As a remain supporter, today’s events have been hard to swallow. The majority of my online social network appears to support Remain, and so far there has been a lot of anger expressed. Scottish independence is back on the agenda, and many of those areas that voted remain are pondering their own independence movements. There’s even a petition for London’s independence. This is a mistake.
Now is not the time to divide further. This does not have to mean the end of the UK, or for that matter the European project. We must reach out to those that voted leave.
The whole campaign has been negative, personal and inflammatory. The remain camp is not immune to these accusations. We have been too quick to use words such as racist and bigot when confronted with leave concerns around immigration. We have not articulated the positive economic case clearly. The labelling of the remain campaign as ‘scaremongerers’ evidently appeared legitimate to the electorate. Never mind that some of the gravest economic predictions appear to be realising themselves: we threatened, rather than promised, and the psychological impact was huge. The leave campaign has been dishonest, that is without doubt. But we have resorted to personal attacks on characters such as Johnson and Farage rather than confronting their message head on, with clear, reasoned refutations.
I see a few possible ways that things could play out over the next 6 months. We now know that there will be a Tory leadership election. Given the leave campaigns rhetoric about being led by ‘unelected bureacrats’, I imagine that the new prime minister will be inclined to call a general election to establish her or his legitimacy. If this plays out, we have one, final opportunity to make the case for the EU. And this time we must not attack, but reach out.
The great majority of those that voted leave were expressing anti-establishment dissatisfaction. These are not people with an innate aversion to the European project. Theirs is a cry against globalisation, against the perceived erosion of their traditional values and democracy. The latter two points are not incompatible with the EU, and this case should be made vigorously. And the animosity towards globalisation is a demographic projection. There is a fundamental dichotomy between how different generations see the world. But this can be overcome. We must convince the older electorate that globalisation is a force for good, and that the EU provides us with the tools to reap the maximum benefits from it.
The opposition has been weak, and much of the blame for this must reside with Corbyn. Now, more than ever, we need a strong, pro-EU political force, that can fight from the front to win back the hearts and minds of middle England. If Labour does not step up to this challenge, a new pro-remain political movement must be quickly established.
In the coming months we must continue to campaign, making our case for the two main arguments, the economy and immigration. It is not over. But we, the disappointed remainers, must open our arms to the rest of the country, not retreat. Only with a new, resounding democratic vote will we be able to undo this result. I hope that we will be given the chance, and that we can take it, after the mature debate we all deserve to hear.
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