With an issue as divisive as Brexit, everyone in England knows someone who voted for the other side.
It’s like when there are two major sports teams in a city. You might not want to acknowledge your opposition’s existence publicly, but in reality, they’re often friends and colleagues.
The voting split was almost 50/50 across Britain, but views on Brexit are often skewed, depending on a person’s local MP or their favourite news sources. From bendy bananas and other Euromyths, to a perceived “rising threat of racism and fascism in the UK”, there’s a range of viewpoints on all ends of the spectrum.
As to why, it seems to depend on where you live. Ann Widdecombe is an MEP for the Brexit Party representing South West England, which did reasonably well in the referendum vote as well as the European elections.
I spoke to a trio of her constituents, who were able to outline what they thought the future would be like after a successful exit from the EU.
Nigel Farage scored highly, with every interviewee admitting that they’d like him to have some say in any further negotiations. He’s a figurehead for the movement, and they argued that he’s “earned his seat at the table”. Despite his perceived accolades, they didn’t think he’d be allowed to take part because he “humiliated the political class”.
Two were lapsed Conservatives, who “betrayed the party” to make a point when voting in Europe. “After all,” one said, “we were never supposed to be in the EU by the time this vote came about.” It’s a fair point, and it’s likely a major factor in their outright majority in the recent elections.
Any potential far-right links were dismissed or outright denied. Serial milkshake-dodger Tommy Robinson has a solid following among Brexit supporters on social media, but two of the voters I spoke to hadn’t heard of him. The third got there after some prompting, but recalled him to be “a journalist who got in trouble for trying to convict paedophiles.” That’s partly true, but leaves out some important facts about the EDL founder.
The future of the Brexit party is bleaker still, as nobody thought they had any point in existing in a ‘post-leave’ Britain. Much like UKIP before them, the party could see a collapse if they actually get what they want in the next few months.
Instead, the interviewees wanted to focus on the future, and they were all confident that Britain would succeed. “We can still trade – (International trade secretary) Liam Fox is out trying to get us as many deals as possible, and we existed before we joined the EU.”
They were also adamant that Boris Johnson is the man to get the job done. He looks likely to be named as the new leader of the Conservative party, and they were sure he’d stick to his word. “Frankly, if Boris Johnson doesn’t get this done, he’s finished. I’m sure he’s going to accomplish what he set out to do.”
I asked about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, which was a risk that all three were willing to take. Above all, there was a strong sense of optimism, which is interesting, considering the many problems leave supporters have faced over the last year. I took the time to point out that things hadn’t been going the way leave voters would have envisioned back in 2016, but I was rebuffed; “(Former Prime Minister) David Cameron and George Osbourne already threatened us with the economy, but we were able to negotiate trade 40 years ago. We can get this done, although we might have to make a few sacrifices”.
Those ‘sacrifices’ will likely be carried by some of the poorest in the UK, but one claimed that “there are winners and losers in every scenario.” That is certainly true, but it’s an avoidable situation. However, time is running out, and leave voters seem determined to stand fast.
At the very least, Brexit has split the country superficially. The future is presently unclear, but it’s business as usual for the average leave voter I got to speak to.
It was hard to get any clear facts or stats out of them, but a large section of the media in the UK is pro-leave, and they’re happy to listen to what they want to hear. The same is true for many on the left, leading to the current impasse.