This week, the UK voted to leave the European Union. Many of my friends are very vocal about their displeasure at this result – and I agree with them – I voted remain and I think that leaving the EU is a bad thing for the UK, as well as for myself and my family.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear from people who voted out. A friend of mine told me today that he had been biting his tongue about the hate-filled comments about 52% of the electorate being idiots.
And why should he bite his tongue? I don’t agree with his opinion on Europe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it. I want to know why he voted out, and I want to know what he feels the future holds now. I want to know what Brexit means for him and his family, and why he feels the result is right.
For me, Brexit spells uncertainty in terms of my work contract. It means that family members have the threat of unemployment looming over them, and it means that our pipe dream of one day moving our little family to the South of France has to go on hold. But it also means, that I live in a democratic society, where my view is different from that of the majority. And I accept that.
I don’t want another referendum, unless we are offered very different terms by Europe that make a further referendum the right thing to do. But, I still want to hear why other people want a second referendum, and why they feel that it is right and democratic to do so. I want to hear why others feel that people who are now stating that they made the wrong decision, should be allowed to vote again.
I want to hear why my friends living in France feel that people who voted out disregarded their interests to such an extent, that they can no longer associate with them. And I want to hear how this decision affects them and their family, and I want to know how we can help.
I want to hear people’s opinions. In the press, on Facebook, on Twitter and in person. I want to have a sensible, adult debate about political issues. I want to disagree. Politely and with civility – in a very British way.
So don’t bite your tongue, don’t be afraid to disagree with me. And if I don’t share your opinion, don’t take it as a personal criticism. We may well disagree on Brexit, but we probably disagree on football too – I think it stinks, do you?
If you voted out because you are xenophobic, racist or bigoted, you are not the sort of person I would have associated with anyway. But I know none of my friends voted out for that reason, so let’s talk. Tell me why we have a brighter future, reassure me that this is the best thing for all of us. And remind me that it’s okay to disagree – in a beautiful country where democracy and freedom of expression are important.