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Brexit – let's do this gracefully

"I became increasingly dismayed as voting day approached, at the emergence of an ugly unwillingness to accommodate each other's views. It's ironic that on both sides of the campaign, the arguments focused on democracy and whether or not the EU is an exercise in democracy or has castrated us. And yet, particularly on Facebook, I have seen absolute vitriol spat out in such a way that I am left in no doubt that many have been too timid to admit openly how they intend to exercise their democratic right to choose. According to the online discussions, we are a country of traitors and racists. There was me thinking that we were apathetic.

The irony continues. Europe is a topic that dogged the Conservative Party for decades, confounding most 'ordinary people' who didn't have the faintest idea why or what it was all about. Apocryphal bendy bananas became daily fayre but ask anyone what the Maastricht Treaty was all about and chances are you'd be met with blank faces.

But it has been fascinating to see such passion ignited by a topic that most of us don't really understand.

Don't get me wrong. We're entitled to talk about and vote on things we don't understand. I'm just fascinated by how much it has brought out the aggression in some people. "If you don't agree with me, you are a traitor or a racist or thick," is pretty offensive stuff.

My parents' neighbour, an elderly woman, hand-painted a Remain sign and stood outside a local railway station and Fenchurch St station in London. Her sign said – presumably this was therefore the deciding factor for her – "70 years of peace". She was spat at, told she was disgraceful and two women asked staff at a railway station to have her removed. What?! Get your own placards out but don't prevent an old woman from exercising the very rights that make us a free country.

Britain is a democracy. The EU Referendum was a huge exercise in democracy. It was also a hugely disappointing display by our politicians who singularly failed to agree the key facts and figures and allow us to vote in a more informed manner. Both sides made some outrageous claims and used alienating language as a matter of course.

Finger pointing politics is not good for democracy. Only this morning Nigel Farage is saying that Leave is a victory for "decent people". I'm sure there are plenty of decent people among the 48% and those who didn't vote. (While we're on the subject, how I wish that politicians would stop talking about "hard working British families" every time they try to justify one policy or another or demonstrate their credentials.)

But as I say, Britain is a democracy and it has been split down the middle 52 to 48. I am worried that the Referendum has made it okay to bully. Democracy means the right to choose, the right to free and open debate, the right to peaceful protest.

Whichever side of this debate we were on, we need to respect each other's views and allow each other to air them. We're leaving the European club. Let's do so gracefully."

Phil Parry, Chairman, Spinnaker Global

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