Regrexit? Fixit!

June 26, 2016

As I’ve outlined in my previous post, I think there are good reasons for supposing that Brexit will, in fact, not happen, but this is far from certain. If, like me, you voted Remain and are quite appalled by the result, what practical measures can you take? If you voted Leave but wish you hadn’t (for whatever reason), how can you make amends? Note that if you voted Leave and still think it’s a good idea despite the wave of chaos you have unleashed, this piece is not for you.

Well, you could post things about how awful it all is on Facebook, to be read by a group of friends who think broadly the same as you do. You could make attempts at tweeting pithy comments that will demonstrate once and for all how silly the whole thing is. Both of these are approaches I have adopted in the immediate aftermath. Neither of them is ultimately very helpful.

However, if you want a more constructive approach, there is a third way – why not write to your MP?

There is nothing an MP likes more than to hear from his or her constituents about a matter of national importance. Particularly if the communication is short, well worded, and gives them clear guidance about what you’d like them to do about it. Obviously, it is not for me to write anyone’s letter for them. You should write if you feel strongly about something, and it should come from you – form letters are generally to be avoided. However, here are two approaches that could be taken (I will be taking the first of them).

If you were a Remainer, you may want to stress how disappointing and upsetting you found the referendum result (and if your MP was also Remain campaigner, you can feel sure that he / she felt the same way). You may feel the result was too close to count as a clear majority for a decision that will have ramifications for decades. You may feel aggrieved that the chief “Leave” voters were the elderly who have least “skin in the game” in terms of living with the decision, whereas 16-17 year olds were denied a say in a decision that will affect the rest of their lives despite being allowed to make other life-changing decisions (marriage, sex). You may have concerns about the future of a democracy in which the media can selectively amplify and endorse messages from one side of an issue, while distorting and criticising those from the other. You may suspect that the referendum result was more of a protest vote that backfired than a real statement of intent, and be quite concerned about what that says for people’s engagement with and understanding of current affairs. Finally, you would like your MP to use his / her influence to ensure that the Article 50 process of withdrawing from the EU is not triggered, and that the Government makes a clear, unambiguous statement confirming that this will not happen.

If you were a Leaver who is now feeling regret and would not have voted that way now, it is particularly important that you write to your MP and tell them. There is no harm in admitting you have changed your mind about something, particularly if new facts have since come to light. I have changed my mind about things; for example I opposed market-based approaches to managing carbon emissions, but I have come round to the view that if implemented correctly they could make a significant difference. Anyway, you should explain to your MP what lead you to vote Leave in the first place and what has happened since to make you re-think. This is for you, and you alone, to think through and write, but it’s important for your MP to know about it – the referendum result was a vote to do something that, in all probability, would be catastrophically bad for the UK and the world, and it would be helpful to understand how we ended up doing it so we can avoid this again in future. There are important lessons to be learned here, and your input will be very useful. Ultimately, you probably want your MP to do the same as for the Remain case above – to do what they can to calm things down and ensure that we don’t follow through with this reckless course of action.

So – write to your MP today or tomorrow (you can use WriteToThem – it’s dead easy), being clear and polite, and see what happens. I can’t guarantee it will all turn out OK, but it is more likely to do so if everyone who thinks Brexit is a bad idea actually lets their elected representatives know about it, especially if they have switched from Leave to Remain in the light of subsequent events.

In the longer term, it is undeniable that the referendum has brought various issues to the surface and we will need to deal with them. My perception is that this is a case of chickens coming home to roost – we have, for too long, tolerated an economic system that was rigged in favour of the rich and has, as a consequence, allowed extreme inequalities to develop in society. Many of those who voted leave probably did so because they believed it would improve their own situations, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In my view, the fault lies with the neo-Thatcherite Vote Leave campaign which has been perpetrating a double lie; denying that the misery of the low-paid is the fault of the economic system, and instead blaming it on immigrants. We need to stop with this deception and accept that people need jobs that pay decent wages. If our economic system can’t make jobs available, we must acknowledge this openly and find other ways for people to have incomes. That, for me, is the main message of the referendum – we need to make things better for people who are treated very badly under our current economic system. Leaving the EU will not do that; we need to figure out what will.