I was genuinely undecided how I would vote in the EU referendum right up until the moment I entered the polling station. During the months of build up I did everything I could to find genuine factual debate on the subject which turned out to be almost impossible on anything other than a one to one basis.
So let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first.
I am not going to try and pretend that immigration was not a major issue for many people who voted leave. However I can honestly say it was not an issue for me.
The "remain" camp have almost without fail labelled anyone who has considered voting leave a racist. I feel this has, in some way, contributed to the strength of the leave vote being a surprise. People didn't want to admit they would vote leave as they didn't want to be branded as racists.
I think racism is a major issue in the UK but not just among those who voted leave. Just look at Britain's response to Syrian refugees ( a response by a government and opposition who mainly supported the "remain" campaign). We agreed to take 20,000 refugees over 4 years while our European neighbours took hundreds of thousands in a single year. A fact we should be totally ashamed of.
As a nation we have an issue with "foreigners" and we need to get past it and change. When we are being totally honest the prevailing attitude of both the "leave" and "remain" camps to immigration is awful. We only need to look back just over a year to see that every political party made controlling immigration a central part of their general election manifesto. In fact immigration has been a major part of every election I remember in my lifetime. (I am 49 years old).
As a nation we have issues. It's convenient for the "remain" camp to lay the blame on the "leave" camp but any honest reflection would demonstrate that it's a problem we all need to own.
So if I am not a racist, why, when it came to put the mark on the piece of paper did I finally choose leave.
I have been the leader of an organisation that had a vision but also contained a group of strong, vocal people opposed to the vision. Those people wanted to be a part of the organisation but they didn't want to go where the organisation wanted to go.
As a leader this was totally miserable. My entire life was consumed with trying to persuade this group to move forward or sorting out the mess their resistance created within the organisation.
The EU has a vision to become one political and economic state of member states. I am not sure if that is a good vision or not but I do know it is not a vision that Britain as a whole wants to adopt. Even the remain camp were saying lets stay in and get them to change their mind on this.
I don't want to us to be those people who want in as long as you don't move forward. I don't want us to be those people who cause an organisation to be paralysed because we don't want to go on the journey.
The Needs of the Many
I am pro free-trade, pro open borders, pro workers rights etc etc etc. I can see the huge benefits to the UK of being a part of the EU.
However I know how much pain those people on the sidelines trying to stop the vision caused me. I am not prepared to be one off those people even though I will probably be worse off by being out.
Basically the EU is better off without us. Without us constantly vetoing everything the EU can pursue its vision at full speed. (Even without us that won't be that fast).
I have decided I am prepared to personally be worse off to give the EU a better chance of succeeding.
Once Out Always Out
We were told throughout the campaign that once out we could never return. That's just not true. If the EU succeeds without us , as I hope it does, we will always be free to apply to rejoin the EU as a fully paid up member of the club as long as we sign up to the full package.
No special vetoes , no half in , half out. We will have the choice to be all in. If the EU is worth having then let's be a full part of it not a thorn in its side.
Of course if the EU totally fails we will be able to feel smug at how clever we were to stay out but I really hope that is not the case.
So What About In The Meantime
I don't believe being out of the EU will destroy Britain. It might mean we are not quite as great as we could have been but we will be OK. I am not one of those people who think being out of the EU means we have have to give up all the laws we adopted as members of the EU.
One of the supposed benefits of leaving the EU is the ability to reclaim our own democracy. If that's true we can have whatever laws we like now. (Well soon anyway).
If we want to keep workers rights, environmental concerns and human rights at the centre of our society (as I do) then we simply need to vote for the party that offer them in our own elections.
Equally controlling our borders does not have to mean closing our borders. Let's create the most fair, generous and humane worldwide immigration policy that has ever been seen.
One of the things about the referendum campaign that both annoyed me and caused me to fear was this idea that without a group of bureaucrats in Brussels we would lose these principles.
If we allow these principles to depart from our laws and our society then we can't blame the "leave" campaign or the EU. We can only blame our ourselves.
This Does Not Have to Mean We Go Backwards.
But what if our political parties don't offer these policies. Well lets start one that does. We are a democracy, we can do that you know.
Just look at how UKIP, the SNP and the Green Party have become relevant over the last 10 years. The days of two (or three if you count the Liberal Democrats as relevant) party politics are over. We don't need to be tied by Tory or Labour historical dominance as we once were.
We can create whatever Britain we want. If we don't end up with a nation we can be proud of then we can't really blame it on anything other than our own unwillingness to make it happen.
Move On ... Please
I accept that there are probably many holes in my argument. There are probably lots of issues and subtleties I just don't understand. But that's OK. I can live with that. I was asked, as a British citizen, to give my opinion as a simple yes or no. I did my best. I thought it through as carefully as my limited intelligence would allow and came to a decision based on multiple dimensions and not just emotion, upbringing or class.
I know that my decision will bring some pain to us as a nation but it is a pain I think has to be paid. I hope the pain is temporary and Britain either learns to thrive as an independent nation or gets on board and becomes a full EU member.
Thankfully as a democracy my opinion got added to everyone else's and although I take full responsibly for how I voted I am relieved that the decision was not all mine to make.
I know many will disagree with me and that's OK. I am sure I will receive some hate mail but even that is OK. We live in a democracy and that gives you not only the right to have an opinion but the right to do something with it. However please remember that no one forced us into this position. A democracy made a choice.
Democracy often makes poor choices and this could turn out to be one of those occasions. However I will defend a democracy's right to make poor choices with every fibre in my body rather than accept that all our choices should be made by a few, no matter how well meaning or clever those few are.