Why did I, like most of the UK, vote ‘Brexit’?

I have a confession: I voted to Leave the European Union. Am I crazy? Racist? Misinformed? Or none of the above?

So, yes. I’m partly responsible for the turmoil we’re going through this weekend, right? And the negative global press about the economic disaster the British electorate have inflicted upon themselves, yeah? Well, I guess so. Yep, that’s me. That’s democracy!

Why did you vote Leave? Oh God, are you a racist?
Absolutely not, and that’s the most insulting thing that gets thrown around at Leave voters. While I agree some people did vote for xenophobic reasons, I’m not one of them. Does a Leave vote facilitate a rise of far-right politics in the UK? I don’t know, that’s a complicated issue. But the Conservatives aren’t far-right and they’re in power, and it’s not like UKIP or Nigel Farage have suddenly taken over Westminster. In three years, I’d like to see a reformed Labour government back in power — one that’s in touch with their voters who largely voted out of the EU.

So why did I vote Leave? Simply because I believe it’s more democratic to elect a government who have full control over affairs like taxes and immigration, and will work 100% for the economic prosperity of its people, services and industries. Is that so mad? It’s how it was for years before we joined. Do any Americans reading this find this position crazy? Or Canadians? Australians? Most of the democratic world in fact? No, of course not. Most countries have a fully self-governing system already, because that is normal.

I doubt Washington D.C would agree to an economic union with its neighbouring countries, to share the wealth and allow the free movement of foreigners into the US for billions of dollars a year. It made sense for the UK in 1973, of course — but in today’s global world, where so much can be done at the click of a button? No.

The EU is too consumed by its long-term goal to get the countries of Europe assembled into a super-state, pooling money and eroding sovereignty to the detriment of the specific and complex individual needs of each member.

And if you disagree, then why did it ever become more than a free-trade agreement across a continent to begin with? The UK was happy with that trade arrangement, for awhile. It’s what we signed up for, not what it’s become. We were so wise to reject the Euro and stay out of the Schengen Area (where even passport checks aren’t required), but it’s a shame we couldn’t opt out of having to accept unlimited immigration — a fundamental part of being in the EU, alas. There was nothing to stop a half-a-million people coming into the UK, every year, from poorer EU countries, and putting a strain on communities that aren’t properly funded to cope with the influx.

I don’t blame immigrants for coming here, and it’s great that most get jobs and pay their taxes (atrocious propaganda that they don’t), but you can’t plan the future of the UK’s needs when you can’t accurately predict the growth of our population. The government used to know they’d need to finance ‘X’ number of schools, houses and hospitals, to provide for a population they could predict the future numbers of… but when immigrant numbers are unpredictable but high we can’t cope. (There’s naturally some blame here on successive governments failing to invest more in the struggling areas, to at least try and cope.)

Was I worried about my choice to Leave?
I debated it for months in my head, but what stirred my heart was the Leave choice. Most countries aren’t in the EU and do perfectly well for themselves. I have faith in the British people and what can happen now our government will regain control of so much.

Hasn’t the economic turmoil cause you any alarm?
Of course! Oh God, it was scary reading all the doom and gloom everywhere the morning after I voted. It was a surprise the Leave campaign actually won, and watching the FTSE nosedive and the value of the Pound sink to its lowest level since 1985 wasn’t good news. I’m in the process of buying a house that’s lost £6,000 in market value since 23 June, so it’s not like I’ve been insulated from the fallout.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after 38 years on this earth, it’s this: things change. Nothing ever stays the same, for good and bad. Recessions will end, stock markets recover, currency rates fall and rise, house prices go up and down. And there are always benefits to “bad” things happening in the economy (first-time buyers will find that houses are 5% cheaper now, if you export goods to the world the weak £ helps, tourism may increase because it’s now so cheap for foreigners to visit the UK).

What about the 74% of 18–24 year olds who voted Remain? This is a very unfair result for a Remain-voting generation who’ll have to live with it the longest.
I agree the EU referendum should have set an upper age limit, as people over-80 won’t live with the consequences for long. I’d vote for a rule change for future referendums like this, although I can imagine the difficulties trying to decide what the upper age limit should be! 65? 75? 80?

Britons won’t have the freedom to move around EU countries, or work in those countries now?
You may have a slightly longer wait at airport customs, but it’s not like you won’t be able to visit France again. International tourism existed before we joined the EU, and I’ve heard it’s possible a deal can be struck so British holidaymakers find it easier to visit EU countries than non-European tourists. Wait and see what gets agreed! Emigration is still possible, if that’s what you want to do. It’s not like every Briton is now going to be imprisoned in this country forever. I’m going to the USA later this year, so it’ll be about as difficult as that in a few year’s time — actually, less so, because it’s unlikely a visa will be required.

But the Leave campaigners lied! They won’t be sending all of the EU savings to the NHS, as promised.
I never thought we’d redirect all of the EU savings to the NHS, because that would be insane. What about the other industries that need increased government support now, like agriculture and science? I always thought the savings would be spent on a broad range of deserving areas, many of which currently rely on EU cash and mustn’t be neglected. But if the Leave campaign ever stated they’d spend ALL the money on the NHS, and anyone voted Leave because of that lie, I agree that’s very wrong. I just didn’t see anything worded that exact way, and don’t know any other Leave voters who believed the NHS would get 100% of the money we send to the EU.

There must be something you’re angry about, or against, as a result of Brexit happening
Many things! I don’t want stupid Boris Johnson or slimy Michael Gove as Prime Minister. Theresa May feels like the best option. It irritates me that our next PM, who’ll hold office for three years, doesn’t get decided on by the voting public. (I know they never do, but in General Elections most people vote for ‘the best leader’ for our country, not always ‘the best manifesto’, rightly or wrongly.)

I also worry that Scotland will get a second referendum on national independence, and this time will vote to leave the United Kingdom — more as a pro-EU vote. A UK without Scotland would be terrible for both countries, I still believe. But I hope the Scottish electorate have the good sense to see how the UK fares outside of the EU, because it’s possible they could vote to join a struggling EU just as the UK becomes a more dynamic and prosperous country outside of the EU. And it’s possible Scotland will reap huge rewards when its fishing industry isn’t subject to the EU’s unpopular Common Fisheries Policy, which decimated the industry all around the UK. Would they vote back in to the CFP?

I also worry that Brussels won’t give the UK a good deal for our departure in two years, and may insist on Norway-style ‘freedom of movement’ in exchange for continued trade within the single market. As freedom of movement was the fundamental issue behind Brexit, that would be political suicide for the government who grudgingly agree to it. I can imagine things getting very nasty in those meetings, sadly, if that’s a sticking point. The UK may struggle to ‘have its cake and eat it’, alas. But I also realise that the UK-EU relationship works both ways, so it would also be unthinkable (and maybe illegal under World Trade Organisation rules?) for the EU to exclude the UK from any trade arrangement. German businesses are especially keen to remain a close trading partner with the UK, and it’s still true that the EU exports to us more than we export to them.

So you agree there’s stuff to be worried about.
Yes, of course. A vote to Remain was a vote to accept how things have been for the past 43 years, and resume the status quo. It would’ve been the much safer option. I think a lot of Leave voters across England just fancied a risk because they knew it was a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to find a better way. National pride and old-fashioned self-belief was stirred in the English and Welsh counties neglected by the affluent City of London. It was unlike how these things normally go, which is perhaps what surprised pollsters the most. Unfortunately, big change means big risk, but I still don’t see a future for the UK that’s appreciably worse than what we’ve had since the ‘70s.

I still think Brexit is a huge mistake.
That’s fine. But it’s happened now, so let’s be proactive about making it work for us, which is very possible. Leave voters didn’t vote that way to fuck our own economy over; the sensible voters would’ve been placated if more of London’s wealth was spread amongst communities that never recovered from losing their manufacturing industries or coal mines. Or if the EU had a cap on immigration levels member states are obliged to take. Fair investment from the UK government, or common sense EU reforms, would have stopped Brexit from ever happening… and perhaps future EU member exits, too. I think most people took the paltry changes David Cameron negotiated, in the weeks before the EU Referendum went ahead, as a sign EU bureaucrats just wanted to fob us off and expected the status quo to remain — and that’s why the win for Brexit send shockwaves across Brussels. Nobody there thought we’d actually do it!

Of course, there’s a chance I’ll read this article in 2, 5 or 10 year’s time and shake my head in utter disbelief at the nonsense I wrote. I don’t claim to know all the answers, and I don’t know that Brexit is the best thing for the UK in the long-term, but I felt it was worth ticking the Leave box at my polling station. Was I brainwashed by Boris? Hoodwinked by Gove? Fed lies by the Leave campaign in a quest for autonomous political power? Do I have too much faith in a UK government that may be more corrupt than the EU elite? Maybe! I don’t know for sure. Nobody knows anything for certain. But you do you your best, and you vote for personal reasons that matter to you. I just hope the Remain voters don’t disengage from the decision and let this great country go to the dogs, to prove a point. Let’s work together to try and make Brexit a decision we can look back on favourably.

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