John Bird: So we ditch Brexit. But what then?

As Parliament votes on Brexit, there may well be some results that will satisfy no one in particular...

What happens to those people who voted for Brexit and sincerely want it, if anti-Brexits get to overthrow the referendum result? Will they just go away? Will they live with it? Will they disappear?

I keep getting letters from people who say I must, must vote against Brexit. It is imperative for the continuation of our civilisation; or that part of it out here in our island life. Okay, but what do we do with the other lot who saw their side win the referendum in terms of the vote?

Do we ignore them, write them off, see them as misled fools? What do we do about this slightly more people who voted for Brexit and want to see it carried out?

The fact that after the result it was suggested it was only a consultative referendum and it was up to parliament to decide does not help those who voted out. And that there were lies coming from the Brexit corner and therefore it was a big con. This certainly does not help these people who wanted the exit.

What do those who want to destroy Brexit and want to overrule the referendum do with the majority of people who voted to leave?

I ask these questions as someone who voted to stay, although reluctantly. What do those who want to destroy Brexit and want to overrule the referendum do with the majority of people who voted to leave?

I wrote about this a few weeks ago bec-ause I do believe this Big Issue is a Big, Big Issue. It’s a society-splitting issue. It’s likely to drive more people into the arms of reaction and extremism than anything I know.

Unless of course it all is a storm in a teacup and, as one politician said to me, that it would soon blow over.

Even if it does I am still perplexed by the many people who want to ditch Brexit, and who seem to have no plan as to what you do with the vast numbers of people who want to leave. You can’t just say to a large amount of people that numbers more than your own constituency – sorry! But you got it wrong. And we are right!

I wish I could offer some answer to this one. I have never known its like. I am being instructed, told, cajoled to oppose Brexit as a lethal, evil manifestation that over half of the voters voted for in the referendum.

So I am to ignore this vast chunk of people. I am to say: “You were wrong and the other people who lost the numbers game are right.”

If someone could say to me, give me some steer, as to what I can do about wishing away those vast numbers of voters I would greatly appreciate it. But as the game stands, a badly run campaign where the true issues – according to my understanding – were never really dealt with had produced a result; and that the ones who won are now being severely disputed.

There does seem to be a social class divide – even in our supposed more egalitarian times

There is a social class issue here, according to my own experience. The professionals, the administrators, the teachers and students I have met since the referendum have been vociferously for staying. And the builders, van drivers, labourers and publicans I’ve spoken to seem to be for leaving.

I am not being scientific. I have not been carrying out polls of my own. But there does seem to be a social class divide; even in our supposed more egalitarian times.

And it does not seem to necessarily be divided on the basis of who has prospered and who has not. Some of the business ‘start-up’ folk I have met don’t have a pot to urinate in but they are steadfastly behind staying. And prosperous builders are against staying.

This might be a ‘divided by newspaper’ situation. The war of Sun and Mail readers against Guardian readers. Or maybe divided by ‘cafés’ you use; with greasy spoons decidedly Brexiteers, and Starbucks, Costa, Nero demanding to stay.

Or maybe it’s a Tesco Brexiteers versus the Waitrose stayers. And maybe with Morrisons, and the new German supermarkets Aldi and Lidl, evenly mixed.

Maybe even smokers and vapers – Brexiteers, and non-smokers wanting to stay.


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But will the Brexiteers go away, accept they’ve got it wrong, be argued into a higher understanding? Will those wanting to stay equally be argued into submission?

I doubt it. That is why I feel there might be a sharp bit of learning and arguing time we are going through. And why in the next few weeks as parliament votes, in both houses, there may well be some results that will satisfy no one in particular.

What do you do when there is such an enormous stalemate, as if people who have lived together for so long have in fact been living apart; as if they have been living two different realities. And each now convinced they have right on their side.

Sounds like we might be entering some new Shakespearean times, when discord will become the order of the day. One hopes that it will all be resolved; as of yet there seems no end to this true conundrum.

John Bird is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue. Email him: or tweet: @johnbirdswords