So I’m a remainer, and I’m struggling to accept a vote not because I deny people the right to have a choice (though to be fair, across the world these things don’t tend to be passed by a simple majority, 60% or 2/3 are generally required) but because I do not think people were served well by either campaign.
Anyway, as it turns out I found myself in a long cab journey yesterday. Like all rabid remainers, I knew I shouldn’t but I couldn’t help asking the cab driver “are you an Inner or an Outer?”. “Out, definitely out” he replied with conviction.
“Fair enough” I thought, “its going to be a long journey, best just to let it go”. He then went on however to describe his reasons, or rather, reason. “Immigration” he said, and then recounted a story about how he knew of a none EU family who, having arrived in the UK, in his view had taken advantage of the country. OK I thought, if this is something from his personal experience then I can understand his annoyance. I did say however “You do realize that Brexit only affects EU migration? In fact Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were suggesting MORE none EU migration?”.
This started a long, fairly organic conversation in which he asked some questions and I gave him the facts as best as I knew them. By about half way through he was looking visibly shocked and at the end of the conversation he was saying “I want to change my vote, why did no one tell me this, how do we get a second referendum?”
So what did I tell him. Well, it wasn’t scare stories, it might have been a biased view, how could it not be, however I tried to be honest with him. Below are some of the points covered.
- Immigration concerns are valid, but the real issue is years of Government policy failure – there’s been a “housing crisis” off and on for 25 years.
- The Leave campaign didn’t expect to win and were terrified on the morning when they had. There is a reason why they essentially disappeared for over a week.
- Boris has been an inner most of his life – he chose Leave for career reasons.
- There is no guarantee on residency for ex-pats. His friend in Portugal who owns a house there may have to sell it. Spain and Portugal may well feel they want to start ejecting UK nationals.
- We are not fighting Brussels, we are negotiating with 27 countries with 27 parliaments who need to work for their own people (
full disclosure, I thought a unanimous decision was needed, not a qualified majority. Actually I was right first time, a mixed trade deal needs approval from all countries). If sufficient numbers do not think a deal is in their interests, we don’t get a deal.
- If we do get a deal even equal to what we have now, the EU will likely break up and so therefore a good deal was very unlikely
- We are looking at being the only developed country without a trade deal in place.
- Yes there are 170 countries outside the EU, but most of them are poorer than we are.
- Yes of course we will continue to trade with Europe, but premium brand Audis and BMWs are less sensitive to a 10% tariff than Nissan Micras.
- The EU is 45% of our market, we are 10% of theirs. We have to do a deal, they don’t have to.
- No there wont be a crash – we are probably past that – but there will be a slow down. Why would any company who sells into Europe invest in the UK?
- Services are hard to sell to other countries because of regulations. However we have one of the most open and deregulated economies in the world, therefore countries can sell into us far more easily than we can sell into them.
- Trade deals are complex, can take years (especially for services) and we don’t have enough experts.
- We talked about Northern Ireland, he was already worried about that.
- One particular point was trading with New Zealand, he said “well if I see New Zealand Lamb and Welsh Lamb I’ll buy Welsh Lamb” “yes but what if the New Zealand lamb is 20% cheaper?” “well, I’d buy NZ instead I suppose”.
This guy wasn’t stupid nor was he a bigot, he just had valid concerns about immigration and wasn’t really aware of the other issues.
So why am I saying this? My point is – take heart. Engage with Outers. Accept the concerns over immigration but discuss with them the wider issues. We know there has been a dearth of information and a lot of smoke and mirrors so perhaps we can persuade people 1 at a time. We don’t need to lie, or exaggerate, or “scaremonger”, the facts speak for themselves.
People are starting to realise they were lied to but its hard to accept you made a wrong decision so it will take time. But we have at least 6 months before Article 50. There’s time to turn this around.
And by the way, at the end of the conversation the cab driver shook my hand and thanked me. Hopefully he will go off and have a word with his family. Hopefully he’ll see some resonance between the things I said and the things he hears in the news. Hopefully he won’t be the last.