Everyone, however they voted in 2016, should proudly celebrate Brexit



Michael Hesletine announced this week that those wishing to celebrate Brexit on Friday are “rubbing people’s noses in it”. Evidently he doesn’t understand that for Brexiteers, this is nothing like winning a football match and using the opportunity to indulge in metaphorically mooning at the other side from the back of the Away Fans coach window. It is celebrating the sense of relief that comes at the end of a tough, bruising and painful fight. 

No-one on the ‘winning’ side of any argument can compel their opponents to embrace defeat but there are some very important things which unify us. The most important of which is political passion – I would rather have a drink with a ‘rabid remoaner’ any day of the week, than someone who ‘wasn’t fussed’ either way about Brexit – and anyone who is politically passionate should take heart from an examination of how Brexit was won. Brexit wasn’t won by internet-bots managing to brainwash nearly seventeen and a half million people in the space of a month, it was won by thousands of small pieces of political activism over the course of three decades.

Therefore Brexit-supporters have a duty on 31st January to raise a glass to all those who have engaged in a collective effort which achieved that which King Canute failed to. 

Let’s toast the original Maastricht rebels who put the cause on the map and made it clear that Eurosceptic feeling was such that the Euro would not be tolerated; Lord William Rees-Mogg for taking legal action against the government; the likes of Bill Cash and John Redwood who consistently articulated the dangers of the EU project in the face of appalling sneering and abuse; the founders of UKIP; Robert Kilroy-Silk for putting UKIP on the map; the four Peers who in 2004 were expelled from the Conservative Party for backing UKIP, the brave and high-profile defectors like Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell who successfully proved a point to David Cameron; those like Daniel Hannan who wrote fluently and articulately, allowing us to understand the true motivations and behaviour of the EU institutions; Vote Leave for running an organised and attuned campaign; Labour Eurosceptics like Frank Field and Kate Hoey who tolerated being given the political cold shoulder by many of their left-wing ‘comrades’; those in Government positions who resigned one after the other in protest at Theresa May’s dilution of Brexit; the ERG Conservative MPs lead by Steve Baker who voted down the Withdrawal Agreement on 29th March 2019 under immense pressure not to do so and of course Nigel Farage for creating a spectacular political force and having the cajones to say and do the things other politicians would not. 

And most importantly let’s raise a glass to all those ordinary eurosceptic people of this country who knocked on doors and had thousands of conversations about Brexit during the referendum persuading people to their cause; to those that risked distain in their workplaces or in their families by trying to gently put their arguments; to those that loudly and proudly flew their St George’s Flag from their houses and vans; to those who called up radio shows or went on Facebook to put their point of view and finally to every one of the 17.4 million who traipsed to the ballot box to make their mark – some of whom still keep their secret close to their chest. 

This epic struggle has taught us that every piece of political activism makes a difference and we must all remember that when the battle seems too great, when we are outnumbered, derided and out of energy, that magnificent things are still possible. That is surely something we can all celebrate! 

Molly Giles is a Barrister. Follow her on twitter: @mollygiles2015