Brexit: Confessions of a Leave voter – Bill Jamieson

Protesters from the Leave means Leave group want a "clean, swift exit" from the EU (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Protesters from the Leave means Leave group want a "clean, swift exit" from the EU (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
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Bill Jamieson voted for Brexit in 2016 and, despite fears Theresa May’s Government is leading the country to become an EU ‘vassal state’, would do so again.

I voted ‘Leave’. How dare I confess to it now? Shame on me. The anguish, the misery, the uncertainty – and after two-and-a-half years, it’s still not clear whether we will leave at all.

How can I not have doubts about the mess that’s resulted? The disruption for businesses and households? The looming threat to imports of vital goods? The discomfort felt for EU nationals living here? The threat to peace in Northern Ireland? The looming hassle and bureaucracy of border controls? And all the while flying blindly in the face of my fellow countrymen who voted by a clear majority to ‘Remain’?

An apology is surely due. But more than an apology: some act of contrition in recognition of the Brexit misery I have helped to cause. And there must surely be a second vote to unwind the chaos, and a general election to rid ourselves of a hapless political leadership that has managed the Brexit negotiations so catastrophically.

Yes, I confess. I am truly sorry for all that has unfolded. In recent months I have felt as if I am drowning in a relentless in-tide of misgiving and second thoughts. That many other Leave voters may also be having doubts brings no comfort.

Few imagined at the time of the June 2016 referendum how hugely complex and difficult it would be. The Irish border issue was barely mentioned. The pace and style of negotiations with the European Commission was hardly discussed. Had someone warned back then it could take two-and-a-half years – and still with no clear outcome – it would have been greeted with derision.

Yet if there was a second referendum, I would vote Leave again – not in spite of all that has transpired, but because of it. For the mess we are in is a direct result of a leadership uncommitted to the referendum result. And I would continue to be wary of half-way house suggestions such as the Norway option, where we would still have to be compliant with EU regulations but with no voice in their determination – and still have to pay a hefty membership fee for this ‘privilege’.

READ MORE: Theresa May: It’s my Brexit deal or no deal at all

I would rather stick with my country, for all its faults, failures and vicissitudes. So long as we retain control of our affairs, as we have broadly done for 1,000 years, and defend the right to make our own choices and, yes, our own errors, at least it is still within our power to learn from them and to rectify.

We are nothing without a fundamental ability to alter and amend, to learn from the past and live more wisely. That is not the declamation of some crude nationalism. It is a plea for the self-government that generations before us have fought for. Let us mark our imperfections, as much as we do our achievements, so we can seek a better life.

I would vote Leave in hope that we would regain vital powers we have lost – from fisheries policy to business regulation; from trade deals with the rest of the world to controlling our own borders; from determining our own laws to the right to set our own VAT; and to be free of financial contributions to an unelected, poorly accountable bureaucracy that has failed to produce a clean audit of its affairs. Many SNP supporters voted ‘Leave’, as they voted ‘Yes’ in the independence referendum on precisely these fundamental considerations of sovereignty.

I would vote Leave in hope that we would be free to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. For it is the rest of the world that is showing stronger economic growth, with the EU shrinking as a proportion of our overseas trade.

While our mediocre growth rate has often been blamed on “Brexit”, this is blind to the fact that economic growth in the Euro zone is now lower than that for the UK – down to just 0.2 per cent in the July-September quarter, down from 0.4 per cent in the previous quarter.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit an ‘absolute nightmare’ for the economy

It is the euro zone, economists warn, that is near to recession, while in the UK growth in the three months to July hit 0.6 per cent. France grew by just 0.4 per cent in the latest quarter while Italy failed to show any growth whatever. What have we to gain by re-hitching our economic fortunes to a fading star?

And yes, I would vote Leave in anger – not just over a leadership that has handled the Brexit “negotiations” so abjectly, but more seriously because it has lost sight of the value millions place on self-government and control of their own affairs.

There is anger over the disdain for ‘Leave’ voters, and the preference of an elite for no-holds-barred globalisation above our own preferences and identity: an elite that views our history as a fetter and our own law as subservient.

We value the freedom to make our own choices. And we don’t much care to be told what to do and how to conform. Never forget that the EU is not some static creation. Its defining goal is ever-closer union. Yet for more than two-and-a-half years from the Prime Minister and her advisers we have had little but retreat, delay, ambiguity and dissemblage: the fateful progression to a vassal state.

It has been accompanied by a sustained Project Fear with dire warnings stretching from full-blown recession, through high unemployment and higher inflation (all proved false) to disruption of medicines for the NHS, shortage of key foodstuffs and raging dislocation of thousands of businesses unable to obtain vital components.

Be in no doubt that were the UK to vote in such a cowed state in a second referendum for ‘Remain’, the terms of our re-entry would be such as to ensure we never made such an ‘error’ of aspiring to leave again. I also suspect we would have to re-negotiate our membership rebate and commit, as if a new EU entrant, to membership of the Euro.

When a country proceeds by crawling on hands and knees, don’t anticipate respect. It is rarely extended to those who have foresworn it. That is why I am still for ‘Vote Leave’ – and to be a nation again.