Michael Morpurgo summed up exactly how we, the Remainers, feel, in an interview with the Telegraph this month:
“He says he actually wept when the referendum went Brexit’s way. “In the middle of my tears I thought to myself: do I belong to this country anymore?” He accuses the Tories of gambling with the stability of the nation. “This continent that had battered itself into all sorts of horrors finally decided to find a way of living together. Trading ourselves out of difficulty seemed a pretty good idea and it worked massively well when it came to keeping the peace. Feeling as European as I do [he has a Belgian grandfather], I wanted to be part of that project.
Europe is in terrible trouble. They have been our friends. I don’t think you desert your friends in their hour of need. We should have stayed, fought our corner, brought our wisdom to the conference table. Now we’re going to be on the outside, looking in.”
Well it is done. We lost. The London (and Scottish and a few other bits) campaign worked a treat, but we did not listen to the voice of the rest of the country, nor, and this is worse, even attempt to understand their lives, aspirations, hopes and fears of our fellow countrymen. Cameron gambled on the Westminster bubble world view being mirrored throughout the country; he was careless, arrogant and ultimately so blinkered it brought his downfall. And the rest of us trailed along behind him, sometimes unwillingly, whining and shuffling at times, but always, like him, looking in the wrong direction.
My Brexit husband, who is not crowing, just horrified by our stupidity and lack of empathy for what is the majority of our fellow citizens, reminded me of the people of Redcar, Newport, Hartlepool and other towns which were once the heart of steel and other industries. They did not think Europe did anything to stop cheap Chinese steel, to create new jobs. Europe was the Man who said No, and had no relevance to them whatsoever. At Immingham, about five years ago, the Agip refinery had to be refurbished. Suitably skilled workers abounded in the area, but the job was given to Italian workers, brought in specially, and even housed on a cruise ship so not even their wages went into the local economy. Whatever the old industrial North, or South Wales, or Midland areas asked for, they felt they were ignored not just by Europe but by their own out-of-touch-uncaring-gravy-train-government too. Not all of our population thinks like us. And we forgot that, and are reaping the whirlwind.
What now? Stop it in the Commons and the Lords? Referendum only advisory, but are we not morally obliged to follow the will of the majority, as befits a democracy? Some of us will be scuttling off, seeking Irish and other European (and eventually Scottish) grandparents to claim a European passport, or buying flats in Athens (you become a Greek resident then a citizen in five years, if you have got a few bob). As for the rest of us… a cunning plan is what is required. Or an Act of God (or possibly Putin) to terrify us into the non-implementation of Article 50.
Put away the pills, the rope, or the shilling for the gas meter; we are made of sterner stuff. Learn the harsh lesson of the past couple of months, and try to come up with a solution to keep us Europeans.