You have to love those puppy-brained sweethearts on ITV, the ones who went viral for regretting their Leave vote. They seem genuinely sweet, and clearly meant no harm.
And that has characterised this referendum and its fallout: people meaning no harm, but doing a lot of it.
No Leave voter I know meant to crash the UK currency, however briefly, or wipe billions from our economy in immediate share losses or stalled future projects. But that is what has happened following the Referendum result.
Leave voters didn’t mean to put the UK in the position of possibly paying just as much to trade with Europe in future, but with none of Europe’s benefits and protections, but they were misled and that is where we are now.
As Scotland makes every effort to leave the United Kingdom and the Labour Party implodes, I’m sure most people who voted Leave did not mean for that to happen, either.
Heck, Boris didn’t even mean to win, just to counteract his foppish elitist image so that he could get working class people who don’t watch Have I Got News For You to vote for him. But win they did. And these, and more besides, are the unintended consequences.
It's not true that everything will be irredeemably awful in Britain forever now. There is a good chance we will recover. But voting Leave was brave. Too brave. Too brave, with too little understanding of all the implications and variables.
It was brave to ask the general public to make this decision in the first place. To leave such an important and complex decision in the hands of ordinary people with very limited knowledge even when they weren’t being lied to by politicians may have looked like simple democracy. But it was closer to direct democracy. Otherwise known as anarchism. A legitimate political tradition, but probably not one favoured by many Leave voters.
Voting Leave was a brave choice for those people considering what was at stake
Given all the complexities (I voted remain, but with less enthusiasm for the Greece-crushing, austerity-pushing side of the EU than the human rights and workers rights promoting side of it) voting Leave was braver than voting Remain.
Remain left the options open. We could have left later once we'd given it more thought. But we had our reasons, didn’t we, Britain? ‘Protest votes’ and ‘I didn’t really understand, I just wanted my country back’ in some vague way votes: voting Leave was a brave choice for those people considering what was at stake.
And for the better informed, it was brave to vote Leave based on a belief that European bureaucracy is somehow less trustworthy and less elected than the unelected British bureaucracy that makes the governing of this country possible. Particularly considering how much it will cost to create a new bureaucracy just to be able to set up new trade deals with Europe, and how much Europe will charge us for the right to trade from outside the EU.
I also believe it was brave, knowing that at least some of the people standing alongside them were racist and xenophobic, for honourable men and women to vote Leave knowing they ran the risk of emboldening of such attitudes in our society. And I know, I know. Not all Leave voters were racists, just like not all Muslims are ISIS sympathisers. But I cannot agree with those crying out in the streets that the Leave vote had nothing to do with racism. The campaign scapegoating refugees, the sharp rise in racial abuse after the result and the warm support Brexit has received from far right groups like Britain First, fascist leaders like Marine Le Pen and hate-preachers such as Geert Wilders, make that impossible. And just because some bad people share your cause, that does not mean you should abandon it. It just means not abandoning it is brave.
The Left were too brave, too, of course. The Trades Unionists and ‘Red Labour’ supporters who campaigned hard for a leftist Brexit (and should be judged mainly for the appalling hashtag #Lexit) who somehow believed that once we left Europe, workers would rise up in Britain and create a glorious socialist utopia. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn sees that as likely right now and neither do I. Christians who similarly felt that Europe was holding Britain back from Christian values may have been a little idealistic (not to mention that they may have missed the last 100 years of post-Christendom). Europe was not the source of all the austerity measures the Left hates and it is not the source of abortion, equal rights for gay people, atheism and Islam. Society, life and politics are not that simple.
Complexity and the difficulty of predicting outcomes made voting Leave brave. Voting Leave was a permanent decision. Had we Remained, we could have decided later to Leave, having made at least some rudimentary plans or thought through the consequences a little bit more. But we’ve decided, as a nation, to choose bravery. The way the future is looking, we’re going to need it.