Friday, 24 June 2016

A message for Remainers

Dear Remainers,

I know that right now, you don't particularly want to hear from people like me. We voted to leave the European Union, an act you thought, and I'm sure still do, is folly. But the votes have been cast, on an exceptional turnout, and a decision has been made. You might not like it, but that's the way democracy rolls sometimes.

I know you're angry, and upset, and confused, and worried to death about what in the name of all that is holy is going to happen now. If the result had been reversed, I would have been equally despondent this morning. But I ask of you, even though you despair, to not succumb to the urge to label your fellow countrymen as ignorant, racist, bigoted, xenophobic or just plain stupid. Many of us that have voted to leave have done so after reading just as much as you have, after discussing the ideas, exposing the lies on both sides, and simply came to a different conclusion as to what was best for the UK. The notion that having concerns about immigration makes you racist or xenophobic belittles the discourse and does a disservice to the intelligent men and women on both sides who are seeking a solution to those concerns. Indeed, for many of us, immigration wasn't even the deciding factor. Or a factor at all. We thought the economic arguments supported our case, and we were also worried about the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU. So again I ask you, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, not to become your enemy in the instant that you preach. You made sound arguments for being an open and tolerant country. Do not betray those principles by shutting down those that disagree with you over our EU membership with cries of idiocy and being intolerant of a different point of view. Many of us on the leave side share the exact same ideals as you do. We want Britain to be an open, tolerant country. Co-operating with our allies and trading freely with our neighbours. Pursuing a global agenda to tackle the issues that face us all, with the goal of prosperity for everyone.

Because though this vote went against you, this was not a vote against your ideals. It was merely a defeat for your preferred method of pursuing those ideals. We have made a democratic decision that, as a nation, we believe we best pursue those lofty goals as an independent country, outside the political union of the EU. You may not agree with that choice, but it is the one that has been made. Now we need your help. Because there will be people who's goals for our country elevate different priorities, and some of those we know are not beneficial. But this is where the beauty of democracy and the marketplace of ideas will shine through. Because those ideals that we both hold dear, have the arguments behind them, and if we pursue them together, united, we can truly achieve the progressive vision for Britain, Europe, and the world that is our shared ultimate aim.

One of the joys of this referendum campaign, and indeed politics in general, for me, is being able to have prolonged discussions with my friends about the issues at hand. Whether we be exchanging tweets or comments on Facebook, sending texts or WhatsApp messages, conversing on the phone or debating over a pint, it has been thoroughly enjoyable thrashing it out with you. I've learnt a lot from our discussions, and I hope I've perhaps caused you to think differently about some areas too. But the true joy is in how, away from the tawdry headline grabbing of the official campaigns, it has been an incredibly civil affair and has never degenerated into personal insults. I respect each and every person I have discussed this issue with, and though we may disagree, often profoundly, I have absolutely no doubts that you are good people, doing what you truly believe is right. All I would ask is that you extend me and those who voted with me, the same courtesy. There will always be bastards on any side, but they are never, ever representative of the whole.

So let's unite, pull our collective socks up, and make this work. There is plenty to be done, and a long road ahead. By rallying around the EEA option as a starting point for Brexit we can allay the fears over the economy that many people currently have. Then let's use that as a spring board to help this country achieve what we all agree it is capable of.

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