Last Friday, June 24, Britain woke up to the shocking news that it had chosen to depart the European Union. The ecstatic grin of Nigel Farage – the herald of the Brexit decision – splashed across the media deepened the sickening dread that the U.K. was embarking on a tumultuous new chapter, burdened with trepidation and regret.
Chaos followed in the immediate aftermath, with the prime minister delivering a humble resignation speech, the Labour Party in tatters with the shadow cabinet handing in tearful resignations urging their leader to step down, Scotland and Northern Ireland looking to break away from Britain, the pound nosediving overnight to its lowest value against the dollar since 1985, and anger in the EU bubbling amid an air escalating uncertainty.
Little positivity could be reported. Even two of the most prominent Brexit figures, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, failed to deliver an inspiring and progressive celebratory speech, instead meekly expressing respect toward their renounced prime minister. Everything the Remain camp had warned about was gloomily unfolding, and more besides.
Brexit won marginally, securing a 52 percent to 48 percent victory, which equated to 1.3 million more votes than Remain with an overall turnout of nearly 72 percent. The narrowness of the vote indicates that Britain, like so many others, is a starkly divided nation.
But Is It Really as Divided as Initially Perceived?
As Britain grapples to come to terms with the result and the leaders struggle to get a proactive plan in place, a sense of remorse is gripping the nation, with a "Bregret" brigade sheepishly emerging from the woodwork to confess their decision may have been the wrong one.
A post-Brexit poll conducted by the market research company Survation found that a staggering 1.1 million people who voted to leave the EU now regret their decision and wish they had voted to remain. It found that many voters had used their vote as a kind of statement-making protest, or that they didn’t really think their vote would count.
As Leave voter Adam admitted on national television, he “didn’t really think his ballot would matter and was beginning to regret his decision.”
This only further twists the knife into the wounds of Camp Stay, by indicating that if these self-confessed "Bregretters" had voted with regards to the facts rather than on sentiment, incitement and protest, the margin would be a matter of thousands instead of millions.
So intense is the shock of the Brexit fall-out that a petition calling for a second E.U. referendum has already garnered more than 4 million signatures. British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is now leading calls for U.K. Parliament to implement rules that polls with a majority of less than 60 percent and a turnout of less than 75 percent be revoked.
Stating that he thought Brexit campaigners had fed the public false information, Branson told Good Morning Britain: “This country is going to go into recession… We’re heading towards a disaster and in business, if you realize you’ve made a bad decision, you change it.”
In fact, much of the corporate world has been quick to jump on the “buyer’s remorse” bandwagon, as Hungarian-American business magnate George Soros referred to the Brexit decision. Quick to point out that the people of Britain are not serious about leaving the E.U., Soros said they wanted to show their discontent with Europe’s political might and are now demonstrating remorse.
“It is [in] general what you call buyer’s remorse. It included everyone – the people who voted for leave, those who voted for remain, and those who didn’t vote,” said Soros at the European Council of Foreign Relations’ annual meeting.
While much of the global corporate media might be adopting this narrative, with the likes of ABC News hastily reporting the average Brit is terrified by the result, it’s certainly a sentiment currently felt on Britain’s streets and one we cannot ignore. Brexiteers, both known and unknown, working and middle class, young, middle-aged and old, are admitting they made a mistake.
As John Higgins, a 54-year-old car insurance handler from Bolton, in North West England, told Occupy.com: “To be honest, if I’d known what disorder it was going to create, I’d have voted to remain. Cameron’s now going and those looking to fill his place don’t fill me with confidence.”
Penny Sheridan, a business development manager in her 20s from the south of England, shares similar remorse, telling Occupy.com: “I was undecided right until the last minute. I guess I decided to vote leave in the end to help make youngsters’ lives brighter in the U.K. and now I’m beginning to doubt it will.”
Even Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the Sun, an outright Brexit-supporting tabloid newspaper that ran an editorial in the run-up to the referendum insisting, “We must set ourselves free from dictatorial Brussels,” shares the Bregret sentiment brewing in Britain.
“Four days later I don’t feel quite the same," the Sun columnist admitted. "I have buyer’s remorse. A sense of be careful what you wish for. To be truthful I am fearful of what lies ahead.”
The age-old argument that newspapers sway elections has reached new heights in the post-Brexit angst, so much so that readers of the mainstream, anti-Europe, non-broadcast media such as The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph are complaining that they were misinformed about Brexit. The Independent has noted that some who commented on the Sun’s website and MailOnline say they were not given the full picture in the run-up to the June 23 poll.
Speaking on the eve of the referendum, Boris Johnson urged millions of Sun readers to back Brexit, claiming they hold “history in their hands” and to “let the Lion roar again.”
The lion has certainly been let out the cage, and the sentiment engulfing the United Kingdom is one of uncertainty, unease and regret that those who decided to follow the Brexit path did so on a whimsical and destructive urge, duped by mistruths, broken promises and propaganda.