Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
18 January 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:55pm

I felt rushed into voting Leave – now I know the facts, I want to stay in the EU

I want another vote on the final Brexit deal. 

By Sheila Gates

Before the referendum I was mainly positive about the EU. I had voted to go into the “Common Market” in 1975 at the age of 25, three years after gaining a degree and at the start of my career as a graphic designer. I say mainly positive, because although I took advantage of the open borders to travel, enjoyed the wealth of produce we were importing and appreciated pan-European co-operation, I was greatly concerned at the prospect of a federal Europe. I was also incensed that some judgements of the EU courts were impinging on our own justice system. It seemed that we were losing our sovereignty and that worried me. Still, I didn’t really want to come out of the EU and I certainly wasn’t clamouring for a referendum.

During the campaign, I couldn’t find a source or opinion that I felt I could wholeheartedly trust. My family and I watched all the programmes and debates that were aired on the subject, listened avidly to radio reporting and often read newspaper articles but found the whole thing extremely bewildering. Claims and counter-claims just added to the confusion. I really wanted the TV and radio presenters that I admire and trust to tell me what to do, but of course their essential impartiality would not allow them to do that.

When it came to vote, I felt unprepared and rushed. My resulting “leave” vote was a personal protest against the unedifying behaviour of the majority of our prominent politicians. It seemed like the only way I could express my deep anger was to make it a close vote. I was totally convinced that the vote would be to stay in, and it was entirely a last minute decision to put my cross where it went – to come out.

As the result unfolded, I became more and more astounded and extremely fearful of what was to come. Looking at the UK voting map I soon became aware that the Leave vote mainly came from rural voters who it seemed were making their own protest. As the inquest continued, it seemed completely clear to me that the vote was about their voices not being heard, and how disgruntled they all felt at the lack of investment in their regions, even though they were bearing the brunt of austerity and the influx of immigrants. Nigel Farage simply fanned the flames of discontent and blamed it all on the EU. 

As the months have passed we have all been witness to the catastrophic fall out. It’s obvious to me that the collective government had not anticipated or planned for the finer, far reaching and very serious implications of a Leave vote: the Irish border problem, travel implications, trade implications, financial implications, global political implications… I genuinely thought that they would have a plan, but it appears that they didn’t. Why on earth not? 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Looking back, I think Farage successfully diverted their attention from the true problems in the country – austerity, inequality, the failing health and social services, lack of housing.

With every passing day, I become more and more fearful of what we will leave for our children. I want to stay in the EU. I want politicians who are skilful, intelligent, responsible negotiators to achieve a place for us within the EU that maintains our sovereignty, keeps the pound and enables us to make our own laws. I want the wealth of our nation to be spread more widely and fairly across all the UK regions, and particularly used to support those areas that have been most neglected over recent years. I want no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I want somehow for austerity to end. I want the NHS and social care to be properly supported, and the teaching and medical professions to be respected once more. I’d like a long period, well past my demise, of stability in all walks of life, with more affordable housing and I would be prepared for more of my pension income to be taxed to achieve it.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

I want another vote on the final Brexit deal – but if that isn’t possible I want a free vote for our parliamentary representatives guided by the will of their constituents.