My Brexit Story:- David Bullivant

On the 27th March, 2018 - 641 days after the UK's history-making referendum vote on whether or not to remain a fully paid-up member of the European Union - a post was created in the Liberalists - UK Facebook group:

This post talked about how they voted in the referendum and asked about the experiences of others.

When I read this, I immediately felt compelled to respond with my own story; detailing my journey since June 23rd, 2016, from Remainer to Remoaner, to sceptic, and ultimately - to optimist.

The posters pre-referendum reasoning behind their vote was, in-part, much the same as my own. I believed that the status quo was the way to go; that shaking up the economy so enormously at a time when house prices far outstripped wage increases and public services were buckling badly under the strain of austerity, wasn't a particularly sound idea.

I wasn't as politically engaged (or knowledgable) back then, and I knew little about how the EU actually functioned. Ultimately, I saw the bloc as a flawed, but fundamentally good thing - improving trade relations between countries, and allowing each of us to settle in one another's lands as if they were our own.

I still see the concept of the union as a positive one, but it's become something so much more bloated and stifling than I believe it was ever conceived to be. At the time, I didn't see that. At the time, I saw the monumental step of leaving the EU as a dangerous leap into isolationism; a move a post-war, empire-less Britain simply could not afford to take.
I bought into the fear tactics pushed through the media from the Remain campaign, because what they were saying fortified my own fears on the matter, and I felt relatively secure that the people at the top generally knew what they were talking about.

On the other hand, I perceived the Leave campaign's tactics as rather more emotional and "rabble-rousing", and I sensed that my intelligence was being somewhat insulted with hyperbolic statements about "taking back control" - whatever that meant...

Going into the voting booth on the 23rd, I confidently placed my "remain" tick in the box with a flourish, popped it into the ballot bin, and cycled back home - confident that this time tomorrow, I'd be waking up to a selection of frightfully dull news articles declaring that, of course, all this nonsense was over, and it would be business as usual from now on.

After the vote, I couldn't quite believe it. I thought the country had taken leave of its senses, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why so many of my countrymen and women would vote against what I, in supreme arrogance and ignorance, perceived at the time to be "their own self-interests". I was a very public Remoaner for a short while - vitriolic posts on Facebook aplenty, about how the whole thing was utterly mad, and how the country was doomed because of it.

The change began when I attended the "48% march" in London some days (or perhaps a couple of weeks) after the vote, and listened carefully to the arguments put forth on the stage in Parliament Square. At first, I passionately agreed with what I was hearing, but gradually, as the speeches drew on and the crowd grew ever-more "collective" about the whole event - I began to feel more and more disconnected from those around me. They spoke of the Brexit vote being an "advisory" referendum, and that it could be - and probably should be - overturned with another vote. This got my goat quite a bit, as while I did want to continue to vent my displeasure with the result, I felt deeply troubled by what a second referendum (or an ignored one) would mean for the supposed sanctity of our democracy.

I also didn't enjoy the chants of "fromage, not Farage", when - despite my stance on Brexit - I'd always found Nigel to be a very intelligent, calm, and clear-spoken man. I admired him, despite disagreeing with him, and this crowd of frothing, screeching socialists all baying for the man's blood made me suddenly and acutely aware that in fact - this was precisely the sort of rabble-rousing event that made my skin crawl. I had a sudden, powerful realisation that I was attending what amounted to a propaganda rally; a rally calling for action against the very concept of British democracy.
After the march, I felt rather hollow, and to be frank, somewhat ashamed of myself. I suddenly became aware that I knew nothing, and I'd been acting from a place of arrogant certainty, despite having been woefully ignorant on a subject I'd been looking at from only one perspective - my own.
But that hollow feeling propelled me into action. I became borderline obsessed with actually trying to understand the reasoning behind those who voted to leave, and to try and fathom how I could've been so wrong in my assumption that the vote would be a landslide win for Remain. It felt like an awakening; to remember to think for myself again, rather than take a few headlines and choice articles, and regurgitate those opinions as my own.

I spoke with many people from both sides about the issue, and watched countless hours of video from politicians on either side - outside of the established campaigns, as well as in. Looking again, I found nuance from those in support of Leave that I hadn't found (because I hadn't been looking) before, and I began to understand more about how the horribly overreaching bureaucracy of the EU seemed to be tearing down what it actually meant to be country in one's own right.

I've always been proud of Britain, and since the vote, my personal explorations through the vast spectrum of voter reasoning on the Brexit issue have taught me many things, but there's one that particularly stuck out, and resonated with me:

The Leavers believed in Britain, and its ability to forge its own destiny through sheer will, the strength of its own people, and the legitimacy of its own democracy.

The Remainers did not.
And despite the colossal pig's ear the current crop of politicians appear to be making of the whole thing, I do feel genuinely optimistic about the Brexit endeavour. The way the EU have been acting towards Britain has spoken volumes about how the bloc views the sovereignty of individual nations, and I feel that once out of it, we can really make a proper go of things; shaping this country through a vision of the people who live here.
No one really knows what's going to happen ten, twenty, or fifty years down the line. Perhaps the EU will grow even larger in scope and power, and we'll be politically and economically cast adrift into the north atlantic; no longer the big player we once were on the world stage.
Or perhaps, other countries in the EU will see us make a bloody good success outside of the bloc, and call for their own vote to leave. The union may crumble, freeing up it's former member states to prosper and flourish like never before; actually improving international relations in the process.

We can't know for sure, but we can educate ourselves on the variables and likelihoods, and through education, we can understand and respect the viewpoints of others - whichever side of the aisle we fall on.
But at the end of the day, the attitude towards the Brexit issue comes down to a simple choice: to believe in Britain, or not.
And while I can't speak for anyone else, I think rather fondly of this little rock of ours...

- David Bullivant

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