The title is a quote from an American campaigner and politician, Dick Tuck, on conceding an election defeat; it is well-known and perfect. Had voters chosen to remain we know how we would be feeling now so we sympathise with those who are disappointed or feel their ideals have been betrayed.
It is likely that many voters are feeling betrayed. Those that lost the plebiscite will feel their ideals have been trampled on. Those that won will feel that issues they wanted dealt with will not be settled as they expected. For example, on immigration it is already clear that it is unlikely to be reduced rapidly or by as much as hoped for by those worried by it. The fact that areas like Sunderland that have relatively few immigrants voted strongly for leaving whilst other areas with high levels, such as Liverpool, voted to remain suggests that the issue may just have been an indicator of more general disquiet. If so, those for whom immigration is a major concern have not been reassured and others have not had their concerns clearly articulated.
Also, since both camps include left, right and centre opinion there will be no comfortable consensus on how economic issues should be tackled.
Problems not caused by the EU won’t be solved by leaving it, nor would they have been by staying. Whatever happens now to the EU and our relationship with it we face big challenges, especially to our economy and security. Britain still has the highest debt amongst the G7 economies, faces gross regional imbalances and has low worker-productivity. None of these can be blamed on EU membership; nor has the EU helped, nor could it convincingly or by much, given the economic woes of the eurozone.
All these issues can be addressed more easily with a stronger economy and conflicting projections have been made about where we might be in future, in or out. We have voted out and our energy, and particularly our leaders’ energies, must be well-directed now towards our internal economy and external relationships.
It won’t help if those who feel their ideals have been betrayed distract from our focus by harping on what might have been. As we have often said, we also don’t know what would have happened had the vote gone the other way; we do know that it would have been taken to mean that nothing need change and so reform, if at all possible, would have become more difficult.
Those who offered gloom must now project optimism and we’re encouraged by the graciousness of the leading Remain politicians in defeat. Those who voted to leave the EU had their motives; the 17 million are not in the main racists and isolationists. We must all make the most of what most have chosen.