I love Europe and voted Remain, but here's why I would vote Leave now
PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:36 06 April 2019
J'adore Europe. C'est magnifique.
On Easter Monday I’m heading to Rouen for a few nights, then in May I’m flying to Nimes for a week of sunshine and rose, followed by a TGV trip to Girona to play in a French team in a Spanish veterans football tournament.
Even though my language skills are limited and my colouring is incongruous, France feels like my second home.
Then there’s Germany, with its perfect beer and superb cities. It’s like my third home.
As a middle-class journalist from a family of teachers, I of course voted “remain” in the referendum.
But if a second referendum were called, I would vote “leave” (or spoil my ballot if I lost my nerve).
It’s not that I’ve ceased to be a Europhile: far from it. I would cheerfully spend half of each year travelling on the continent, then retire and drink absinthe in a garret in Provence, swooning and writing.
It’s also not that I have suddenly developed an aversion to “them, coming over here, stealing our jobs and taking over”.
No way. I prefer to think of “them” as “coming over here, enriching our culture, often doing the stuff we’re too lazy or snobbish to do ourselves”.
My reasons for considering a volte-face (which is one of the many French words or phrases that adorns our mongrel language) are twofold.
The first, quite simply, is because I think democracy would be cheapened if we voted again.
It would tell 17m people that their vote was not valuable – a message that would sicken the campaigners who fought across the generations to achieve universal adult suffrage.
Yes, the result made me both sad and angry. But I don’t have the right to sneer at those who voted “leave”.
And that brings me to my second reason – the supercilious attitude of so many Remainers to those on the other side.
I am not without guilt in this respect, but too many people have dismissed pro-Brexit voters as racist, narrow-minded, stupid and uneducated.
Some are, yes, but then some Remainers are Champagne-sipping snobs who believe themselves superior, and have no understanding of the social and economic factors influencing people.
It might seem OK to light up the dinner party with your shimmering witticisms about “leave” voters, but maybe we should all try walking in their shoes.
If you ventured out of London and the Home Counties (and the Golden Triangle) you’d find a fair amount of resentment.
That resentment comes from a feeling that Britain is two nations – London and the South-East v The Rest.
Voices from afar are not heard, problems are not taken seriously – and money is not apportioned with even a pretence of fairness.
Many people are fed up with the injustice, and disillusioned at the disconnect between our career politicians and those they claim to represent.
The laissez-faire attitude left us wide open to a “leave” vote, but it hasn’t resulted in much humility or soul-searching.
No, what we get is MPs turning Brexit into a circus and people still being patronised for casting their vote.
Despite what our polarised and pathetic main political parties seem to think, nobody should be so wedded to a viewpoint that they are not prepared to respect an opposing view.
Some might say that to behave like that makes you narrow-minded, thick and uneducated. Hang on, that’d make you just like your opponents, wouldn’t it?
If that cap fits, wear it – preferably to your next suburban dinner party. Sadly, I fear it would just be seen as marvellous satire by your chums.
Anyway, I hope it doesn’t come to a second referendum, and even more fervently hope Britain can thrive in the coming decades.
But if it does come to a sequel, I’m almost cross enough to put my cross in “leave”.