OK, so the United Kingdom as a whole has voted for Brexit. I am profoundly disappointed.
For those of us who voted Remain, here are some things that we should do and some things that we should not do.
We should not begin to indulge in “I told you so” politics. Especially, we should not celebrate declining economic indicators that might prove our warnings were right.
Nor should we automatically blame any decline in public services on Brexit. There may be (there will be) other reasons why this might occur. Brexit cannot be the scapegoat for any future negative experiences. That would let the Government of the day off the hook.
We should hope that we were wrong, and that Leave were right. It is difficult to abandon an idea in which we have have invested so much emotion. But we must wean ourselves off it, for it is dead.
We should hope that new trade deals can be negotiated quickly with Europe, the USA and other places. We should not applaud political manoeuvrings which might obstruct those negotiations or hamstring the exit process.
Some people will suggest that the Prime Minister should immediately inform the EU of our intention to leave. Others will say that we should postpone that Section 50 notification indefinitely. Both types of person will feign sincerity and principle. But both approaches would be an act of sabotage and anyone recommending either course does not have the country’s best interests at heart.
If this referendum was indeed about taking control of politics, as the Leave side claimed, then let us take control. Let us promote the idea that voting matters, and that the other acts of democracy (campaigning, petitioning, lobbying, debate) matter. Let us internalise the idea that the people, organised, can be consequential. There will now emerge holes in our legal protections and rights where EU laws may no longer apply, and we must work to ensure these gaps are plugged. And we must demand that those who voted Leave help us with this task.
We should not indulge in labelling our fellow citizens, our compatriots, as racist, narrow minded, short sighted, or stupid. They are not. They simply were not sold on the European Project in the way we were. Those in power have a responsibility to bring the people with them on issues like this, and they have failed to do so in this case.
Anyway, moaning about insular Brits is futile. It didn’t work on Thursday and doesn’t change the result.
This referendum has polarised our country, but it is in our power to patch up the split that this referendum has caused. We must refrain from escalating a culture war.
Finally, we must not leave. Let’s not have too much chat about emigrating, please. Our country needs our attitudes, our sensibilities, our optimism, and our vision for what a 21st century country can be. We are still the same set people that we were on Thursday, with the same long history and vibrant, complex culture that we share with our European neighbours.