No-Deal Brexit Risk Has Changed My Mind On A Second Referendum

I used to imagine Nigel Farage rubbing his hands together with glee at the idea of a People's Vote, but where we are now isn't what anyone voted for in 2016.

When I first heard of the campaign for a People’s Vote, I did not see how it could possibly be a good thing. The country was already divided on Brexit, and for me, calling for a second vote would only serve those like Farage. I could imagine him grubbily rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of being able to further his goals by selling that the ‘elite’ wanted to overturn the democratic will of the people.

Like many young people, I voted Remain in 2016, and was devastated when Leave won. But where I’m from in the north-west, the overwhelming majority of my family and friends voted to Leave – in fact, only one other person in my family voted the same way I did. I remember speaking to friends from London, and other big cities, who said that they had no doubts that Remain would win, because everyone they knew was voting Remain. They laughed when I told them that I was not so sure.

So, to be honest, I was concerned that the People’s Vote campaign would just be an echo of this, with people from specific backgrounds and places assuming that most of the country wanted a second referendum just because they did. I’m glad I’ve been proven wrong.

The journey I’ve been on has been emblematic of the wider country – and in particular, northern Labour supporters. At the beginning of 2018, most people I knew were against a second vote, even those who voted for Remain. The Brexit voters around me saw it as a bitter attempt by the establishment to overturn a democratic decision because it did not suit them. If anything, it only made them more convinced that the reasons they voted for Brexit were valid in the first place.

To me, it did not appear that the campaign was positive or would be successful. However, in the last couple of months – like so many others – my mind has been changed. I am entirely convinced that when people voted for Brexit, where we are now is not what they voted for. They did not vote for political chaos, three different prime ministers in three years, deadlock in our politics or the looming spectre of a no-deal.

More than that, it would simply be a democratic outrage if a no-deal Brexit – which was barely mentioned, let alone advocated for in 2016 – was imposed on the British people, by 0.25% of the electorate.

The last three years have been a mammoth exercise in up-selling. There were no buses plastered with the case for leaving the EU with no deal back then. Now, it is openly championed by Farage and company as the purest (and only actual) form of Brexit. That is not what was sold to the country in 2016.

I am not alone in this. Polling and research consistently show a majority support for staying in the European Union, for going back to a public who have changed their minds. And the biggest shift in public opinion? Labour voters in the North, who voted Leave because of legitimate grievances in their lives, yet now feel betrayed by the mess that’s been delivered.

The campaign for a People’s Vote isn’t perfect. It needs to do more to reach out and understand why people voted for Brexit in 2016, and why Remain lost the first time round. If there is a People’s Vote, the campaign to stay has to be run differently.

But look at the options in front of us - it’s the best chance we’ve got. Movements like the For our Future’s Sake campaign that focus on young and diverse voices wanting another referendum showed me the campaign wasn’t just the same people, making the same arguments. It was young people from all over the UK fighting for their future.

Now I want to fight not just for my future, but the future of everyone in my community in the north-west who would be disproportionately impacted by a no-deal Brexit, everyone who voted for one thing but are now being forced to accept something totally different.

Parliament is getting no closer to breaking through the Brexit deadlock, and the Brexit in front of us is getting further and further from the one people were promised. We need a way out of this mess, we need a solution. It took a lot to change my mind, but I now believe the fairest and most democratic solution is a People’s Vote.


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