Coulda, woulda, shoulda: the puzzlement of hindsight

In the wake of Brexit mania, a Remain supporter wonders whether he should have voted Leave.

On the 23rd June last year, I was one of the 16 or so million people who voted to remain in the European Union. I did so without a single contradictory thought in my mind. Since the vote, however, I am less sure of my stance on the European question.
Certainly, a lot has happened since the referendum, most of which would’ve been almost impossible to predict – Donald Trump’s election victory springs to mind. And so this may seem a rather pointless question to ask. Yet I do nevertheless feel it is an interesting one.
As the fallout from Brexit continues, the likes of Tim Farron would have you believe that if a second referendum were to happen today, the result would be very different. Furthermore, various polls suggest that the number of people who regret their vote outweighs Leave’s margin of victory.
I do not regret my vote. It was the best decision I could have made with the information I had available to me at the time. All the economic, political and social factors pointed to Remain. In fact, I could barely comprehend why anyone would choose to vote Leave.
Surely it would be crazy to walk away from what is our largest trading partner, it would be frankly stupid to ignore the opinions of the experts, and arguably dangerous to put ourselves out in the cold – vulnerable to the world.
And certainly, in the immediate aftermath of the vote, my convictions may have been compounded. All the politicians who had promised this utopia had run away from the building which they had set fire to. It very quickly became apparent that they had no plan of action for leaving. It was as if they were scared by what they had done – remember Boris Johnson’s subdued press conference? If that wasn’t enough, the pound very conveniently collapsed just before everyone’s summer holiday.
More recently, the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, our most senior negotiator in Brussels, turned the government into a bit of a laughing stock. Nonetheless, it would take much more to defeat Jeremy Corbyn and his motley crew of incompetence. More seriously, it was a rather worrying sign that not even the man holding Britain’s cards knew what those cards were.
It also seems that the Leave camp has grossly underestimated the complexity of the challenge we face. Even the supposedly simple question of whether to remain in or leave the customs union has with it an abundance of mind-boggling complications. Do we leave altogether and risk rising prices or do we remain an associate member (assuming Brussels will let us) but continue to contribute to the EU budget? It seems that the copious layers of bureaucracy that arguably prompted many to vote leave is ironically slowing the process of doing just that.
At this point, it may be easy to imagine I am alone in questioning my vote to remain. But in the wake of the Brexit vote, the EU has shown its true colours.
François Hollande recently said in the presence of Jean-Claude Junker, “there must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be price”. It is this sneering elitist, overtly arrogant attitude that demonstrates the disconnect between EU officials and the people it is supposed to represent.
Remember the EU summit where Theresa May was given the cold shoulder by other attendees? Frankly, they were behaving like children in a playground, and their actions since the referendum have been tantamount to bullying.

If that is the attitude of the EU, then a part of me is glad to be leaving it, and I would urge the PM to stand up to this army of bureaucrats.

Brexit has also given us a far more favourable relationship with the United States. During Trump’s campaign, Britain may have been vocal in its opposition to his repulsive views, but nowhere near as vocal as the likes of Germany and other EU countries. Whilst this cannot be admired, it has at least served us well.
The fact is that we are front of the queue for a trade deal with the United States. It only took a week for Donald Trump to meet with the Prime Minister; to put this in perspective, it took Obama six weeks, and a further 13 weeks for George HW Bush.
And also, the economy has not collapsed, consumer confidence is high, and the economy has grown at a very decent rate. It seems Brexit may not be so bad after all; it may even put us one step ahead of the rest if the EU does indeed collapse as many forecast it will. And so, I return to the original question; would I change my vote?
Probably not. The vote has propagated divisions in our society, and I would not want to vote to make us all worse off just to keep a few foreigners out of the country.
But if the men and women in Brussels continue to bully us, I may just reach a different conclusion.


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