Regretful Brexit backers lobby for another vote

London (AFP) –


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 decision.

These "Remainer now" voters, former Brexit supporters, are adding their voices to the chorus of calls for a second referendum amid political paralysis in Britain over the issue.

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 UK".

He recalled facing a barrage of pro-Brexit sentiment at the time which influenced his choice.

"My MP was (pro-)Leave, all the arguments I heard were for Leave," he told AFP.

"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."

- Political turmoil -

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.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is scrambling to put together a new Brexit strategy after MPs rejected her EU divorce deal, but admitted Thursday that she can not 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 two and-a-half 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 US President Donald Trump to the continued rise of China.

- Calls for a second referendum -

Earlier this week, Maylin joined a dozen or so other Brexit converts who headed to Westminster, the epicentre of political power, to tell British MPs why they now want another referendum.

The meeting was organised 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 Remain.

A recent compilation of surveys by the non-partisan organisation "What UK Thinks: EU" found 54 percent now favour staying in.

Brexiteers have argued that such polls -- which showed Leave would narrowly lose in 2016 -- consistently ignores harder-to-reach Brexit supporters and are inaccurate.

But people's fears over the economic impact of leaving the bloc are real, according to pollsters.

"If you voted Leave but you now think that the economy will suffer as a result, your chances of voting leaving again come down to about 50 percent or so," John Curtice, one of Britain's leading survey experts, told AFP.

- 'Promises were broken' -

Christopher Oram, from the southwestern English county of 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 quarrelled with his best friend over the issue.

"He still thinks that we should be leaving, so that causes a lot of tensions between myself and him," he said.

"Our partners have now said that we're not allowed to talk about Brexit over the dinner table any more."

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.