore the scaremongering from Remain.

Looking back, now I see that Remain led a very negative campaign aimed at discrediting Leave. How I wish they had done much less of this and concentrated on giving the public some facts detailing the benefits of our EU membership.

In the run-up to the referendum, I considered how I would vote. I had never really identified as European, and I was aware that my decision was going to come down to heart vs head.

On reflection, I know that my decision was based more on an emotional feeling rather than anything else. In particular, I remember the Obama speech, a few days before the referendum. It made me angry. The popular leader of the most powerful country in the world telling ‘us’ what to do. It reinforced what I was already thinking: we could make it on our own and whilst there would be some economic pain, it would all be worth it, in a few years.

I felt quite safe going with my heart as I never truly believed the vote would go that way, I stupidly believed in the polls giving Remain a consistent majority. I simply got to have my say and stick two fingers up at ‘the establishment’.

Initially, when I heard the news of ‘my win’, I was happy.

By the Saturday after the vote, there was significant speculation that we would never actually leave as Parliament and the Civil Service simply wouldn’t allow it. I was reassured by this and told my Remain-voting daughter not to worry.

Within weeks after the referendum, there were a few reports of Eastern European people in my local area being attacked, including children. I was horrified. Again, probably naively, I never anticipated that the vote would bring out such racism and hatred for those that don’t appear to be white or British.

I am now genuinely worried about the numbers of EU and other foreign workers not staying in the UK. I am very aware of how much, for example, the NHS and the Healthcare system rely on foreign workers. Whilst they are not all from the EU, post-Brexit vote the environment has, to an extent, become hostile towards them. We need them here to support not only our services but also to pay into the tax system.

From what I can remember, around September last year, it was first reported that Leave negotiations weren’t going well. I had naively assumed that thorough plans would have been put in place by the time we had even invoked Article 50 and that they would be progressing well given that we were leaving in March 2019. It transpired that all the trade deals that we had been promised by the Leave campaigners weren’t actually so easy to get.

An issue that I had paid some attention to before the vote was that of security. Being part of the EU gave me a feeling of security and safety. I had listened to two interviews on national radio before the 2016 vote; both guests gave reassurances that we shouldn’t worry about the sharing of information on suspected criminals, terrorists, etc. I also recall one interview where the Leave interviewee stated that we had probably the best intelligence in the world, and so the EU would be desperate to keep all means of sharing information open with us.

I have since come to understand that whilst they will still want to work very closely with us, we will no longer have access to the existing systems to do that. This concerns me greatly.

Another issue which only a small minority of the public were aware of before the referendum was that of the Irish Border. I grew up in Farnborough, next to Aldershot, and was surrounded by the Army. I am of an age where I can remember seeing the aftermath of both the Aldershot and Guildford bombings, and whilst there is no tangible evidence to think Brexit could re-open divisions in Ireland, had I have any understanding of the issues around the Irish Border, there is categorically no way I would have voted Leave.

I could write more, but I think I have said what I wanted to in terms of why I regret my vote to leave the European Union, and wish I could have the chance to have my say again.🔷

By Sarah Hammond.

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 17 June 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay.)