I, like 1 in every 2 of you, (strictly 1 in every 2.09 of you) voted remain on Thursday. I was gutted that we lost. Bereft. Angry. Depressed. This was not the future that I wanted for my country.
I understand why so many people have signed a petition asking for another referendum. I won’t sign though. It seems to me to be wrong in principle.
The people of the United Kingdom were asked a simple question. They voted in large numbers. They answered the question.
The United Kingdom must leave the European Union.
But, whatever the politicians say, nothing else was decided by that referendum.
48% of us voted for a United Kingdom that was international, outward looking and rejected the hateful rhetoric that blamed our problems on faceless, nameless immigrants.
We lost the argument about remaining in. We will have a transactional relationship with the EU. This has yet to be negotiated. That’s a fairly urgent task for the government.
Politicians who do not share our values, who do not want for our country the future that we want for our county will use the result to legitimise a closed, insular, scared country shut off from our own continent.
We must not let them.
Negotiations are going to begin with the EU. They’ll be tough. We do not have a strong hand and the EU has every reason to ensure our exit package is unpalatable. Compromises will have to be made.
The Tories want to focus on immigration. They will do everything they can to prevent the UK being bound by the EU freedom of movement rules. Who knows what a future prime minister will be prepared to give away to get agreement on that.
But we know that 1 in 2 of us voted for a future in which UK citizens are free to live, work and study across Europe and in which European citizens are free to live and work here. That is actively what we want.
If the UK accepts freedom of movement: we’ll get a lot more of what we want out of the negotiations. If we end up like Norway we’ll be out but still have freedom of movement and access to the single market. That feels like a suitably British compromise. Maybe even good enough to satisfy the Scots (maybe not).
We, the 48%, need to make sure that the UK-EU deal we end up with is one that we want, not one that a few government ministers want.
And we have one, crucial, unusual strength. We know we are not alone.
If you are in the 48% (or in the 52% but don’t want to cut the country off fundamentally). Let’s encourage the Tories to elect a leader who can represent the mainstream of the country not the extremists. Let’s encourage the Labour party to look to its internationalist and progressive traditions. Let’s encourage every political party to advocate for the UK we want to see.
Join a political party now and start advocating for free movement and a close relationship. Write to your MP and point out how many votes there are on the remain side. Talk to your friends and your co-workers. Post amusing gifs on Facebook whatever. But don’t leave the field to the Brexiters.
Let’s respect the views of the 1 in 2 (strictly 1.09 in 2) who voted to leave the EU.
And let’s make sure they respect our views too.
It’s time to get to work.