LONDON – Britons who have changed their minds since voting to leave the European Union in 2016 are among those uniting to call for another chance to reverse the Brexit decision.
These “remainer now” voters, former supporters of the U.K.’s exit, are adding their voices to the chorus of calls for a second referendum amid political paralysis over the issue.
One of the most prominent campaigners against Brexit, businesswoman Gina Miller, who shot to fame for successfully challenging Theresa May’s government in court, sees little cause for optimism in one of the most tumultuous weeks since the 2016 referendum.
Britain, she fears, is hurtling toward a crash-exit from the EU without an agreement after Parliament overwhelmingly rejected May’s divorce deal on Tuesday.
It was Miller, a Guyana-born former model and founder of an investment company, who won a court ruling in 2016 forcing May to consult Parliament before firing the Brexit starting gun.
Gary Maylin, 38, from Norwich in eastern England, said he originally backed leaving the bloc after more than four decades of membership because he “wanted sovereignty for the U.K.”
He recalled facing a barrage of pro-Brexit sentiment at the time that influenced his choice. “So I decided the EU was to blame for a lot of the things that were going wrong — the inability of our government to control our destiny.”
The world’s fifth-largest economy is in political turmoil and grasping for solutions that could smooth its planned departure from the bloc just 10 weeks from now.
May is scrambling to put together a new Brexit strategy after MPs rejected her EU divorce deal, but admitted Thursday that she cannot rule out a potentially damaging “no-deal” split.
Maylin was among 51.9 percent of voters to support leaving the bloc in the nationwide referendum 2½ years ago, trumping the 48.1 percent who went for “remain.”
But he says he would now “absolutely” vote the other way. “I’ve come to appreciate that we are not going to … succeed as a nation on our own,” Maylin explained, adding “walking away isn’t working for us.”
“We really benefit from being strong as a united Europe rather than independent as a country,” he said, pointing to everything from U.S. President Donald Trump to the continued rise of China.
Earlier this week, Maylin joined a dozen or so other Brexit converts who headed to Westminster, the epicenter of political power, to tell British MPs why they now want another referendum. The meeting was organized by RemainerNow, an initiative launched by a Europhile, Andrew Davidson, in his spare time with a presence online.
Davidson was left “disturbed” by the 2016 result and spurred into action by meeting regretful Brexit voters.
“There was so many people both in my personal life but also I’ve seen on social media or TV that had regrets over their ‘leave’ vote,” he said.
His movement is hopeful of seeing a second vote — repeatedly rejected by the government — as opinion polls show a majority would now support remaining in the EU.
A recent compilation of surveys by the nonpartisan organization “What U.K. Thinks: EU” found 54 percent now favor staying in.
Christopher Oram, from Dorset, is another former Brexit supporter who believes he was lulled into the wrong decision. “We had the MPs who were saying that we could have our cake and eat it,” Oram said, noting campaign promises of money saved, easy trade deals and a prosperous future. “Then I heard that we were going to leave the single market and custom unions so, again, I’m in shock,” added the 28-year-old.
“All the promises were broken.”
Those who have lost faith in Brexit revealed it had not been easy sharing news of their switch with friends and family who have stayed loyal to the cause.
Maylin said he has been harassed on social media, while Oram quarreled with his best friend over the issue.
Other friends have shunned Oram in response. “I find upsetting that people don’t accept … I have the right to change my mind,” he added.