Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
There we have it. 1652 long days after the referendum, Britain has left the EU. This departure was a source of celebration for some, and a time of grievance for others, but regardless of our individual views, the fact of the matter is Britain is no longer part of the EU. What we must do now is make the best of it – that includes looking for the positives in an “independent” Britain.
I am not embarrassed to say that I was, and still am, fully supportive of EU membership. I went on marches, made posters, signed petitions and encouraged my peers to vote for pro-EU parties. However, in the spirit of optimism and exploration, I am going to attempt to briefly put this aside to investigate the positives of Brexit.
I am very conscious of the echo-chamber my views exist in. In 2016 I was too young to vote, but my views, coincidentally, aligned with those around me: 96% of my fellow students who voted in our school mock referendum. How much of my views are my own? How have they been influenced by those around me, and the media I consume? If I put aside all previous conclusions, would I be more willing to concede to some advantages of Brexit? For this article, I have searched for the bright future Vote Leave promised to bring us, and attempted to consider an alternative point of view. To avoid turning this into another debate on Brexit’s merits, I will not counter-argue the positives I find.
I will now list what I found when researching.
Firstly, ideologically, I should support Brexit. I support decentralised power, and local governments and devolved parliaments having greater power within their regions. This principle should logically extend to British sovereignty.
Secondly, less competition for jobs (which may be a result of stricter migration laws) could lead to a rise in wages. I support raising the minimum wage and higher wages imply more prosperity for workers.
In addition, it could encourage more local sourcing and on-shore manufacturing. In terms of environmental impact, this sounds good. Encouraging businesses, and people, to shop and source locally could reduce Britain’s climate footprint.
And finally, for any pescatarians out there, in Johnson’s own words: “we will as a result of this deal be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish”.
These findings have not altered my view on Brexit. When researching, even when intently searching for positives, I still found more negatives and strong counter-arguments. This may be a result of the confirmation bias humans have, though I tried to prevent previous judgements influencing my thoughts. I think the main problem is there are too many supposed advantages of Brexit, such as stricter migration controls and lower taxes, which I don’t view as advantages. Whilst this experience hasn’t converted me, I have learnt about myself.
Even attempting to support Brexit momentarily makes me feel like I am betraying myself. I have realised how much of my identity is supported by my political beliefs, and how turning my back on those views, even for a few minutes, felt uncomfortable, alien and traitorous. This is a clear sign to me that I have become too comfortable in my beliefs; I have begun to take them for granted as an inherent part of me, rather than contextual, rational thoughts.
I would encourage everyone to re-assess even their most deeply held beliefs, about Brexit or about anything else, to contemplate why you believe what you do. Is it the media you consume? Is it your friends and family? Or is it careful deliberation based on fact and reason? It is only by stepping out of our own echo-chambers and lending an ear to those we oppose that we will ever overcome political divides. It is necessary work we all must do to be able to effectively formulate and debate our own views.