I’m a big fan of Brighton Pride. I reckon I’ve been seven or eight times now. I’ve marched in it, I’ve watched the parade go by, joined the party in Preston Park and in the city. And this year I spent the day working with my team to talk with people about Brexit and the need for a People’s Vote on the final deal.
Pride is an example of the UK at its best. Open, tolerant, positive and diverse. That is the kind of country that I want to live in and my little boy to grow up in.
The Brexit process has been precisely opposite of those values that I and millions of other British people cherish. It has been bitter, divisive and chaotic. The government has lurched from one disaster to the next. Britain is led by a Prime Minister whose record in the Home Office is best known for persecuting migrants and trying to make the UK a ‘hostile environment’.
Despite all of that we are still scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019. The prospect of a catastrophic ‘no deal’ departure that few imagined possible, much less voted for, in 2016 is becoming more and more likely by the day.
Pride is an example of how to heal the ugly divisions in the UK
The forces unleashed by the 2016 vote have exposed an ugly element of British society.
Whether we are successful in winning the opportunity for the public to have their say on Brexit or not we must accept that those deep divisions will not disappear overnight.
Pride is part of the ongoing fight for a tolerant society, where people are free to express themselves however they wish. Moreover, it is an example of how to heal those divisions.
In Brighton only one man, out of the hundreds of people we spoke to, refused to sign our petition. He said the EU would cave to UK demands in the end because ‘BMW need to sell us their cars’. That is one of the most enduring myths spread by the Leave campaign in 2016.
In the context of that Saturday in Brighton, he represented only a tiny minority. However we must learn from Pride that everyone has a right a be heard and to be treated with respect.
A People’s Vote on Brexit is becoming more likely every day
The fight to win a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal is part of the wider discussion in British society about the kind of country in which we wish to live. The Pride movement and the LGBTI community have been at the heart of that debate for decades.
It is that wider discussion that makes winning a People’s Vote a cause worthy of support amongst LGBTI campaigners.
In a democratic society, people must have the right to make their voices heard. The moment we say that we have reached the end of the discussion and the people cannot express their views, even when the facts have changed dramatically and support has shifted, then we are shutting down democratic debate. And that has troubling implications for other issues upon which we need to views to change.
A People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal is becoming more likely every day. So we must use the Pride message of respect, openness, and, above all, love for each other. That way, we will both win that vote and start to heal the divisions in our society.
James MacCleary is Campaign Director of the European Movement UK, one of the organisations campaigning for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
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