It's time for Remainers to properly embrace regretful Brexiteers rather than railing against them

James Moore

Put the word Brexit up on Twitter and you’re going to get enough bile to digest the entire supply of rubbish that Boris Johnson’s mouth has produced.

I know, I know: there’s a hell of a lot of that.

But while it might happen about as often as finding a giant panda ordering a quarter pounder with cheese at its local burger joint, people sometimes post threads that are both thoughtful and lucid.

I saw just such a creature put up by a Leave voter while I was breaking a resolution I’ve been trying to keep of shutting down my social media feeds late at night (trawling through them in the small hours is not helpful when you suffer from chronic insomnia).

The tweeter explained that they were turning their back on Brexit because what has been delivered so far is nothing like what they thought they were voting for, or even imagined in their worst nightmares.

What stayed with me, however, was not so much their words but the reaction to them. While some people, Remainers, posted things like “I hear you, brother”, others from my tribe were very angry. Viscerally so.

One of them summed it up when they said – reasonably politely I thought – that they simply couldn’t forgive anyone who voted for Brexit given the mess it has made of the country, and the quite extraordinary nastiness of the people who are driving it.

I found myself empathising with that, at least at first.

Working in a job that gives me a ringside seat as the country descends into a pit is often less than pleasant.

I see the bad economic data coming in daily. I speak to business leaders and trade unionists who are quietly despairing. I read the pronouncements of a Government that appears utterly incapable of being honest about anything relating to its sole policy of note. I wince as it does everything in its power to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of its activities. It is only barely kept in check by the courts.

Yes, I could understand the commenter’s anger at the people who facilitated this with their votes.

But the key point made by the original tweeter was that they didn’t vote for this.

Those who backed Brexit did so for a wide variety of reasons, and with a variety of aims in mind.

Some of the Leavers are twisted enough to be pleased with the mess that is being made. Some of them, mostly among the elderly army of Brextremists who think we should wall off the country, and get their entertainment by going to far-right rallies, don’t think May and co are going far enough.

But others, the moderates, the ones who envisaged the UK opting for a semi at the end of Europe Street next door to Norway, as many Brexiteers originally suggested would be the result, might well be similarly inclined to the tweeter whose thread I followed.

Moreover, to express their doubts publicly, on Twitter of all places, takes a bit of gumption. It’s self-defeating of Remainers who would castigate them for doing so.

Telling Regrexiters to take a running jump will not help those of us who hope to see something salvaged from this godawful mess, because we need them.

The referendum result is what Brexiteers continue to point to. It is their best and only argument, despite their having achieved it through a network of lies, the questions that have been raised over the way money was used to spread them, the fact that they deliberately never spelled out what would follow.

Countering it requires a sustained shift in public opinion. The polls suggest that it is happening, albeit slowly.

Partly it’s because Brexit’s most vociferous backers come from an elderly demographic that is dying off. Partly it’s through the apathetic becoming active. Partly it’s because of people like the tweeter I saw. All of them are important.

Those in the latter group? We need to embrace them. We need to say: “I hear you, brother. Come join us. And roll up your sleeves while you’re at it.”