We Are All Brexiters Now

Britain has voted to leave the EU, and nothing will stop that coming to pass. No amount of horror or anger or protest will change our nation’s new course. Railing against the incoming sea will not turn back the tide.

I voted Remain. I thought Remain was the better option, for me and for the country. I expected Remain to win. I went to bed thinking it was in the bag. And, like thousands of other people in the grey light of Friday morning, I was shocked that the overnight result had gone the other way.

It isn’t time for a full post-mortem yet. Not just because it is too soon to judge the impact of what we’ve voted for, but also because tempers need some time to cool. Feelings are still too raw and minds too clouded at the moment.

But there is one thing that I think we all need to get our heads around: despise the result if you must, but we are still going to have to make the best of a bad situation. There were a lot of absolute predictions thrown around in the immediate aftermath of the vote: the economy will collapse, Scotland will leave the Union, racist politicians will be empowered. But the referendum has shown us that there is no absolute version of the future. Rather, we are faced by a range of possible futures, some more likely than others, but all of them plausible ways forward. The only thing that is now set in stone is that we must leave the EU. How we do it, on what terms, and what we build in its place are all still open questions.

Those are the questions that we now need to move on to. I know that many people were far more emotionally invested in the referendum than I was, and for them it is difficult and painful to accept that Brexit is happening. But it is a regrettable reality that must be met. We all, individually, need to come to that acceptance as soon as we can, so that we may start working out what course we should plot across our new reality.

It may seem tempting just to say, ‘I didn’t vote for this. I’m not going to sort out the mess it’s left us in.’ But you — we — have a duty, as citizens of a democracy, not to turn our backs. We may yet be able to negotiate an economic deal with the rest of Europe that keeps our continental trade open, takes the wind out of resurgent Scottish nationalism, and smooths the troubled waters in Northern Ireland. But if you want to see that, then you must stick with it — don’t surrender the political sphere to those who just want ‘splendid’ isolation. Now more than ever, your country — our country — needs decent, calm, reasonable people to educate themselves, to formulate their opinions as rationally as they can, and to test their views in the marketplace of debate.

Don’t give up on Britain. We can still be a great country, even after Brexit. We just have to work out how to make it so.