My journey from reluctant Remainer to confident Brexiteer

My journey from reluctant Remainer to confident Brexiteer

I very much consider my Brexit experience as a journey. I’m 27 years old and the EU is all I’ve ever known. I can’t think back to a time before Brussels and remember how we used to manage just fine on our own, nor can I compare Britain’s place in the world now with that of decades ago. I only know one side of the coin: I know what it is to Remain, and Leaving is a total mystery.

That is how I felt during the referendum campaign. I studied a degree that largely focused on the EU and Europe: the history and development of the project going back to World War One and the League of Nations. Despite that study, I felt totally unable to form a clear view on the referendum debate so I largely stayed out of it. I found the campaigns uninspiring and for me the safest option was to stick with what I knew, which meant staying in. So despite some slightly tense arguments with my grandparents at the time, I reluctantly voted to Remain.

I should clarify that I was always more than happy to accept the many major flaws of EU membership and of the EU itself. However, in June 2016 for me the alternative was confusion and uncertainty. It was a case of ‘better the devil you know’. I was always very clear that we as a country are big enough and ugly enough to look after ourselves, but I just felt that the Leave campaign (and the Remain one too!) failed to articulate clear arguments in a way that would inspire me. There was no story about where we would go from here, and on both sides it seemed like lots of soundbites, shouting and slogans, with much less reasoned argument.

But ever since the announcement of the result, I have learned so much more than I ever could have done during the campaign. The first thing that riled me was the reaction from Brussels. Mr Juncker and his cronies effectively seemed to cry that the ‘stupid little English don’t know what they’ve done’ and frankly my response to that is not something that I could put down in print. The arrogance was astounding and I started to consider that perhaps there was more truth to some of the Leave arguments than I had given them credit for.

I spoke to some of my fellow Conservatives from the European Parliament, many of whom were Brexiteers, who told me of the waste, the gravy train and the bureaucracy that the EU had come to represent. I spoke to local people about their concerns too – about sovereignty, democracy and frustration in an area that voted overwhelmingly to Leave. Throughout that month or so after the referendum result I started to realise that truthfully leaving the EU was not just about security versus uncertainty, as I had framed it in my own mind; it was a much larger argument about what it means to be British, and about having control of our own destiny.

A year has passed now since the referendum and my journey continues. We’ve moved on from the argument about whether we stay or go. We are leaving. It’s already happening and the argument now is about what constitutes a ‘good deal’. I’ve been delighted to see the ever-growing list of nations that want to trade with us post-Brexit and the doors that can be opened as a result. I totally agree that we need to control and limit the numbers of people who come to our country and that means an end to free movement, not least to ensure that our local services can cope with the demand – and that should be a red line in our negotiations.

And in this last year I’ve also been elected to represent Mansfield in Parliament. It’s a constituency that voted 72% to Leave the EU and I’ll fight their corner for a good deal.

Some have accused me of jumping on a ‘Brexit-bandwagon’, but the reality is that since the UK voted to Leave I’ve seen a whole new side to the argument. Yes, I want security and certainty for my children, but I also want them to be able to forge their own path. Yes, I want them to be part of a global economy and to be able to travel and deal with the whole world, but actually that’s exactly what Brexit can achieve for them: a Britain that is outward-looking and that has a positive relationship not just with Europe but with countries all over the world; a Britain that is more comfortable with itself and more able to control its own destiny; an independent country that recognises its global role but actually puts Britain and British people first.

I see huge opportunities ahead, and huge challenges of course, but I’m more than comfortable with our direction. In fact, I am confident that the country made the right decision and the Government is getting on with the job of delivering the best possible deal for Britain.