I Voted to Leave the EU and I Don't Support UKIP

Union Jack Flag
The Union Jack flying in Spain, June 27. The repercussions of the referendum's Brexit vote are still being felt. Jon Nazca/Reuters

My name is Elizabeth McGrath and I voted Leave. Now, I am currently not only persona non grata among most of my friends in London and Berlin (where I lived for eight years), I am also a metaphorical Brexit piñata—currently suffering the verbal blows of my Remain-backing Facebook friends. The stream of vitriolic comments on the post where I admitted to voting for Brexit is still growing.

It’s upsetting, but I can’t say it’s surprising as the Remain camp seem to have developed rather a mob mentality over the past month or so. I had kept my Brexit opinions to myself leading up to the referendum, mostly because I suspected my reasons would be misunderstood and that the homogenous nature of Facebook would mean I would be completely rounded on before I had even voted. I knew I would not be swayed and decided to bide my time until I was ready.

When I did finally come out as a Brexiter, I did so because I feel it’s important to lend a liberal voice to the Leave argument—especially now that we’ve actually won and previously rational people seem to want to rip us to shreds, while screaming that we’re the hateful ones. “ Nice one Britain. You absolute cretin”, “Today marks the beginning of the end for the U.K.”, “Thanks for ruining my children’s future”—all the sort of things that my friends were posting on June 24.

Despite the parroted rage of the social media hordes, I still wasn’t prepared for the non-stop nastiness that followed. Apparently people have forgotten that the right to freedom of expression is crucial in a democracy. They’re wailing about ignorant voters googling “what does the EU mean?” after the referendum, about being cut off from Europe forever, about economic destruction and the apocalypse. Seriously.

Interestingly, it’s my German friends who are hurling the most hurtful insults at me. The media there has clearly picked up on the big aspect of the Leave argument—immigration. Leave’s campaign slogan “Take Back Control” was as much about Britain regaining authority over its law-making as it was about borders and ending free movement. I was once an EU worker, but I don’t have a problem in future with asking for a visa if I want to go and work abroad. I would respect any country’s informed decision on whether they needed me or not.

The message around migration resonated with many voters across the U.K., not because they’re racist, but because they feel things have got out of control. Because I voted Leave, my German friends now think I’m a supporter of UKIP and a fan of its leader Nigel Farage. I most definitely am not. I am a Labour voter and and I’m not alone—many other rebel Labour voters refused to toe the party line and voted Leave. Gisela Stuart, Frank Field and Kate Hoey are just a few of the Labour MPs who added their liberal voices to the Leave campaign—they just weren't heard in Germany it seems.

It’s also clear to me that the Remain camp’s insistence throughout the campaign that the EU is democratic is a fallacy. We do not elect any of the 28 commissioners who propose and enforce EU laws—they are appointed via the European Council. They’re very powerful and they can’t be sacked. That, to me, is highly undemocratic.

Elizabeth McGrath Elizabeth McGrath voted to Leave and has been shocked with the vitriolic response of her friends. Elizabeth McGrath

Here is one of the hateful comments that was posted on my Facebook profile by a male friend in Berlin: “It's plain & simple: You voted with the fascists and now you use their lingo (that the mainstream media covered it wrong) to justify your naivety. If I hadn't heard that sentiment a gazillion times from morons in Germany or the UK, it would be pretty funny, but now it just makes me sick and I have to say it somehow fits ya…[sic]” Not content with that, he then followed up with an even more insulting private message to me, at which point he was defriended.

This next one came from a senior male ex-colleague: “You voted leave??? A racist hate campaign based on lies which were admitted not even 24 hours after the vote? I am shocked. But at least Trump sent his congrats. Unbelievable.”

Another male friend, this time from London, wrote: “When you've got commenters on the Daily Mail site saying they feel misled and would change their vote if they could, then you know you've got problems.” I told him I didn’t feel misled. He didn’t like that very much. Cue more vitriolic and deeply patronizing comments where I was told to “look up this” and “look up that” as if my IQ had dropped.

Newsflash! I didn't go to bed left-wing and wake up right-wing. As all my real friends know, I believe in integration, tolerance, multiculturalism, the NHS and equal rights. So just to say it once more for those at the back not really listening—that’s definitely not fascist. Perhaps some of my so-called friends would like to talk to people up and down the country, not just in London, and learn how disenfranchised and disappointed many in the U.K. are with the EU, the Conservatives and austerity politics in general.

Do you know what the good news is? There are roughly 13.8 million people in this country who voted Leave who have similarly liberal views. That’s because 17.4 million people in total voted in the referendum to Leave. In the 2015 general election only 3.8 million voted for UKIP. So the idea that this political party has suddenly amassed 13.8 million new supporters is ridiculous. That figure is mainly made up of rebel Labour and Conservative voters (like myself) who refused to be bullied by David Cameron into voting Remain. Cameron and co’s non-stop threats of what would happen if we voted Leave, such as a “punishment budget”, have backfired dramatically. You don’t threaten the electorate. That’s an arrogant and stupid thing to do. The fact that Cameron and Osborne’s reign is now over makes me feel even more validated by my decision to tell Brussels that it’s au revoir and auf wiedersehen, darlings.

I am saddened that a strong Labour government can’t now step in and take the reins, when it is so badly needed. Cameron and Osborne have spent the past six years pursuing austerity in the UK. Local authorities and public services have been hollowed out. A million jobs will be lost in the public sector by 2020. Privatization has proceeded apace in the Royal Mail, the prison service, the probation service, schools and the NHS, with no discernible improvement. Legal aid has been cut, social housing is disappearing, libraries and Sure Start centres for mothers and children are closing.

In the private sector, the number of UK workers on zero hours contracts has risen to over 800,000 for the first time—with women forming a large proportion of that group. In traditional working class areas of the UK, migrant workers who are willing to work for the minimum wage are being wrongfully used as cheap labour, undercutting jobs. The list goes on. Recently there’s been massive job losses in the steel industry and 11,000 workers sacked as BHS went into liquidation. Warnings of “armageddon” from the Conservatives if we left the EU, especially to people who have lost so much already, were utterly meaningless.

To those Remainers who are still chucking insults against the Facebook walls of their friends in the Leave camp, I say this. Britain had a referendum. Leave won. On a 72 percent turnout. It’s called democracy. Insulting the winning side is childish, as is calling for independence for London (that sort of attitude is what got you in this mess in the first place).

We’re Great Britain. And we’re going to be absolutely fine.

Elizabeth McGrath works in London as a creative copywriter in the advertising industry. She is currently studying for her MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University.

Editor's Pick
GettyImages-1071834188

Americans Blame Trump for Shutdown: Poll

Forty-three percent of those polled said they would blame the president and the GOP, while 24 percent would hold congressional Democrats responsible; 30 percent said they'd regard both sides equally at fault.