How did you vote in the 2016 referendum?

In My View… by Kate Ewert, Chair, South East Cornwall Labour Party


How did you vote in the 2016 referendum? And would you vote the same way tomorrow? Can you believe it’s only just over two years since we all went to the polls and chose Remain or Leave? It feels a lot longer. How the country has changed in that short time. We seem less at ease with ourselves, less confident about the future, and, worryingly, less able to have calm reasoned debates without falling out.

Life wasn’t easy for large sections of society – nowhere more than here in South East Cornwall – at the time of the referendum, as the Conservatives’ austerity policies saw cuts to health, education, the police and a range of other public services. But we were at least less divided as a people, more willing to listen to other points of view. Today, it seems the use of “fake news” (something we all used to refer to simply as “lies”) is an acceptable way of conducting an argument. Whatever happened to good old fact-based reason?

The plain truth is whichever way we voted on 23 June 2016 – and whether we still stick by that choice, have wobbled, or changed our minds completely – very little is getting done while the wrangling continues. Leavers must feel as frustrated as Remainers by the lack of progress.

It’s now just 203 days to go before the UK is expected to go it alone. You’d think a bit of planning might have got under way by now. You’d think the public would have a clear picture of the likely situation come 29 March 2019. But no. We’re still in the dark. If any one of us was organising a wedding, or a significant birthday, or even a holiday, on 29 March 2019, I’m sure all of us would have a pretty good idea of the arrangements by now. And that’s only a party – not the future economic and social prospects of 60-plus million people

Instead, this government remains locked in a sort of inescapable limbo, with both camps unable to court any sort of compromise. This week, as MPs return to Parliament after the summer break, there still appears to be little evidence of progress towards a deal. The infighting continues, as rival factions jockey for position, concerned more for their own narrow political careers than for the wellbeing of the citizens they are elected and paid to represent.

Meanwhile, the rest of society is left to watch from the sidelines, wondering when this huge diversion of time, thought and resources will end so that those elected to rule can get back to running the country.

Some are calling for another referendum on a deal. Others argue that would be unfair. Many in the Labour Party would say the only meaningful vote is a general election – when both main parties can set out, in clear terms, their vision for our place in Europe.

First published in The Cornish Times 07/09/2018

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