I was a Brexiteer but I'm anxious about what's to come – and I want to open a dialogue with Remainers

We Leave voters need to stop using that awful pejorative 'Remoaner' in recognition that having a view on democracy isn't undemocratic. And Remainers have to stop shouting 'Quelle surprise!' every time a news story validates their world view in some small way

Geoff Norcott
Thursday 30 March 2017 14:03 BST
Related video: Michael Gove rules out Scottish independence
Related video: Michael Gove rules out Scottish independence (AFP)

I’m often asked if I feel pressure as a Brexit-voting stand-up comedian in an overwhelmingly Remain-loving industry. Forget those guys: my wife voted to stay in the EU and Theresa May triggered Article 50 on my son’s first birthday. Nothing can match that scrutiny. I’m also beginning to doubt that me saying, “But babe, he’ll still be able to backpack in the Falklands visa-free” is doing anything to help.

I’m willing to own up to something pretty much all Brexiteers are unwilling to admit: I now feel uncertainty, fear, foreboding.

That’s not to say I regret my decision, but it would be bizarre to endorse the biggest political change in this country in an age without pausing to wonder if it’s for the best.

Forget divorce – Article 50 is the political equivalent of exchanging contracts on a house. The deal hasn’t fully gone through but you’re committed. It’s the same as when they bring the shoulder brace down on a rollercoaster. The greatest fear occurs just before you transfer the funds to the solicitor or say, “Yes, I’m ready to ride the Pepsi Max Oblivion.”

In the divisive trench warfare of the last few years, expressions of uncertainty have more or less disappeared from our political lexicon. It’s understandable that politicians need to hold a line, but it’s odd that we the people now speak just like them. We’ve all developed our own soundbites and counter-arguments. Political discussions these days are rarely progressive; they’re a game of conkers where no one ever thinks they lost their conker.

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Whether Remainer or Brexiteer, it’s simply not rational to claim you have precise knowledge of the outcome of something totally unprecedented – or that Brexit can only be a utopia or dystopia. In all probability, like the new series of Bake Off, it will seem like everything’s changed beyond recognition but, in a short while, the most sobering realisation will be that some British institutions are more durable than we thought.

As the politicians strike a more emollient tone it’s time for us all to try and find a more grown-up way to talk to each other. The idea your side somehow holds all the virtue cards is every bit as dumb as coin-throwing at a football match.

Let’s cut a deal. We Leave voters promise to stop using the awful pejorative “Remoaners” in recognition that having a view on democracy is not undemocratic. Equally, Remainers must pledge to stop using “Quelle surprise!” every time a news story validates their world view in some small way. It’s not because it’s French; it’s more that they can’t even say “I told you so” without showing off.

A common view which disappoints me is “Britain has no cards to play”. That’s patently not true. Our recent desire to spend money we don’t have on pointless consumerist crap we don’t need will be this generation’s equivalent of surviving the Blitz. And that’s precisely why we need to reassure anxious Remainers. No one ever brought a flatscreen TV after being told: “You lost, get over it” and having a curvy banana smeared in their face. Sentiment will be the only currency until the true outcomes of the negotiations become clear.

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Early scrutiny will be huge and the value of sterling will once again swing on things Jean Claude Juncker says as he finishes another complimentary seven-course lunch. However, patience is a reasonable expectation. If you believe Brexit is so clearly destined to fail, then let it fail by itself. If the public mood changes because of premature reactions to the inevitable vicissitudes of a long negotiation, it may sow an even more toxic political seed further down the line.

And if Brexiteers are serious about winning the war rather than just the battle, they need to demonstrate a truly international vision of Britain which speaks to the 48 per cent.

I’ll shut up now. I’ve been saying this stuff to my wife for several days and I’m still getting the same look. But I’ll finish by saying it’s in everyone’s interests for Brexit to succeed.

Geoff Norcott is a stand-up comedian who will tour his new show, 'Conswervative', until June 16 2017

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