I have no sense of joy at leaving the EU, just relief. I always saw Brexit as a grim duty. I still do. I don’t want to re-open the Brexit debate itself here, what I want to do is draw attention to the role of independent bloggers and campaigners who I feel were never given credit for the role they played in the campaign.
Today sees the start of a new path for my country, one that I felt would be forever denied to us. In terms of our economy I do not know how Brexit will pan out for us; being more on the soft Brexit side of the debate I feel the EEA/EFTA option was a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, regrettable as it seems (to me at least) I am thankful that we are now finally leaving the EU, I have seldom been clearer in my mind about anything; it is the right thing to do. The journey for me has been a hard one, mentally and physically demanding during the campaign, battered by some of the vitriol I experienced subsequent to the vote by some within my social circle for the crime of exercising my democratic right.
The news on the morning after the referendum came as much of surprise to me as everyone else. I had campaigned hard in the months leading up to the referendum and with a couple of weeks to go I really felt we were going to do it. However the sad murder of Jo Cox I felt changed the mood – for both sides and I sensed a more sombre atmosphere in the week before the vote.
I stayed up for a couple of hours to watch the earlier results, these seemed to suggest we were close but not close enough, the media kept reporting that Nigel Farage had already conceded. I was tired and drained by it all and I had an early start at work next day, so I turned in believing we had lost.
When I got up I did not listen to the radio as I normally do when I have my breakfast, I simply could not stomach the gloating of the BBC. I waited until I went to have my shower; my radio there is tuned to music rather than talk radio. So I was stunned that instead of the latest sounds all I got was the news that we had won, against all odds, we had won.
So what motivated me to become an independent Brexit campaigner in the first place? Well for me the path started in the early noughties. I probably had made up my mind about the EU around about the time of the signing of the EU constitution – poorly disguised as the Lisbon treaty. All three main parties had promised the British people a referendum on the treaty; all three ensured that was never offered. It was then that I realised that the EU was something being done to us rather than something being done for us, it confirmed something that I had long suspected, that the EU was anti democratic.
The decade that followed I, like millions of others was denied a voice but I always carried the hope of a referendum on our membership of the EU. The unexpected election of a Conservative government in 2015 with a mandate to hold one made this suddenly possible. It was about September 2015 when I started to seriously consider how to campaign, at that time David Cameron had promised the referendum before 2018 so I knew if I was going to do something it had to be done fairly soon so I started work on building a campaign web site.
In terms of content for the site, I had studied the EU for a number of years so was quite familiar with its structure and had a reasonable understanding of how it operates – a lacuna in the knowledge of many of my pro EU friends, many of whom still believe (even now) that the EU Parliament somehow exercises democratic control. Pardon the digression but it strikes me that the only useful thing the EU Parliament does is to provide an income stream to UKIP. The irony is not lost on me.
Returning to the subject of content, as an independent I knew I would need a source for some of the more detailed and technical arguments. I reasoned that the economic case was always going to be the Remain campaign’s strongest suit having seen it played in the Scottish referendum.
I was not in complete agreement with all of UKIPs policies and although I no longer vote Labour the tribal part of me found it difficult to align with anything coming from the Conservative Party. The movement closest to my heart, the Green Party, were so absurdly pro EU there was little value in looking for support there. So after a number of weeks of researching I found Leave EU. I was quite inspired by the Flexcit plan of Dr North and knew about his connections to Christopher Booker, a Telegraph journalist whose articles I find engaging and thought provoking. I was also quite impressed with their stable of bloggers like Pete North and Lost Leonardo, Sam Hooper and Roland Smith. These were campaigners that made the case for Brexit through logic and not the emotive arguments made by UKIP and the official Leave campaign.
The official Leave campaign looked too much of an establishment stitch up to me, when the Conservative Party gets to run both sides of the argument you can pretty much guess the Conservative Party is going to win the argument. As an aside – a shocking revelation from a Brexiteer to Remain voters – no I didn’t believe the £350 million for the NHS either, when I saw that one I wanted to hide behind the sofa. Well done Boris et al. That one will follow us around for a couple of years.
So I entered the campaign with a web site, informal contacts with Leave EU and an active Twitter account (a form of social media I used to hate). I had also managed to build up quite a circle on the Daily Telegraph’s comments page before it was shut down just before the referendum – fortunately a number of us managed to stay in contact on other platforms. This formed a fairly good network of Brexiteers across the political spectrum for me to transmit messages from Leave EU, useful stuff from other Brexit groups as well as my own contributions – which of course won the day.
As the excitement built to the three month lead up to the campaign I was amazed at how many like minded people there were out there who took the time to contact me and coordinate things. There was Tim who prepared his own pretty neat poster – I posted it on my web site to allow others to download, 500 copies of which I delivered in my area per Tim’s instructions. There was Graham, a UKIP supporter and active participant on the Disqus forums who acted as my wing man fighting pro EU trolls on many occasions and totally understood that we needed to counter the lies of the BBC. There was Bella Sassin, a comedienne who loves to stick it to the Liberal elite. It was to Bella that I wrote and confided that something compelled me to get involved, I simply did not want to grow old wishing I had done something. And there was Daniel, a fanatical Chelsea fan, limited in his movements due to illness who helped manage my Twitter account during the day.
Beyond this, thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook and Disqus, thousands I have never met who engaged with me, helped me construct better arguments, corrected my grammar, helped me summarise, helped me sharpen my thoughts.
So to all of you out there, Pete North, Lost Leonardo, Roland Smith, Sam Hooper, Bella Sassin, Chauncey Tinker, Graham, Tim and Daniel, here’s to you, all of you who got off your backsides to do something. Your story will be told one day by a better writer than me – but that does not matter right now, it was your victory as much as anyone else’s.
Here’s to all the independent Brexiteers, ‘the little ships’ of the referendum campaign that saved our nation. Against all odds we did it, we did it.