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Brexit: We take a look at how people feel one week on

Published 02/07/2016

From the still-in-shock Remain voters to the Leave voters who didn’t expect to win and the reluctant Remain voter who wishes she’d voted Leave, we take the temperature in Northern Ireland seven days after the seismic result
From the still-in-shock Remain voters to the Leave voters who didn’t expect to win and the reluctant Remain voter who wishes she’d voted Leave, we take the temperature in Northern Ireland seven days after the seismic result

From the still-in-shock Remain voters to the Leave voters who didn’t expect to win and the reluctant Remain voter who wishes she’d voted Leave, we take the temperature in Northern Ireland seven days after the seismic result.

‘I should’ve had courage of my convictions’

I was a reluctant Remain voter. I have absolutely no problem with regulated immigration, economic migrants (my grandparents were economic migrants from Canada in the 1950s), and would give a bedroom to a Syrian or any other refugee. My friends and family include those of several religions and none, and those of African, Japanese, Chinese and native Canadian descent (and that's just my two aunts' children and grandchildren), so I do not consider myself to be a racist.

However, I am also a political science and history graduate who has watched and researched the EU for more than 30 years. The EU is essentially anti-democratic and is following an economic policy that may have worked well in the 1950s and 1960s but is creaking now and will fail as the global market expands.

It protects the right of the employer to trade over the rights of the workers to strike. It protects vested interests in the member states. The real work of the EU is carried out by the unelected commissioners who have contempt for we plebs and even for the individual elected national governments. They are determined to push through ever closer political union whether the people of Europe want it or not. They imposed a government on Greece when the democratically elected government refused to impose the crippling cuts on public services and spending demanded by the commission.

Closer to home, the government in the Republic was forced about a decade or more ago to hold several referenda until the children and grandchildren of the men and women who had fought for national sovereignty handed it over lock, stock and barrel to a far more corrupt regime than poor old Britain had ever any pretentions to be. And don't even get me started on fishery and agriculture policy.

I was not convinced by the arguments that it was only the EU that had kept the peace for the past 70 years because I had always assumed that it was the work of Nato and the nuclear deterrent that had achieved that, plus the very successful process of denazification and lack of war reparations following 1946.

Britain has always been an outward-looking country. If, as I very much doubt, the rest of the EU decide that they do not want to trade with us, we have the rest of the world to trade with. So what if we can no longer get doctors and nurses from the EU countries? That will free us to recruit from India (currently one of the best and most advanced medical nations in the world) Australia, China, Japan etc.

The way some contributors on social media have been reacting, you would think that we are pulling up the drawbridge and entering a state of national siege. I abhor the overt racism that has been reported in the past few days, but that has nothing to do with being inside or outside Europe and everything to do a small minority being nasty vermin. Or are we supposed to believe that racism didn't exist a fortnight ago?

I followed the debate in the lead-up to the referendum very closely. I was not at all surprised by Corbyn's lacklustre performance as he was Tony Benn's parliamentary private secretary and, had that great parliamentarian still been with us he would have been campaigning for a Leave vote. In fact, I actually felt sorry for him, as even his brother said that in the privacy of the ballot box poor old Jeremy would instinctively put his 'X' beside Leave. Nor for similar reasons was I surprised by the early results showing massive support for the Leave campaign from traditional Labour, manufacturing and trade-unionist heartlands. It was, I thought, only to be expected.

So why, I hear you ask, did you vote to Remain? Quite simply, because every time I thought of Michael Gove and Nigel Farage (below), my internal soundtrack blared out Frank Crumit's classic The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away, which includes lyrics along the lines of, "You can always judge a man by the company he chooses, and the pig got up and slowly walked away".

However, I am now ashamed of how I voted. I should have had the courage of my deeply held convictions. I would have been aligning myself with true democrats rather than having to admit that I was part of the same group who have spent the past week indulging in class-ridden, ageist hysterical vitriol against the 17 million-plus men and women who voted Leave.

I have read posts by supposedly card-carrying Labour members who have queried whether a democratic vote is legal, who have suggested that working-class voters were not sophisticated or educated enough to have understood the question, so therefore the result should be null and void. I am waiting for them to suggest that if there is another referendum the voters should have to show their A-level certificates and degrees before they are allowed in to the polling station. So, as I cannot turn the clock back and vote again, I will get up and slowly walk away from my fellow Remain voters.

  • Jane Crosbie-Lyle is a proofreader and editor from Bangor

'I never state publicly how I choose to vote'

As dawn broke over Belfast Lough last Friday morning and the light bled into the Titanic Exhibition Centre, my thoughts turned to my eldest daughter.

While the pro-Brexit young DUP members whooped and cheered the national UK result, I kept thinking of Lauren and where exactly she was on the continent of Europe.

She is still on a month-long Interrail journey, moving in an eastern arc around the European train networks, from Berlin to Prague, Krakow to Budapest, Vienna into the former Yugoslavia.

At the time when the final outcome of the EU referendum rang out on television, Lauren was probably in either the Austrian or Hungarian capital, on her journey through areas of Europe that were once part of now-broken empires, or loose federations torn asunder by both world wars and the civil wars of the 20th century.

My stomach lurched at the thought that her freedom of movement around Europe, her ability to work without a visa or work permit anywhere in the EU, could be limited and of her living in darker times, where Europe would be once more fragmenting, rather than uniting, after the Brexit outcome.

Normally, I would never dare state publicly where I put my 'X', or laid down my 1-2-3 preferences in the privacy of the polling booth.

In fact, in recent years, I have become convinced that journalists should try to avoid even voting in multi-party elections (subject to each individual reporter or writer's choice) in order to maintain as much objectivity as possible.

However, given, firstly, last week's referendum cut across party lines, from the Ulster Unionists to Sinn Fein on the Remain side, and that this vote was the most important in 40 years, I felt impelled to enter the polling station. So, I will be up-front and open by confirming that, like a majority of Northern Irish voters who bothered going to the polls, I opted to remain within the EU.

This is not to say that I did not listen to the Leavers, or have misgivings about staying in the EU project. In fact, I found many of the tactics and the spokespersons for Remain to be seriously off-putting. I believe the campaign to have a second referendum, for instance, is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy.

In Northern Ireland, some of those most strident voices demanding a second referendum are among those who were active in arguing for a Yes vote in the 1998 referendum to endorse the Good Friday Agreement.

Relating to Brexit, those locally demanding a re-run claim the Leave side achieved the result through a series of lies and half-truths that, seven days on, are unravelling before our eyes.

And yet some of the promises made after Easter Week 1998 were also unfulfilled. How, you wonder, would pro-Good Friday Agreement figures react now if those who had urged a No vote back in 1998 demanded a re-run of that referendum on the imperfect, but wholly necessary, peace deal? Lauren, who is now sunning herself on the Adriatic Coast, was born in 1996, months before the second and decisive IRA ceasefire. Her younger sister and brother, like her, have grown up in a society far away from the one her parents grew up in during the Troubles.

Aside from concerns for them being free citizens of the EU, there is a nagging fear that the peace my children have lived thought would face any threat due to border restrictions, political instability, or deeper sectarian divisions engendered by Brexit. Ten years before Lauren was born, I, too, was enjoying a west-to-east Interrail summer sojourn, ending up in what was then still Yugoslavia. After visiting the austere socialism without a human face of East Berlin the style of socialism on the surface level in Yugoslavia seemed a positive contrast.

At the very least, if anyone had turned around and told me that, within a few years, you'd be back here witnessing a vicious civil war with tens of thousands dead, injured, raped and ethnically cleaned, I would have laughed at you. To borrow a phrase key Leaver Nigel Farage deployed in the European parliament earlier this week, well I am not laughing anymore. The fracture of the former Yugoslavia, the criminal neglect of managing its break-up and the cynical manipulation of ethnic chieftains is a warning to those whooping and hollering last Friday. Be careful what you have wished for.

  • Henry McDonald is a regular contributor to the Belfast Telegraph

‘We now have a chance for the UK to rule itself’

A couple of days ago, Daniel Hannan MEP - one of the highest-profile Leave campaigners - was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour of CNN. The interview became an instant hit on social media. Why?

Well, largely because Hannan was insistent that being a Leave campaigner did not imply either tendencies towards racism, or inherent objection to immigration. Amanpour was having none of it.

Hannan - when he had a chance to get a word in edgeways - made the point that the Leave campaign was essentially about taking back control. It was about the UK being able to govern itself.

Beyond that, the VoteLeave campaign had no real mandate, he insisted. And it certainly had nothing to do with thugs, or racists, who will always, unfortunately, exist in our society.

Now that a majority of the UK population has voted to take back control, the question that many people are asking is what type of control does the Government want?

It's clear that there is no consensus within the Conservative Party - and certainly not within the Labour Party - as to what a post-Brexit future might be. The leadership challenge within the Conservative Party is pitting Remainers against Leavers. This is creating considerable consternation within Conservative Leave ranks.

Had the leadership campaign been a straight fight between Boris Johnson and Theresa May, the likelihood is that Johnson would have romped home. But given the nature of Boris' exit from the campaign - essentially orchestrated by seemingly-Machiavellian moves on the part of fellow Leave-campaigner Michael Gove - the Leave campaigners have less of an opportunity to focus on a big-hitter candidate.

Andrea Leadsom is a relatively unknown quantity, despite her impressive performance during the campaign and highest-profile televised debates.

The public also seems to be confused as to the positions that the various candidates hold. Should the UK join the single market? If so, in what way? EEA? EFTA? What about free movement? Or should we simply start breaking the EU treaties?

This is the nature of the political vacuum at the minute. While Dan Hannan and other leave campaigners (myself included) argued that the UK Government should have primacy over trade policy and immigration, the policy direction has yet to be defined and various power-seekers on both Conservative and Labour sides have different perspectives on how Brexit should be achieved, or squandered.

However, the demands for re-runs of the referendum are waning. There's a growing acceptance that there is no going back. The SNP's attempt to win the moral high-ground and negotiate exceptionality with the Brussels Eurocrats has fallen on very stony ground.

There will be no special dispensation for devolved regions. And many countries with their own secession movements (like Spain) will ensure that these arguments go precisely nowhere. And as for the demands that the "youth" be more properly represented in the debate, well perhaps they should have registered and voted in the first place.

On the positive side, I believe that the power vacuum will be filled pretty quickly. For one thing, there is need for stability. The Conservative leadership candidates will each be assembling advisory teams. Given my own involvement in the business campaign for VoteLeave, I know that many of the senior business people in Business for Britain will be making their voices heard.

There is a strong feeling that kneejerk, non-negotiated single market entry (perhaps through the EEA) is a non-starter. All the leadership candidates will be aware that a very watered-down Brexit will impress nobody, now that we have won the ability to control our own destiny.

As for Northern Ireland, there is, I think, an emerging consensus here and in the Republic of Ireland. No one wants the Common Travel Area (CTA) to be threatened. At every opportunity - on the campaign trail - I was at pains to stress that the CTA must remain. And I'm very encouraged that the British and Irish governments have made clear that they'll do everything to protect it.

The CTA is a bilateral arrangement. Freedom of movement of people and trade has to be maintained and I'd hope that individual member states of the EU resist the introduction of trade barriers. There is no logical reason why the UK and Ireland can't continue to trade with each other unhindered.

Ironically, we have the opportunity to set an example to Scotland. It's up to our Executive to lobby for the Budget dividend that will arise from Brexit and to make our relationship with our closest neighbour even better.

  • Jeffrey Peel was the business spokesperson in Northern Ireland for VoteLeave

'Brexit has laid bare our very broken Britain'

Last Friday, many people awakened to the news that English voters had propelled the entire United Kingdom into unchartered territory by voting to leave the European Union. While the margin was narrow, it was the equivalent of a political tsunami.

The victory for the Remain campaign in Northern Ireland seemed hollow, as it was like winning a battle only for the war to be lost on other shores.

Within hours, the Prime Minister had resigned and the Labour Party started to go into meltdown. The decision of the referendum is what it is and, despite my continued desire for some kind of involvement with the EU for Northern Ireland that is consistent with the democratic will of the people here, the majority of English voters have made their intentions clear.

Could the result have been different is a question I have been repeatedly asked over the past week. The close result suggests it was always going to be neck-and-neck, but there were things that could have been done differently.

First of all, from a campaign perspective it would have been better to have a less-centralised - or, more specifically, less London-centric - organisation. London is not Britain and some would now say thankfully so.

Also, there could have been additional resources and autonomy directed towards more regionalised mini-campaigns - Scotland and Northern Ireland found this easier, even though the media here kept inviting in English voices to make the case for Brexit.

The north of England and Wales certainly could have benefited from more focus. Yet the campaign limits on national spending were pitiful for a referendum of such significance and scale.

Secondly, the referendum itself was unnecessary, especially when it came into being to satisfy a 30-year civil war in the Conservative Party. Furthermore, parliament is supposed to take national decisions, but unfortunately, too many MPs see themselves as glorified councillors and not national legislators.

If a referendum was necessary, why was a threshold of 2/3 majority, or 70%, not put in by the Prime Minister? Surely, given the historical importance of such a vote, it should have required a minimum threshold and in that way the votes of the devolved regions would have had more parity with their numerically stronger English counterparts?

If the Union was as important to pro-Union parties as they say, then no one would have objected to it. During the past two months, it was a bizarre sight to watch and listen to some of the most vociferous unionists from all parties taking cavalier risks with the Union they profess so much loyalty to.

Finally, the campaign for Remain allowed itself to be framed as Project Fear too early without proper rebuttal. When campaigning, fear and hope are the two main motivating factors which engage and then propel voters to the polls.

Its preferable to campaign on Hope, first, and then move to fear. The arguments for remaining in the EU were hugely positive, however, immigration was a concern that should have been handled better and sooner.

Leave campaigners had an empty cupboard when it came to the economic case for staying, but the Remain campaign should not have relied so heavily on economics to win the day, while ignoring immigration concerns, especially given this was a heart-versus-head election.

The Leave campaign ruthlessly and shamelessly exploited some real, but mostly imaginary fears over migration. It was a campaign worthier of Oswald Mosley in the 1930s than mainstream 21st-century British politicians.

Even here in Northern Ireland, where the foreign-born population is less than 2%, the Leave campaign still made immigration an issue and, yes, the old reliable chestnut of sovereignty. Of course, the sub-text of the sovereignty issue in Northern Ireland was a direct appeal to local unionists to demonstrate their Britishness.

In politics, it usually takes about four or five years for political lies to be found out, but in the case of the referendum the key arguments of the Leave campaign on the amounts given to EU, the promise to spend extra cash on the NHS and the free movement of labour between the EU and the UK all melted quicker than snow off a ditch as the same Leave spokespeople, from Johnson to Gove to Hannan and Farage, all back-peddled within 24 hours of the result.

The tragic murder of Jo Cox MP, the unravelling of the lies that underpinned the Leave campaign, the sharp decline of sterling, the calls for a border poll by Sinn Fein, the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum and the near-dissolution of the British political establishment, including the quick fall (or betrayal) of Boris Johnson and the parliamentary challenge to Corbyn, has thrown up a vacuum in political leadership.

Brexit may never actually happen in the way some campaigners envisaged, because the Leave side had no single, coherent, or cogent plan.

They not only said different things, but wanted different and opposing things.

What the Brexit win has done is to expose just how broken society is in Britain. The country most definitely has an integration problem.

Brexit has also laid bare the very threads which ties the Union together; Scotland has started the unpicking and Northern Ireland is uneasy as an embarrassing relative.

The referendum has had the same effect as a civil war and will take as long to get over.

  • Dr Tom Kelly OBE is chairman of the Stronger in Europe Campaign

‘We shouldn’t rule out fully rejoining EU’

I have always been a proud European and supportive of the European Union project and like many was bitterly disappointed at the outcome of the referendum. Gordon Brown was spot-on when he said the UK should be leading the EU and not leaving. Sadly, the UK will not be able to shape that reform as we head toward the exit door.

As a vice-chair of Northern Ireland Stronger in Europe, I was very pleased with the positive and professional campaign we fought and that Northern Ireland voted very strongly to Remain.

However, the key question following the Referendum is how we move forward and away from the often bitter recriminations of the referendum campaign and the labels of Remain and Leave.

For many local businesses, this is a difficult and uncertain time. The road ahead will be a huge challenge. The focus now is on how we move forward, create the stability and confidence all sectors of our economy need and that means strong leadership at Westminster and Stormont.

Northern Ireland needs the best possible deal and the NI Executive office in Brussels needs not just to remain open, but have additional resources and an enhanced role in promoting trade opportunities with the Single Market and maintaining relationships with key EU players.

Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir has met with business, union and community leaders to discuss a cohesive approach in responding to the EU referendum. It was a positive meeting and all those attending were very clear on the need to have an agreed plan in place.

My own personal view is that we explore the possibility of the UK having a form of associate membership of the EU. Longer term we should not rule out the UK fully rejoining the EU — that’s why I believe we need to create a new UK-wide, cross-party, civic society campaign group to keep this possibility alive.

  • Glyn Roberts was vice-chair of the NI Stronger In Campaign

Voters from both camps give their views on post-Brexit UK


Dave Thompson, self-employed musician, from Bangor

As neither campaign was giving me any reliable facts, Remain was the safe and easy vote. That said, I feel that the decision to leave can still work out very well for us. The average Leave voter has chosen their vote because they wanted change and change is exactly what they'll be getting. The Conservative party is reeling and, hopefully, we may get an early election with a real chance to turn this country around.

Would it have been nice to achieve this while within the EU? Of course! But that wasn't happening. Instead big businesses were being prioritised and the rich were getting richer while the poor were forgotten about. All we need to do is band together and we can definitely come out the other side much better off. We may have a difficult few years while the panic dies down, but hopefully we can become the equal, fair country we all wish to be.


Allison Sutherland, originally from England, lives in Randalstown

More hate crime is being reported than there was a week ago - decent-minded people will see that as a disgrace. Joining with Ireland would make economic sense for Northern Ireland which can't survive without EU funding. The Leave vote will definitely be the end of us being part of the UK. No matter how the unionists grumble, we've been sold down the river.

NI voted to remain in the EU, just as Scotland did. We would only gain economically from Europe if we remained. The island of Ireland could collectively gain €35/36bn a year. We could secure our borders and NI wouldn't be under the threat of migrants making their way into NI (the UK) via the Irish border.

The Brits don't want us, we cost too much. The Irish don't really want us, we cause too much trouble (and cost too much) ... we're better off joining forces with the Free State.

I don't see how free trade between the people of Ireland and the rest of the EU could possibly divide us.

Together we'd be stronger. Are sane-minded people honestly going to put our future at jeopardy because of the past? So, the British invaded and a Dutchman was King and there was a famine and, well, frankly 'stuff'.

That is behind us, we can never go back and fix it ... but we can move forward and take control of our future. Remaining calm is paramount as is the need to carve out an exit strategy from the UK.

The British people have voted to leave a system when no plans are in place for an exit strategy because the Leave campaign didn't actually believe the electorate would be so stupid as to vote to leave. I will fight tooth and nail for the economic stability of my children and grandchildren.


Barbara, from Newtownabbey

I still didn't know how I was going to vote as I walked into the polling station. I voted out but still wasn't sure I had done the right thing. All I know is the reason there had to be a referendum was because people were not happy with what they had. Regardless of what you voted for we are now out and we have to accept the outcome.

There is no point on dwelling on what could have been, it's only wasting time. Everyone needs to stick together and make things work for us now. People who will lose jobs or are affected by the change need to be helped and everyone else needs to stop panicking and think positively.

Dwelling on what could have been isn't going to make things better.


Jack McNeill, from Donaghadee, who is studying modern languages at Edinburgh University

Most of my peers were very pro-EU, but I struggle to come to terms with the undemocratic nature of the EU and the prospect of future European integration. Although concerned with the short-term consequences of Brexit, people forget the carnage caused by the EU in Greece through forced austerity (ironically, contrary to the results of a Greek referendum on the EU's bailout terms) and the increasing powers granted to obscure bureaucrats since the EEC of 1957.

The European Union of today is completely unrecognisable to the free trade area that my grandparents voted to join. So many of the EU's political projects in the past two decades have either failed or created problems across the continent.

And with the rise of Euroscepticism across Europe, the EU has done nothing to reform itself in the face of such populism. After David Cameron's negotiations with the EU earlier this year ended disappointingly I lost faith in the EU's ability to represent this country's interests.

Further, the EU's reluctance to reform could prove a catalyst for a resurgence of the far-Right across Europe, as seen in Poland's Law and Justice Party and Austria's Freedom Party. I am disappointed by the hysteria from both sides of the debate post-Brexit.

Now, I hope that we, as a country, can overcome the bitterness and divisiveness of the referendum and unite and decide the best future of our country


Steven O Neill's family is originally from Co Antrim. A self-employed computer programmer, he lives in Liverpool

Since the morning the vote was announced my pessimism has grown as the mood of many of those who voted leave has become increasingly belligerent and triumphal. Their attitude is that "people have spoken" and that's the end of the matter. They are impervious to concerns about increasing racist incidents and the damage to the economy.

It's hard not to feel that this is a revolt, not of the working class, but of a minority who have secretly hated all of the social progress of the last few decades.

As a gay man, this terrifies me.


Gareth Bond, history teacher, from Ballygowan

I voted Leave, as I feel that the European experiment in its current state has failed. This is widely acknowledged - the acceptance by the Remain camp that the EU is in need of reform is testament to this. The EU since the Seventies has marched unrelentingly towards greater political union and at no point on the way stopped to consent the will of the people of Europe.

What has it done when opposition has been voiced? Ignored it. A case in point is the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Republic of Ireland in 2008 - a democratic voice, one of the most pro-EU in the Union, rejected amendments to its constitution that would see greater political centrality.

The EU simply responded by requiring another referendum. It is this arrogance that has led to Brexit. The EU is neither democratic nor ultimately accountable to the people of Europe and - most hideous of all - has no wish to be. Further, I believe there is no great will to reform this. Either from within or without. There are too many with too many interests to keep things the way they are.

Germany has for decades reaped the benefits of a strong economy and the comparative weakness of the Euro, Eastern Europe has benefited from subsidies and the free movement of people, and more and more large corporations also benefit from the general unaccountability.

The recent debacle over Volkswagen evidences this. In the USA, every owner of a faulty VW car was entitled to a replacement while we here in Europe simply had to put up with it as the EU capitulated to the corporate powers that be.

The continent as a whole is, politically, on a lurch to the Right. There will be no Utopian near future where European countries suddenly start voting in centre left governments with a will to change how the EU works.

Britain has forgotten that our greatest virtue is that we are one of the most progressive, tolerant societies in the world - the belief that the EU does this for us is a myth. We are great not because we are the world's fifth largest economy, a founding member of NATO, a member of the G8 and G20, a permanent member of the UN Security Council or all the other practical reasons we can succeed outside the EU. We are great because we believe in democracy and the rights of the individual. Something I believe the EU has forgotten.

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