Regret takes hold in Brexit bastion

the Union Jack flutters; below the flag of the European Union
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Grays, a town near London, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit. But three years after severing ties with the EU, some are feeling remorse as the country lurches from one crisis to another.

42-year-old Maria Yvars, a counsellor in Grays, argued that she felt cheated by politicians:

They didn’t give us the full facts… they told us things that were not true.

I did vote Brexit, but I regret it.

She added:

Now, this country is like a ship without a captain.

‘Sunlit uplands’

In the 2016 vote, 72.3% voted for Brexit in the Essex constituency of Thurrock, of which Grays is the largest town with around 75,000 people. That was the fourth highest pro-Brexit vote out of 382 voting areas in Britain that backed the split. Arch-eurosceptic Nigel Farage chose Thurrock as the backdrop to unveil his anti-EU manifesto for the general election of May 2015.

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The post-industrial area, which has taken in many migrants from eastern Europe, also includes Tilbury, one of the country’s main container ports. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported from there in 2017, finding Brexiteers had little regret about their vote a year later. However, the departure only took full effect at the end of January 2020. Boris Johnson had promised “sunlit uplands” for Britain. Instead it got Covid, and now a cost-of-living crisis resulting from sky-high inflation.

Thurrock Council, the local authority, effectively went bankrupt in December after a series of disastrous investments. In Grays’ pedestrianised town centre, one abandoned shop window reads “closed forever”. Like many other high streets in Britain, the shops left are dominated by discount retailers offering £1 items, charity stores, and bookmakers.


Support for Brexit across the nation has never been so low, according to a YouGov poll released in November. Fewer than a third of Britons believe it was a good decision, with one in five Brexiteers changing their minds, according to the poll. An NHS employee from Grays who wanted to remain in the EU said:

What did the Brexiteers expect? We lost EU funding.

Saving the NHS was a hallmark of Johnson’s Brexit campaign. Famously emblazoned on his red campaign bus was the message:

We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund the NHS instead.

Today, NHS workers – including, for the first time, nurses – have been striking in protest at government pay offers.

Brexit means…?

While the government attributes Britain’s economic malaise to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Brexit is increasingly being blamed for setting the country back after it cut off access to Europe’s single market across the Channel from Essex.

A woman in her 50s who wished to remain anonymous said:

Yes I voted for Brexit and I wish I hadn’t.

She explained that most people she knows regret their Brexit vote, adding:

Look at the country, it’s a disaster isn’t it?

The UK is the only G7 economy that has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic size in gross domestic product. The UK government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that leaving the EU will reduce the size of the British economy by about 4% in the long run.

Featured image by Unsplash/Rocco Dipoppa

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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  • Show Comments
    1. It was ONLY an “Advisory Referendum”;
      The weather on the day was awful;
      It was badly worded – deliberately – with various possible meanings (By civil service mandarins??);
      It was potentially – as it turned out – MAJOR Constitutional changes, on a single, simple majority vote, which is frankly unthinkable, but at least have a clear follow-up referendum to make sure;

      The Mr Topples of the Canary and elsewhere have SOME responsibility upon these matters, blindly parroting the corporate rightwing lamestream press line that any 2ndRef was somehow “Betraying” the will of the people.

      Utter. Fucking. Rot. And now we can clearly see the INEVITABLE results of imagining that the British Empire is out there just waiting for us to return, because two traitorous con men (F’rage and Grees-Moog) in expensive suits with income from offshored hedge funds made idiots out of millions.

      It is the RIGHT in a democratic country to question the wisdom of public policy; and that is NOT RELIANT upon whether or not the billionaire tabloid owners will stir up bucketloads of shit!

      Perhaps there is a lesson in here for Steve, and so many others too. At least Steve will have the heart and the morality to be horrified about the suffering, it is quite doubtful those who crafted that narrative in the corporate media will feel anything about the increase in poverty.

      Except pride… perhaps. And they’ll be well paid.

    2. Indeed. I’m dead racist, me, I hate foreigners, and I really, really hate migrants, so I want the UK back in the EU to join it in helping it drown migrating men, women and children in the Mediterranean Sea with the EU’s Frontex border army. Nothing is more important than Keeping Europe Safe from Foreigners. Innit, right? Look how effective the EU is in making migrants suffer for being poor:

      “From its headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, Frontex hunts down refugees trying to make it to safety in Europe. It has made the politicians’ goal of creating a “Fortress Europe” into a reality. Frontex runs a sprawling network of barbed wire, border guards and war planes and ships along the European Union’s (EU) external border. Frontex has received part of a £95 million investment by the EU into drones to locate refugee boats. The drones include models that were developed by Israeli arms companies to monitor Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip. This means that the EU won’t have to rescue refugees, and can get on with the job of stopping them coming into Europe. Surveillance from satellites, drones and aircraft allows the EU border agency to pin-point refugee boats.

      Once a surveillance drone spots a boat, the Warsaw HQ can inform the Libyan coast guard. The coastguard then picks them up and forces them back to Libya where they risk slave auctions, sexual abuse and torture. This is the frontline of the EU’s war on refugees.”

      (Socialist Worker)

    3. “A woman in her 50s who wished to remain anonymous said:
      Yes I voted for Brexit and I wish I hadn’t.”

      Come on Canary … You can do better than this sort of sloppy journalism.
      Yes – The country lurches from one crisis to another – Covid, the Ukr war, the damage to the economy after the Trussanomics experiement, etc.
      None of this is due to Brexit.
      The institutional corruption of Tory and Labour politics.
      None of this is due to Brexit.

      Some of us voted for Brexit for political-economic reasons that remain as valid today as they ever were.
      It’s true that many voted “leave” for xenophobic reasons – But not all of us.
      I still support the decision that was taken.

      1. The political commentariat, whether here on Canary or pretty much anywhere else in the UK, is dominated by bourgeois Europhiles who ignore the almost complete lack of democracy in the EU, its promotion of corporate capitalism over working class interests, its use of Frontex to ensure migrating poor people drown in the Med… which explains why we see such uninformed pieces here. I suspect that their view of the EU is that it supports sipping wine in bistros instead of drinking beer in a pub, so it must be entirely benign.

    4. They were warned and didn’t listen. How can they regret something they knew they were voting for?
      I personally regret not researching what Brexit was, or was the trick to make it sound like a set of wooden building blocks so Remainers ignore it?
      I also regret forgetting to register to vote, even when my vote wouldn’t have mattered, even though it’s posdible that if Remain won, they’d sent out the referendum again.
      Even so, I don’t believe in collective regret, even when it leads to this outcome. The comments from these Brexit voters are disingenuous.

    5. The reasons so many Remoaners are horrified are simple, and complementary.

      This was an elite trick so the UK could avoid the Clean Banking Regulations, as the UK has EASILY the most corrupt banks in the World now. Recall that Scameron “Toured the EU with his vision” – and got precisely nowhere, because leglising tax-avoidance would harm the EU countries, their tax-intakes, and social development (Money for schools, hospitals etc). Now, it’s just the UK almost entirely reliant upon the munificence of those who move their great wealth offshore rather than pay taxes. How’s that working out for us?

      The entire shebang was cooked up by the MOST reactionary elements, and in terms of the corporate media ownership almost all offshored. Murdoch pays no effective tax rate, and is more thn willing to destroy the UK to keep it that way.

      While the EU is strongly moving neolib, reactionary (Except for Identity Politics – SO important!), it does still have some remnant Social Chapter stuff, that underwrote Brits basic dignities. If you trust Grees-Moog on such matters, I have a job lot of used, but genuine, london bridges. On ebay.

      The outright shenanigans – including illegality and Unconstitutionality, the hounding of judges, the attempted smearing of remainers as traitors for that, the day in, day out screaming, foaming hatred and rage from the BeLeaver corporate media repeated in the poor fools that buy it, week after week on QT only able to scream in incoherent rage the current tabloid mnemonic.

      Listening to outright falsehoods, not only about the benefits of leaving, the alleged “Removal of beaurocracy”, entirely made-up claims about EU sovereignty and trade-policy that were simply regurgitated by each media and lying politician talking heads in turn. And watching destroy this country, and any pretences to actual democracy – because once you’ve managed to convince a significant % of the population, and not ALL inbred thickies, that THEM HAVING A SAY IS “UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY” – you can pretty much convince them of anything.

      Like BloJo was a better choice than Corbyn. Or the Brexshit Party single issue ego vehicle was better than trad Labour. Or that there aren’t any Nazis in Ukraine, the US hasn’t spent previously $Bns to prepare for this conflict because IT REALLY WANTS IT, and Putin is to blame for absolutely everything even though he did everything he could to avoid this war, as anyone could easily find out within 30 mins of looking up the history of the Minsk Accords, and who broke them (And who recently boasted they were never intending to implement them.).

      You can even convince folk that a new vaccine prevents transmission when you stand to make a fortune from private secret contracts. Perhaps after a drive to test your eyes out?

      The boundaries of “What is acceptable” Brexshit enormously enlarged. It’s fine now for politicians to openly lie. People don’t even comment when neutral civil servants are fired by highly partisan politicians for doing their jobs as THEY SHOULD.

      To ram through Brexshit, rather than DEMOCRATICALLY ASKING THE PUBLIC AGAIN FOR CONFIRMATION, Boris and the Twisted Firestarters set fire to every British institution. Undermined any faith the political system could work. Torched civil society.

      Here’s the not $1bn Question, not even $1m Question, but more a £1.27 Question you find in coins in an old pair of jeans:

      If BeLeavers were SO CERTAIN the majority of the British Public was with them, then they would have LOVED a 2nd Ref. It would have ended all Remoaner opposition.


      The truth is, religious-crazy BeLeavers knew they would lose, especially once they started demanding “Hard Brexshit”, causing the problems in Ireland, and forcing the employment of tens of thousands of NEW BUREAUCRATS for all the new paperwork the EU handled.

      The truth is, Belevers were swindled, hoodwinked, conned, no matter WHAT they thought about the EU.

      It’s a shame most of them don’t go live in Florida, it’s clearly what they aspire to.

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