Why I’m angry with Leave voters

A lot of people will probably think I shouldn’t write this because it’s “divisive”. They’ll tell me it’s fine to be angry with the politicians but I should leave ordinary voters out of it. But I’m going to ignore those people and write this anyway, because I am angry with the ordinary voters too, and I’ve realised if I don’t express this anger somehow, it’s going to keep boiling away inside me until it explodes at an inappropriate moment.

As I write this it’s looking more likely than ever that we’re facing a “No Deal” scenario, the most extreme Brexit possible and a drastic change to this country that would have seemed unthinkable even three short years ago. Which brings me onto my first reason…

I’m angry because Brexit has put my ability to provide for my family at risk. It’s true that I’m not in as bad a situation as some people; there’s no reason to think my job is going to disappear imminently. But in a chaotic situation like a No Deal Brexit, and the recession that’s likely to follow it, all bets are off. Many, many people are likely to ultimately lose their jobs because of it and then find it difficult to get new jobs because of the generally bleak prospects, and because moving to Europe to work will no longer be an option for most. Maybe I’ll be one of them and maybe I won’t, but even just the uncertainty has already caused me enough stress, thank you very much.

I’m angry because Brexit has taken opportunities away from my son. My generation had the freedom to live, work and study anywhere in Europe with very little hassle, and the last generation of pensioners were able to retire there if they so desired. Thanks to the Brexit vote, that freedom has now been taken away from my son’s generation. They will have fewer opportunities and will be disadvantaged compared to children in other European countries because of something they never had any say in.

I’m angry because Brexit puts our NHS, food standards and employment rights at risk. It’s no secret that many of the Tories pushing hardest for Brexit see a trade deal with the USA as their ultimate goal. That’s why they’re so desperate to get out of the EU customs union whatever the cost. But this trade deal is likely to come at a price. The US will be pushing hard for us to accept their much lower food safety standards, maybe even for the NHS to be privatised so that their healthcare companies can get a piece of it, and a weakened and desperate Britain won’t be in much of a position to refuse at that point.

As for our hard-won employment rights… have you seen how much paid leave most American workers get? And can you imagine the Tories or the US standing up for our right to 28 days holiday a year like the EU did? If you can, I want some of what you’re smoking.

I know some people were concerned that the US would force its standards on the whole EU as the price for the TTIP trade deal, and I know at least one person who actually voted Leave primarily for this reason. But the EU is much bigger and much less vulnerable to this than the UK alone will be. The EU, with 28 member states and a larger economy and population than the US, had the clout to push back against those demands. The UK, not so much.

I’m angry because there’s a good chance people will die because of a hard Brexit. If difficulties with the supply of essential medicine in the event of a No Deal come to pass, as many observers think they could, it’s likely people will die as a result. Similarly, if a hard border returns in Ireland as it would have to in the absence of a deal, we are likely to see the Good Friday peace agreement break down and the freedom from sectarian violence that we’ve enjoyed over the past twenty years come to an end. Are other people’s lives really a price worth paying for whatever you think you’re going to get from Brexit?

I’m angry because Brexit has swallowed up huge amounts of time and money that could have been spent on something useful. Ever since the referendum, the UK political landscape has been dominated by Brexit to the exclusion of almost everything else. Months of parliamentary time have been spent discussing it over and over and billions of pounds have been thrown at preparations for No Deal and at replicating agencies we already had as part of the EU. Just think what could have been achieved if all that had gone towards solving real problems instead.

I’m angry because Brexit makes my friends and colleagues feel unwelcome. I have a lot of friends and colleagues from other EU countries. They are people who chose the UK as their home and have made great contributions to it, both at work and socially. I am disgusted that Brexit has made them feel unwelcome here and legitimised the kind of knuckle-dragging halfwit who wants to send all the foreigners home.

I’m angry because Brexit makes it harder for me to visit some of my favourite places. OK, admittedly this is a minor point compared to most of the others, but one of the main things that helped me to finally overcome the depression that had dogged most of my adult life was travelling, especially exploring European cities. Even in the worst case Brexit probably won’t make this impossible, but it will add a host of petty annoyances and expenses that weren’t there before (long passport queues, possibly visas, more expensive currency, etc.) as well as making me feel like an outsider when I’m travelling in a way I never did while I was an EU citizen.

I’m angry because, nearly 3 years on from the referendum, no-one has adequately explained to me what the point of this actually is. I think this is probably at the root of my anger with Brexit: from my point of view it’s all downsides (see above) and no advantages. I could accept the downsides (well, some of them) if they were balanced by an upside. I could even accept a downside for myself if it meant an upside for lots of other people – for example, I would accept paying a bit more tax if it meant a better health service for sick people, even if I wasn’t currently sick myself. But every indication is that Brexit is going to be an unmitigated disaster for almost everyone.

I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what’s good about Brexit, why people support it, how I can expect my life to improve after we’ve left. Since the referendum I’ve read countless posts online by Leave voters as well as talking to some in real life… and not one of them has made me think “Yes, that’s a good point, that’s a good reason for supporting Brexit”. They either just seem to be incoherently angry at foreigners, Remainers or some mythical “elite”, or else they’ve fundamentally misunderstood how concepts like sovereignty and trade actually work.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see plenty of reasons to be dissatisfied with our current political establishment. I completely agree that we deserve better. I’m not some smug, complacent Remainer who was perfectly happy with what we had until Brexit came along and ruined it. I’ve actually never yet voted for either of the two main parties because I didn’t like what they were offering (which should also tell you I’m not simply angry about Brexit because I didn’t get my own way… believe me, I’m well used to votes not going my way by now!). It’s just that I didn’t see how leaving the EU was going to make any of our domestic problems better, and everything that’s happened since the referendum has only made me even more certain of that.

I’m angry because so few of you seem to understand what you’ve done. Despite the complete shambles that has ensued over the past two years, despite all the problems that have come to light, despite the increasingly frightening warnings about “No Deal” from people who normally stay out of politics, despite leading Brexiters abandoning key campaign promises literally the day after they’d won the vote, opinion polls still show that over 40% of people would vote for Brexit again. To me that’s pretty shocking. Most Leave voters also seem completely unconcerned about the problems Brexit is causing for other people (see above) – in my experience they’re either downright hostile and mocking towards anyone who voices their concerns, or they just stay silent on the issue entirely.

Initially I actually didn’t feel too antagonistic towards people who voted Leave. After all, it was an incredibly complex issue, both referendum campaigns were pretty awful (though in very different ways), there was a hell of a lot of misinformation floating around, and many of the problems we now know about weren’t widely publicised at the time. Under those circumstances it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people went for Leave. What does surprise me is that about 80% of them seem to be saying they would still go for Leave now, despite the massive disruption, despite the harm it’s causing to others, despite the serious misconduct of the Leave campaign, despite almost all of the promised benefits having evaporated. And they’re the people I’m angry with.