What makes someone change their mind about Brexit? What makes someone brave enough to admit it – even on Twitter?
I’m lucky enough to work with the @RemainerNow team. We talk to thousands of people who voted leave or abstained in the 2016 referendum, but who now want to remain in the EU. Find out more here.
This is a list of some of the reasons RemainerNow people have given for why they’ve changed their minds. I offer no statistics or analysis here – but each reason has been cited by at least one person.
Please feel free to let me know of other reasons – yours or those you’ve heard, either in the comments below or @JamieWoodhouse.
Just #MakeItStop so we can focus on real UK problems
“I just want it to be over (remaining is the only way).”
“Our government has already wasted 3 years on Brexit when so much needs fixing in the UK. If we go ahead with Brexit – government will be doing nothing else for another decade or more.”
“I didn’t realise how complex Brexit was going to be and how badly our government would mess it up. Even if we still want to leave we need to revoke Article 50 now and have another think.”
“Brexit has made us an international embarrassment – staying in the EU is the best way of starting to rebuild our reputation.”
I voted in protest – at Cameron, at austerity, at my GE votes not counting
“Protest vote gone wrong – just wanted to give Cameron and the government / establishment a kicking – I didn’t want this.”
“I never thought leave could win – so was comfortable voting as a protest.”
“I was so confident remain was going to win that I didn’t bother voting.”
Vote Leave promises have been broken
“The Brexits on offer in 2019 are so different from 2016 promises (sunlit uplands, easiest deal ever).”
“Vote Leave promised we’d have a deal negotiated before triggering the legal process to leave. Now they’re claiming we voted for no-deal!”
“I voted to leave because I thought we could pursue a more socialist agenda outside the EU. Now Brexit feels like a hard-right Tory project + I don’t see the EU constraining other left-wing governments.”
“I wanted an EFTA / Norway / Soft Brexit. Given those aren’t on offer I’d prefer to remain. My vote seems to be being co-opted for ever harder versions of Brexit.”
“I felt like we should respect the result of the 2016 referendum – but it promised something we now know is impossible.”
“I believed we could get a deal that included all the benefits of EU membership without the constraints. I now know that was never realistic.”
“The Leave campaign lied (NHS, Turkey, trade deals).”
“The Vote Leave campaign broke electoral law.”
Leave politicians / leaders don’t represent me
“I’m disgusted with the people pushing Brexit – they don’t share my values / I don’t trust their motives.”
“I’m shocked at the way our government is willing to even undermine democracy and the rule of law to make a no-deal Brexit happen. This isn’t my Brexit.”
“Brexit seems to have emboldened the far-right – I want no part of that.”
I see the EU in a different light now
“I voted leave because I liked the idea of a proud, independent UK standing on the world stage. But in the modern world, it makes sense to pool our sovereignty – doing that makes us more powerful.”
“Our politicians and press only ever talked about the negatives of the EU. The benefits were hidden or claimed by UK politicians as their own. I’ve learned so much more about the benefits of trade, international co-operation, freedom of movement.”
“I didn’t like the idea of EU regulations being imposed on the UK – but then I realised we’re part of making those rules and none of them negatively impact my life at all.”
“I’d lost touch with the EU as couldn’t really afford to travel – it just didn’t feel relevant. I’ve since visited EU countries with my family – it’s helped me feel more of a connection.”
“Was told the EU was falling apart – now it seems stronger than ever.”
“I’m nervous about the UK standing alone given behaviour of the US, Russia, China – re: trade and security issues.”
“Given how global politics has shifted in the US, India, China, Turkey and Russia – feels like the EU is the only powerful hope for liberal democracy – we need to stay part of that.”
“I thought we could strike trade deals with the US, China and Commonwealth countries that would more than offset what we lose in EU trade – that just doesn’t seem realistic now.”
“I still have criticisms of the EU, but the damage to the UK from leaving isn’t worth it – we should stay and help make things better.”
“I voted to leave because I was worried about where the EU might be going. Now I think it’s better to stay and influence that direction. We can always leave later if we fail and disagree.”
“I voted to leave because I wanted the EU to be more directly democratic – to actually take some power away from nation states and give it back to the European people. Instead, Brexit now seems to be driven by the nationalism I despise.”
“Project Fear” is becoming project reality
“I’ve talked to my kids / grandkids – didn’t realise how they felt about Brexit’s impact on jobs / rights / public services.”
“Didn’t think about UK people losing our freedom of movement rights (live, work, retire in 31 countries).”
“Protecting The Union (Scotland + Northern Ireland) – I didn’t even think about Ireland in 2016 – Vote Leave didn’t mention it.”
“Fears over job losses – ‘project fear’ seems to be coming true.”
“Worried about NHS staffing + funding.”
“Concerned about availability of critical drug / medical supplies for me and my family.”
“Worried trade will impact public services funding / tax take and lead to yet more self-imposed austerity.”
“I’ve heard stories about the impact of Brexit on millions of EU people in the UK (e.g. stress of the settled status process) and UK people in the EU.”
Brexit won’t help the UK regions
“I voted leave partly to free the UK to invest more in the regions. Now I’ve realised the EU care more about UK regions than Westminster does.”
“I felt as though the benefits of EU membership all helped London, but didn’t do much for the regions. Now I see that Brexit will cause most damage to the poorest regions.”
This list was featured in this New European Article.
Many of these things rings bells for me – as a leave voter, but now thinking otherwise. I was – and continue to be – unhappy with a number of the aspects of EU governance. But it has since become clear that the main problem behind all of it is the dishonesty of UK politics and our dysfunctional political systems which are no longer fit for purpose.
I recall very clearly our entry into the Common Market – as it was known in 1973. Edward Heath took it for granted that the country was happy with this decision, but two things were wrong. Firstly we, the electorate, should have been consulted before going in. Admittedly we were given a vote in 1975, but the result was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that by then we were already members. Secondly, the impression deliberately created at the time was that this was a pure trading arrangement – nothing more and nothing political. We know now that this was a lie and it was always intended that we should become the United States of Europe. Every treaty since then has moved us further down this path. I would be happy to become part of a United States of Europe but I abhor the underhand way in which we have been tricked by the political classes into believing that was not their intention.
But imagine if politicians had been honest about this right from the start. I believe it would have been far more acceptable had they told us the full story then, and followed this up with persuasive reasons why it was a good thing to do. And it is very likely that the enthusiasm for entry on the basis of a Federal Europe would have been at a high level. So here we are 46 years later, still arguing about whether we want to be members or not.
What is needed now more than anything is to remain members because it is in the best interests of the whole of Europe – not just the UK; to reform our political system to adopt PR voting for our politicians; to hold regular People’s Assemblies to debate major changes in legislation and to hold regular referenda to confirm.
We should then become active operators at the centre of the EU leadership, rather than pretending we are different requiring different terms of membership in order to slowly reform and improve also the democratic processes within EU governance. This should include changes to the constitution of the EU as a whole and an aim for all its member countries to political systems that ensure everyone feels that their opinions matter and that we can all influence the way we live.
With the instability in the world, the loss of the USA as a reliable ally, Putin declaring that Democratic Liberalism is dead the combined weight and influence of Western Europe and others around the world is more essential than ever before.
Wow, that is powerful. You voted to leave and yet you have such great insight, I am quite taken aback, how many more are there like you I wonder?
Thank you John. I have been very interested in politics for almost 60 years. I do nothing lightly in the political arena and admit that I do get it wrong sometimes!
You missed a reason. I voted Leave (almost for a joke / fake vote) because I never thought in a million years we’d ever be leaving the EU.
I’ve heard that an awful lot.
Thanks Stuart – I’ve heard similar, although more often a protest vote that people didn’t really think would lead to us leaving.
If you do Twitter, give @RemainerNow a follow for more stories and to connect with others who regret their vote (or lack of vote).
Great to hear so much support for remain however I doubt if people will get the chance to express their views under this dictatorial government that the UK is now lumbered with. The whole Brexit issue was clearly a ploy to avoid the EU restrictions on off shore tax havens which would mean Rees Moggs and his ultra rich friends would have to pay their UK taxes just like the working class do.
Everything still to play for, Trevor. We need to keep up the pressure on MPs and hope it’s not too late. Brexit harms the UK and ~2/3rds of the country are against any specific version of it – we need our MPs to reflect that and do the right thing. There is still time (just).
The remainers warned everyone about the consequences of leaving the EU. Too bad the leavers refuse to listen.
It’s frustrating, Angela. The Vote Leave messages were carefully crafted (shocking to re-read this now http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/why_vote_leave.html) and the “Project Fear” response resonated for many already sceptical of authority figures, experts and government. More are listening now – I’m just hoping it’s not too late.
Was heavily conflicted and bombarded during the campaign with different ‘information’ through social channels. The vagueness left me so confused. I’m now distraught at the impact of my vote. Many will never admit that they’ve been hoodwinked, but hands up…I fell for some of it. TTiP was my concern. Not welfare, or immigration. I am mortified what has since unfolded. The disgusting racism and exclusion. I would dearly love to sway my vote.
Thanks Gayle. The campaign was cleverly crafted and targeted. Left Brexit deliberately vague while promising “all upsides” and “exact same benefits”. Shocking to read the Vote Leave campaign materials – they’re still here http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/why_vote_leave.html.
If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, get in touch with @RemainerNow or @JamieWoodhouse as we’d love to hear more of your story. Our #RemainerNow team helps voices like yours get heard.
Jamie – excellent article and like you I have heard many similar comments from #remainernow friends and others. I wonder if anyone has done any work of seeing if there are any particular reasons why the type of people prepared to change their views voted to leave in the first place?
For instance of I doubt if freedom of movement was high on the list of reasons for RemainerNow people to have originally voted to leave. Just a hunch. My guess is that NHS, giving Cameron a kicking and the amount we are spending on the EU were principal factors. Any thoughts?
Thanks Julian. I can’t claim much credit for the article – that’s due to the hundreds of #RemainerNow like you that have shared their stories with me.
The reasons I’ve listed back up your hypothesis re: the reasons that motivated people who have changed their minds to vote leave originally.
Some were (and are) concerned about immigration – but this was more because of practical concerns about struggling infrastructure than anything negative about immigrants themselves. Many have shifted their view as they’ve understood the net positive tax / public services contribution made by immigration and have recognised the real cause is lack of UK infrastructure investment.
Some were (and are) concerned about sovereignty – but as they’ve learned more, have realised that the UK is still sovereign, that we have massive influence in the EU and that in any type of international co-operation you have to pool / share sovereignty in a way that voluntarily constrains your nation. That’s what deals and arrangements are (UN, NATO, WTO, EU…). You can’t get the benefits of international co-operation (security, research, trade, rights, travel, logistics…) if you are determined to be 100% independent and isolated. It’s a question of trade-offs.
I’d agree that spending on the EU was a factor too. We put in more than we get out in grants – we’re a net contributor. As people have learned about how that enables our economy (jobs, public services tax funding…) in a way that dwarfs our membership fee – people have changed their minds on that too.
So I’d agree. Core reasons were protest vote (things are shit and I hate Cameron so I want change…), more money for the NHS, and generally believing the 2016 Vote Leave promises that we would get an “all upsides, exact same benefits” deal while allowing the UK to stand proud on the world stage as an independent nation. What’s not to like? Of course, we now know the reality of Brexit is radically different.