Remember this?

I can still vividly remember the events of that morning back in 2016 when, shortly before 6 am on 24 June, I stood in front of my television with a cup of coffee, watching the news that the UK has voted to leave the European Union (EU). In the run-up to the referendum, all we heard about was Brexit and when the news broke that 51.9% of people voted to leave the bloc, I knew that Brexit was here to stay and that it will dominate discussions and debates for years, if not decades, to come. Working for a British bank back in South Africa, and visiting the UK many times during my life before moving here, I always thought I had the British people figured out. I used to think of Britain as a nation that was very risk-averse and that the question on the EU would always have resulted in “rather the devil you know”, but the nation surprised me that morning and sent shock waves to all corners of the globe. (Click here to read my post on that day)

In the immediate aftermath of the vote, we lost a Prime Minister as David Cameron tendered his resignation. Days later, Theresa May ‘won’ the Conservative leadership race (even though it was more of a ‘last woman standing’ situation as all the other leadership candidates willingly withdrew) and Her Majesty the Queen confirmed Theresa as our new head of government. It was now up to Theresa to form a new government and handle the issue of Brexit but then the opposition, doing what they do best, made it clear that Theresa is not an elected Prime Minister and therefore can’t deliver Brexit on her own terms. The opposition forced her to call an election but this gamble backfired spectacularly when it resulted in a hung parliament (no majority for any party). Yes, the Conservatives still had the most votes and remained in government, but after Labour made a whole list of promises they never intended to keep (like scrapping university fees and abolishing student debt), much of the younger voter base voted Labour, taking away the Conservative’s majority to pass any laws in the Commons. This was the worst situation the country could be in and the opposition parties had a field day.

For more than 3 years, the House of Commons was stuck on Brexit because the opposition parties (collectively) had all the power. Every time the government made proposals on how and when to leave the EU, the opposition parties simply rejected the idea regardless of how good or bad it was. From where I was sitting, it sure looked like the only strategy the opposition had was to kick the Brexit can down the road for as long as possible, until we ran out of road and forced to cancel the whole thing altogether. I must admit, for someone who loves politics, watching one of the world’s most powerful nations be crippled by one single issue was very painful. The opposition parties later started arguing that the country had changed its mind and no longer wanted to leave the EU. They argued that a “People’s vote” or “Confirmatory referendum” was needed because it was the only way to get Britain out of a state of paralysis. Jeremy Corbyn (Labour leader) and Jo Swinson (Lib Dem leader) also argued that if a second referendum were to happen, the country would vote to remain with a large majority, no doubt about it.

But then the wind changed again. A fresh breeze blew over Britain when Theresa May decided to resign instead of granting a new vote on Brexit (a decision I fully supported). Her resignation triggered another leadership bid and after 6 weeks, Boris Johnson, the man the opposition parties feared the most, won the Tory leadership ticket and subsequently became the new Prime Minister. Boris was not as diplomatic or politically correct as Theresa but had massive support behind him, not only in the Conservative party but also throughout the country. Back in 2008, Boris was Mayor of London and became so popular with the public that David Cameron knew that whichever side Boris campaigned for on Europe would most probably win the referendum. And he was right! No other politician in Britain had this amount of support behind them and the opposition knew that the days of controlling parliament was over.

Then, last month, on 12 December 2019, we had another general election. This was the Brexit election and to some as good as a second EU referendum because for the first time in three and a half years, the public was consulted once more. At 10 pm, the voting stations closed across the country and shortly after 11 pm, Elaine went to bed. I had a long night ahead of me and made a fresh round of coffee whilst waiting for the first constituencies to declare their results. I was caught up in the analysis and commentary of various channels throughout the night as the results started rolling in. At 8 am the next morning, we had a confirmed result that the Conservatives, with Boris as the leader, won the election with a landslide. Not only did they win a 78-seat majority in the Commons but also took so many seats from the opposition parties (who refused to deliver Brexit) that Boris won the biggest Conservative majority since Thatcher back in 1987. It was clear, the country still wanted to leave the EU and wanted Boris to deliver on this mandate, regardless of what the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Greens or SNP might think the country wanted. Over the weeks that followed, the Brexit Bill, which Theresa failed three times to get approved, passed through the Commons with flying colours and received Royal Ascent a few days later. The dither and delay were over and the UK had written into law its departure from the EU on 31 January 2020.

Tonight, was Brexit night and I decided to join the celebrations at Parliament Square in Westminster. It was such a landmark moment that I definitely wasn’t going to miss out on the action in the capital. Let me set the record straight, I voted remain back in 2016 which therefore puts me on the losing side of the result. I’m also a strong believer in democracy and don’t think Brexit is the end of the world as some people wants you to believe. In fact, even the strongest remain campaigners can’t deny the fact that 85% of global GDP sits outside the EU and therefore opens up a whole world of opportunities when it comes to trade. I also believe the debate of Brexit is now over and that we should stop referring to people as ‘us’ and ‘them’ which translates back to ‘remainers’ and ‘leavers’. Let’s be done with driving this narrative that divides people just because we lost a democratic decision on the membership to a political union we were very reluctant to be part of since 1973 anyway. As of tonight, we are all leavers and  it doesn’t matter if you’re British, European, Commonwealth or beyond, we all have a vital role to play in post-Brexit Britain to make a country that’s already great even more incredible.

So, you in or out? (Pun of course intended)

(see my Instagram Story for videos of the night)