Amongst the villains of Brexit, the #RemainerNow stand out as heroes

Amongst the chaos of last week, there were two events which stood out for me as changing the terms of the Brexit debate. The first was Theresa May’s statement outside Downing Street in which she acknowledged that one choice open to us if we rejected her deal, was “no Brexit at all”. The second was a clip from James O’Brien’s LBC show in which Bill rings up in tears because of his regret at his vote for leave in the Referendum. This has been very widely shared on social media, and it seems to have struck a real chord with people.

Bill is one of what has been dubbed the #RemainerNow community – people who voted for Brexit but would now vote remain. There is an excellent Twitter account – @RemainerNow – sharing their stories (and I want to thank Mark Pack for recommending this a while ago). For their courage in coming forward to admit they changed their mind, the #RemainerNow can face abuse from a (thankfully small) minority of Remain voters who blame them for their original decision. However, for me, they are the real heroes of the Brexit debate.

It’s extraordinarily difficult for humans to admit that they got something wrong and changed their mind. I have found myself going through with things just because it is easier to do that than admit I got it wrong in the first place. Taking an example, sometimes given by Vince Cable, it may be OK to change your mind on a house purchase based on an unfavourable survey, but it still feels wrong to do so.

There is plenty of evidence that we change our memories to avoid admitting that we have changed our mind. Polls at the time of the Iraq invasion showed that the majority were in favour, but polling now indicates that a significant majority now recall that they were against it. It is harder to do that with Brexit since people actually cast a vote (and often posted about it on social media). So those who have the courage to come forward and change their minds should receive our full support and praise.

The #RemainerNow come from all backgrounds and walks of life and include abstainers who felt they did not know enough to cast a vote at the referendum. One thing they all have in common is a willingness to change their views in the light of additional information. Moreover, that information is necessary for all us. I considered myself reasonably well-informed on the EU when I cast my vote but the last two years have made me realise that I was, in fact, profoundly ignorant of the Irish border issues and the differences between the single market and the customs union. In the two years since the referendum, many people have got themselves much better informed about the EU and the real trade-offs involved in leaving. It is undoubtedly right for us to take advantage of that knowledge by having a vote on the deal.

* Mark Goodrich is a former vice-chair of Richmond & Twickenham Liberal Democrats, a former expat who saw Brexit unfold from the other side of the world and now lives in Sevenoaks, Kent

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22 Comments

  • David Becket 21st Nov '18 - 12:16pm

    A look at the six grumpy old men backing Rees Mogg in the papers today, and a few more might join #RemainNow

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Nov '18 - 1:17pm

    Mark, this is good , but should we not see it from, both sides.

    There must be a goodly few who were for remain, now in support of leave, after the way they perceive, partly correctly, the intransigence of messrs Barnier et al.

    I am as keen on remain as ever because I never did feel emotional, ideological, sentimental, about this project. I am as far from the intent of the federalists like Monet of old, as of brexiteers like Mogg now. I believe in a loose but strong grouping of nation states, detest the notion of a superstate, but do feel as an independent minded nation we offer a unique addition to it that must be there as a real influence. I reckon my patriotism being stronger than my Europeanism, is more persuasive than the other way round, to those we might want to persuade.

    Should we find out how many have switched both ways?

    It might be good to, as we can see what these negotiations have changed and how.

  • Nigel Jones 21st Nov '18 - 2:19pm

    Since hearing of more people switching towards remain, the leavers are now hard at work building their case. I live in the so-called Brexit capital of the UK and many leavers are spreading huge amounts of facts and messages on social media to support their case. Thus, today they give a long list showing where the EU has helped companies over many years to move some operations out of the UK, even with grants. I suspect this information is correct, but unbalanced because it does not show any of the ways that the EU has helped the UK businesses. Nevertheless social media here is already showing that hundreds of people are persuaded by these messages from ardent leavers.
    Our party needs to compile hard information for remain. It is sad that over the last two decades the leavers were spreading their information against the EU, while remainers hardly did anything at all to present positive information about the benefits of the EU.
    Our case is also starting to decline in some people’s minds since the French and German leaders talked of a European Army only last week; this was in reaction to Trump, yet this and other leading voices looking for a federal Europe are in danger of turning people back to the leave side of the argument.

  • Mark Goodrich 21st Nov '18 - 3:25pm

    Hi @ Lorenzo – I can’t agree that there has been anything unreasonable about the EU response. The government boxed itself in with its red lines and it is hard to point to any EU position which is not consistent with the EU’s purposes.

    I haven’t seen many genuine Remain to Leave switchers come out explain themselves and those I have seem to mainly take your line above (intransigence of the EU). For the reasons given above and also because there is an element of cutting off nose to spite face in the idea that we should leave because EU negotiated better than we did, moving from Remain to Leave cannot be justified by new information.

  • marcstevens 21st Nov '18 - 3:32pm

    I agree with Mark Goodrich and it wasn’t the EU’s decision for the UK to leave and then albeit what was it only 38% of the population voted. More then turned out to vote for Labour in the last GE when they realised what happens if you don’t vote. I don’t see any intransigence in the EU negotiators but more on this government side as the other countries outside like Norway abide by the EU rules for a free trade arrangement and you can’t always have your cake and eat it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Nov '18 - 3:46pm

    Mark, no that does not appear right , if they have been good, why is the deal one that even our side recognise as lousy for the UK, the EU has not, from David Cameron to now, realised the level of dissatisfaction in the anti EU feeling, they could at least have made the withdrawal agreement fair , with us as a country able to withdraw from it!!!!!!!

    So many on our side take such a partisan view in favour of what is indefensible, the whole things needs reform, as with the NHS, BBC, any large body must change adapt and develop, if more said it, and said why we should see it as necessary too, we now would not be in the Brexit mess in Britain.

  • Apart from purely anecdotal stories shared on the @RemainerNow Twitter account, as referred to by Mark Goodrich, is there any recent and reasonably reliable opinion poll data on the reasons given by Leave/Remain (and Remain/Leave) “switchers” for changing their minds?
    This and other relevant factual data should help to inform our strategy for fighting any further referendum campaign. Let’s also hope that this would be conducted in a more positive and coherent manner than in 2016! We would need a mix of hard evidence and cogent arguments for Remain, supported by an optimistic message of progressive liberal reform within both the UK and the EU – not another dose of unrelenting “project fear”.

  • Nigel,

    The question you should ask the leavers pushing their agenda is

    If the EU are giving grants to move jobs while we are in the EU how bad do you think it will be if we leave?

    If we leave the EU who will veto the EU army you fear so much?

    You can’t argue facts with them they only do emotion. Just point out while in the gang you have a say, outside it you are just prey. Tis a simple message but facts seem to be ignored in favour of emotion.

  • Mark Goodrich 22nd Nov '18 - 12:08am

    Hi @Sean Hagan- very good point. All the evidence shows that the places switching most heavily to Remain are those hit hardest by austerity and thus a big overlap with areas of traditionally strong Labour support.

    Here’s one recent piece of academic work. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/11/19/austerity-swung-voters-to-brexit-and-now-they-are-changing-their-minds/

    Also backed up by the mega-polls carried out by the likes of YouGov. In short, we need to get out of our comfort zone in where we are campaigning.

  • Nigel Jones 22nd Nov '18 - 9:37am

    @Frankie; you make a good point and I agree with Sean Hagan about strategy. I used the local paper a great deal in the lead up to the referendum saying that we will be influenced by the EU even if we are not in it, since it is now so powerful and we are better off influencing it from the inside.

  • I’ve got to admit I sort of hope there is another vote, coz then I get to watch the remain camp meltdown again when their efforts are rewarded with a very hard Brexit.
    May has offered a one off chance of compromise that the EU is comfortable with. If it’s not backed then the gloves are off.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Nov '18 - 10:06am

    Frankie, your comments often seem surprisingly anti EU!
    You compare the EU to a gang. I think I’ve seem you make this comparison before. This hardly seems fair to the EU. But if you think it is, your conclusions seem worrying. If you knew a young person who was in an actual gang, would you really advise them that they should stay in the gang, because “outside it you are just prey”?

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Nov '18 - 10:10am

    On 21/11/2018 there was a public meeting in Tunbridge Wells addressed by Brexit spokesman Tom Brake. The audience was mainly Liberal Democrats from Tunbridge Wells (which voted Remain in 2016) and Tonbridge (which voted Leave) with some Labour (Remain).
    Achieving another referendum is possible, but a large majority in favour is wanted, such as 60%+ for Remain and 40%- for Leave. For simplicity there should be two options on the ballot paper, the government’s negotiated deal or remain in and improve.
    Getting the vote authorised by parliament is considered more important than widening the franchise, despite the SNP’s support for votes at 16 in the 2014 referendum in Scotland. The strongest case is for British citizens living in EU27 countries.
    Exaggerations by Leave campaigners can be countered by evidence from inward investors who brought their businesses to the UK in order to forward goods into the EU. If the UK were to leave the EU these businesses would reconsider and reduce UK trade. It does not follow that a share of a quota could or would be reassigned to the UK after leaving.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Nov '18 - 11:34am

    @ Mark Goodrich,
    I am surprised that you provided a link to an analysis that links the brexit majority vote to austerity.

    Who are the villains who so enthusiastically backed austerity?

    There is a certain irony to the fact that those who most oppose brexit were instrumental in causing it.

  • Catherine.
    I’m pretty certain he doesn’t think what he is writing through that deeply. In this case I suspect he’s mentioning gangs because it’s sounds sort of rad, like he’s a bit hip hop, a bit old school, the Wu Tang or Ghost Dog of LDV or something

  • paul barker 22nd Nov '18 - 3:35pm

    The Governments strategy is becoming clear & it looks like The Labour Leadership are going along with it.
    The 1st Vote on The Deal will be lost. There will then be panic on The Stock & Currency Markets. The Government will, covertly, encourage the panic. After MPs have been sufficiently frightened, The Deal will be brought back & this time will be passed with Remain Tories caving in completely, Brexit Tories splitting & Labour MPs being given a Free Vote or being whipped but told in private that there will be no consequences to going against The Whip.
    At the point where the the 1st Vote is lost & the panic begins, the idea of spending Months (or even Weeks) organising a Peoples Vote will come to seem crazy.
    What do we do then ?

  • Nom de Plume 22nd Nov '18 - 4:29pm

    Paul, if the deal is rejected it will add to the uncertainty. The currency will probably drop in value, but the whole Brexit process has been characterized by uncertainty. It will be time to reasses the options, including withdrawal of article 50. If it only takes weeks to organise a People’s Vote, that will be an option too. Panic will only happen closer to 29 March 2019. This game of chicken is of the Government’s doing.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Nov '18 - 3:06pm

    What irked me is TM’s reference to carrying out the rule of the people. It’s utter nonsense and she sounds like a parrot when she says it. Why not have a PPB with people who have turned from leave to remain?

  • Mark Goodrich 23rd Nov '18 - 5:28pm

    Hi @paulbarker. I agree that this seems to be the plan but I think it is doomed to failure. First, if everyone expects a second vote, there are no real consequences for voting against first time so the result is likely to be crushing. That means the deal is dead in the water. Secondly, I think markets have pretty much priced in the government losing so market panic is likely to be muted.

    FWIW, my view is that the government won’t put forward a vote that it is definitely going to lose so may well propose a #PeoplesVote itself.

  • We are living through an extraordinarily febrile moment in politics, and I think it is all to play for. I hope all of us have written to our MP to call for a Peoples Vote. If you haven’t, do it now.

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