As someone who passionately voted remain in 2016, what I have found hard to stomach throughout the entire Brexit process is the arrogance of the EU and their inability to even begin to comprehend why 17.4 million people voted to leave their political union.
I work in a constituency where 62% of voters voted to leave the EU. It would be catastrophic for our democracy if there were any attempts to overturn the decision made in 2016.
Those calling for a ‘people’s vote’ are not interested in giving people a final say on what deal, if any, the government brings back from Brussels. Instead, they want to use the referendum as a vehicle to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum because they were not happy with the outcome.
I voted remain, but I accept that my side of the argument lost the debate and, as a supporter of democracy, I accept the result of the referendum. 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU and the government must get on and deliver Brexit. There must not be any attempt to overturn the result of the referendum nor any attempt to keep the UK in the EU via the backdoor. I’m afraid that’s what the ‘People’s Vote’ is seeking to achieve.
Large swathes of working class communities voted for Brexit, and many people voted in that referendum who hadn’t set foot in a polling station for decades. Are we really going to tell them that, despite the fact they voted for Brexit and their side of the debate won, we don’t like the result and therefore we’re going to hold another referendum?
Why on Earth would anyone who voted Brexit ever bother voting again if that were to happen? The answer is that we simply can’t let it happen. Overturning Brexit would disenfranchise millions of people and bring trust in politics to an all-time low. In fact, from the doors I’ve knocked on, I believe if a second referendum was to be held then the majority for leave would be far higher than what we saw in 2016. And I would be one of those leave voters.
This brings me neatly to my point about the arrogance of the EU from the day the UK voted to leave to last week’s summit in Salzburg. Last week’s performance by the EU was low, disrespectful and downright rude. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, and the second largest economy in Europe. Theresa May is right – the EU should show the UK more respect.
Even as a former Remainer, there’s just no way I could defend the EU’s behaviour. If the EU is trying to win over floating voters who reluctantly voted leave, they are doing a terribly bad job at doing so.
Last week’s summit in Salzburg was the final nail in the coffin for me. As someone who passionately voted remain, I could never have imagined ever saying the words ‘I would now vote to leave’. Throughout the negotiating process the UK has been pragmatic and compromised on key issues, the EU has failed to do so in return. Even the EU’s performance in Salzburg was hard to stomach.
I know I’m not the only Remainer turned Leaver, and that’s why the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign should be careful about what they’re wishing for. A second referendum won’t necessarily give them the result they so desperately want. Polling expert John Curtice has said there’s "no consistent evidence of a shift in support for a second referendum." A second referendum would only seek to divide our country even further.
As a newly outed leaver, I am increasingly optimistic about the UK’s future post-Brexit. We will be able to strike trade deals around the world, something our country has not been able to do in my lifetime because of our membership of the EU.
From our closest allies, including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to the emerging economies of South America and Africa, the UK will be able to sign bespoke trade deals which suit the needs of our country – not the needs of a 26-member state political union. This is something we should all be optimistic about.
Joshua Godfrey is the Policy Caseworker and Communications Officer of a Conservative MP.