By Andy D (aka RemainerNow)
Many people will feel exactly as I have done over the last week. It's almost like a bereavement. You have fought against something that will be incredibly bad for your country in so many ways and you lost. You fear for what it means for the future.
You feel that both the initial referendum in June 2016 and the 2019 general election were built on lies and slogans. You're trying to think of people you could blame and wish that things had worked out differently. You're angry that we live in an outdated unfair electoral system, one where lying and hiding from scrutiny is rewarded and truth and bravery are not.
But, we must now accept that Brexit will happen on January 31st. It's not what we wanted. It feels unjust. For many of us, it's hard not to feel that the efforts we have put in over the last three years are wasted.
Do not think like that. You should never regret standing up for what you believe in. We did what we could.
For me, my real activism journey started in earnest pretty much two years ago to the day. For the first 18 months after the referendum, following an initial bit of despair, I had first tried to see the benefits of Brexit and be less gloomy about it. But by December 2017 I had learnt more and more about the complexity of the process, the likely ramifications of it, and became convinced that those advocating it did not have a coherent plan to pull it off safely.
So I decided I had to do more and I started a new Twitter account. This was my first tweet.
I felt I could no longer stay passive. The aim was to combat the narrative that Brexit must happen as it was the will of people. I and the others who later volunteered alongside me spent hours and hours of our free time - lunchtimes and evenings which we could've been spending it with friends and family - engaging with and amplifying the voices of those who wanted to make it clear that they had changed their minds on Brexit. What it became, I hope, was a morale boost for many others, both in and out of parliament.
Other grassroots activists will have a slightly different, but perhaps, familiar stories. They may be part of some of the incredible local pro-EU groups all over the country who, come rain or shine, have been out on the streets every weekend making the case that this issue needed to go back to the people. Others got involved with special interest or youth groups like Scientists for EU, NHS against Brexit or Our Future Our Choice. Others have been fighting for all the EU citizens and British in Europe who have not had a say in what will vastly affect their lives. Others have spent days outside parliament shouting through a megaphone. Millions of people marched through the streets of London to show opposition to this issue.
None of this has gone to waste. We have done all this because we are patriotic, we've done it because we fear that some of the most vulnerable in society will be harmed from what Brexit will bring, because we are concerned about what it means for our children's futures. All of us can look back proudly to the efforts as we tried to fight for what we believed in.
So what's next? I have been thinking about this a lot and this is my plan:
Pause. For me personally it's a few weeks off to spend quality time with my young family over Christmas and new year, catch up on some life admin that has been neglected and meet up with various groups of friends.
Reflect. I am also going to ensure I think about how I can direct some energies into things that are important to make the UK better place. I would urge others to do the same. Perhaps join or get more active in an opposition political party and be part of helping it grow. Assess why we are where we are and be part of it becoming more viable. Or find a special interest group to fight climate change, pursue electoral reform or combat homelessness. Whatever you feel passionately about.
Hope. But maybe not hope that you may suspect. I mean I hope that I'm wrong on Brexit. I am going to hope I and the vast majority of the expert analysis of the complexities and ramifications of Brexit are way off the mark. I am going to hope I am wrong about the morality and drivers of Boris Johnson and those around him. Because in the end, the well being of all those in the UK is more important than being proved right.
Be ready to oppose. I'm going to continue to ensure that I remain engaged on what is going on in Westminster and Brussels. I am going to keep the RemainerNow accounts and forums open to ensure the network of thousands of brilliant like-minded progressive people I have met over the last few years do not go to waste. Because, despite my hope, if we are proven right on the Brexit issue, we are going to need these. We will need them to fight. Maybe this will be to influence and soften the relationship with the EU or to help us build a united progressive force ready for the next general election. But most importantly, we will need to make sure that the government delivers on the promises and hold them to account if not.
Maybe it had to happen. Maybe, if we are being philosophical, in the end, it always had to happen like this. Maybe in reality, we did not lose on 12 December 2019. We had indeed lost on June 23rd 2016. Maybe actually the Brexiters had to be given the chance to own this process unhindered. Maybe the only way for the country to deal with this issue one way or another was for one side to be proved wrong. As I have said, I hope for the sake of the country that it's us. But if it's the Brexiters, we musn't crow. We'll need to have our networks and activism alive, so we can deal with the ramifications and steer our country back on the correct course.
RemainerNow is an activist group which shares stories from former Leavers urging the UK to change its mind on Brexit.
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