It’s probably easy for me – as being on the winning side of the EU referendum – to take a very presentable, high minded reflection on what I would have done had we voted to Remain within the European Union. I won. I’m thinking clearly. I’m not caught up in the zealous denial that comes from defeat. I experienced that at the General Election, whereupon my views of the Tories was nothing short of vehement hatred. I’ve calmed down now, I’ve collected my thoughts, but… really; I’m quite certain I, nor most of the mainstream Leave side, would have reacted in such a way that some on the Remain side are.
I wouldn’t have, for example, immediately on the morning of a loss took my name to a ridiculous petition, demanding a second referendum with the arbitrary rule that a Remain win can only be deemed valid were they to secure 60% of the vote on a 75% turnout. I wouldn’t be unironically plastering my social media with ‘we are the 48’ hashtags and twibbons. I wouldn’t be urging MPs to vote against the ratification of the referendum, nor the repeal of the ’72 European Communities Act. I don’t deny that I would have spent the weekend after a sore loser, disappointed that the very cause which had piqued my interest in politics (the EU and my opposition to it) would have been rejected by we, the great unwashed, at the ballot box. I don’t deny that I probably would have wrote a cynical, sore, self indulgent Facebook rant. It happens. Democracy is something we all value and cherish as the abattoir and upholder of causes and movements until… it’s our side that loses. I said that I would have been sore and disappointed, but, no, I would not have invalidated the result of the referendum. I would not be demanding another one. I would not be urging parliament to oppose the will of the electorate, as, um, some are now doing. While I naturally can’t speak for anyone bar myself, I would have had a few days of moping, then I’d have shrugged my shoulders and hoped for the best reform Britain could get.
It’s easy for a member of the winning side to be saying this – that, I concede – but I’m confident and honest enough to say I would not be so childish as to suddenly see the will of the people as no longer absolute. I’m not expecting vociferous Remain supporters to discard their principles and adopt an opposition to the EU, or, had we lost, for people like Dan Hannan and Nigel Farage to stand and honour the EU flag. What I’m expecting – and hoping – is that those who have lost to at least try and make the current affair work. Rather than discount the referendum result, live with the result and make it work for those whose interests they cherish so much. We must, for example, ensure that people from the EU living in Britain do not have the threat of deportation hanging over them. We must make sure that the negotiations of withdrawal by the next Conservative administration do not seek a path to a bonfire of the rights of working people. We must make sure that the new trade deals negotiated by an EU-free Britain are not opening up the NHS, as TTIP once threatened (albeit, I concede, muted later down the line of negotiation). We should use the fall in the Pound as an opportunity to rebalance the economy.
Brexit is not the time for the pro-EU left and centre to sit on the grass, gather in Trafalgar Square and play sore loser; it’s the time for getting down to work. Brexit must not go forged unchallenged by a merciless right wing Tory government, it must be cross-party and constructive.