We Brexiteers won the vote but Brexit belongs to everyone

The referendum count at the Titanic Count Centre in Belfast.
Photograph by Declan Roughan
The referendum count at the Titanic Count Centre in Belfast. Photograph by Declan Roughan

Well against the odds and my expectations, the vote went Leave and I will not pretend that that fact does not delight me.

I campaigned for Leave and voted for it because I believe that that is in the best interests of the UK and indeed the other EU countries.

Aileen Quinton. 
Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Aileen Quinton. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

It is also nice to be on the winning side but defining ourselves exclusively on where we voted is not going to serve us well in the long term.

There is so much talk about this having divided the county There are some people still going through the change cycle of shock. denial, anger, depression and indeed there are those who are actually hoping that it fails so that the can say “I told you so”. However I have been struck by the many voices from those who voted Remain who are disappointed, indeed very disappointed but who still accept the result and just want us to get the best deal possible. So I reckon that “let’s make it work” side is a massive majority.

Drilling down further. it is not the case that everyone who voted Remain loved everything about the EU and thinks everything can only be dreadful when we leave. Or that everyone who voted Leave hates everything about the EU and thinks we are emerging into unadulterated bliss. I know Leave voters who loved the concept of the EU but don’t like it’s direction of travel and I know Remain voters who despise the EU but have concerns about leaving it. Over and over again I heard people express their voting intention in terms of “leaning towards” and “on balance”. When you come down to it, many hopes and fears about leaving the EU are shared across both voting decisions.

My professional specialism is Risk Management, which should be as much about what good things could happen, as it is about stopping the bad things. In terms of a change this is about as big as it gets and sound change management needs to come to the fore. As a Brexiteer I think this change is good. However any good endeavour can be made to fail if not implemented properly and we need to ensure that that does not happen here.

Successful implementation will require good governance (not to mention good government). That will involve getting clarity about our objectives and other add on benefits of the enterprise and managing the opportunities and risks. Or managing the possibilities, as I prefer to frame it.

There can be a mindset amongst those driving change forward that has little patience with people who are deemed to be “negative”. This can be a big mistake. Exploring the concerns people have regarding change is critical for its success. This is not just about making people feel they have even listened to, although that is important. It is also about discovering potential threats and weaknesses and exploring their implications, so that they can be more effectively managed and provide assurance around that. On the flip side we also need to tap into the hopes and enthusiasm and manage both delivery and expectation.

Whilst I think that we have all got the same rights and stake in Brexit regardless of how we voted. I do think that it is important that we have a few people clearly identified as playing leading roles in Brexit negotiations who are clearly associated with a passion for the UK outside the EU. That is even more important now that the new PM was recently campaigning for Remain. She also needs to project strong belief in our Brexit future and make it credible.

Beyond that we need to be collating as many different hopes and fears from across the country and every feasible demographic and have as many people as possible able to see reflections of themselves and their interests involved in driving this forward.

Brexiteers won the referendum but Brexit now belongs to everyone.