Why I voted leave, by the MEP candidate fighting for remain

My name is Emma-Jane Manley, I am a candidate for the remain-backing Change UK in the East Midlands, and I voted leave in 2016.

I’m a primary teacher, married and mother to two wonderful girls. One of my daughters has autism, epilepsy and learning difficulties. She was awarded a full special needs statement at the age of 3 years old in order to recognise her needs and assist her within early years and education settings. We thought the hardest battle was won before the time came when she needed to move to a specialist educational setting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

We visited lots of different places and in the end found a fantastic specialist autism unit more than twenty miles away. There were places available, but not the money to fund her to go.

I ended up researching and writing a long report setting out how why only this particular school could meet my daughter’s educational needs. I was lucky and my daughter was awarded her school place, but as a teacher I also knew how many places for children like my daughter had been taken away because of lack of money.

Throughout 2016 I kept thinking about the children with parents who might not know how to challenge the system. Who is fighting for them? Even as I fought for my daughter, I felt guilty about it, and then I felt angry, because why should I feel guilty about trying hard for my child? Why wasn’t there enough money for all of the children like my daughter?

And then came the referendum.

Like so many of us, I worked long hours and came home every day to a busy household and a child with additional needs. I tried my best to read the papers, watch the news and keep myself informed of the debates and discussions taking place. I took my vote seriously and I wanted to make the right decision. I took on faith the information in front of me because I never thought politicians would be allowed to lie to win my vote.

The bright red bus with the sign saying ‘We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead’ was a big emotional swing for me. I’m not stupid – I knew that there wouldn’t be £350 million a week available as some of the savings made would be diverted to pay for a trade deal, but I thought there would still be funds left for the NHS and public services.

Yes, I was aware that we would lose free movement of people. But I reasoned that I show my passport each time I go to France anyway. What is the difference in how I travel to France and how I travel to America? And I think of myself as a practical person. I never believed that the government would try to stop people coming here to work in our schools and hospitals, because why would they want to make our schools and hospitals weaker?

Between busy meetings, marking books and cooking dinner, I reasoned that surely Europe would make a deal with us and we could trade together, keeping our prosperity while saving a huge sum of money.

I voted leave and I lost friends over it. The more people tried to tell me I was wrong, the more I dug my heels in.

Niggling doubts started a few months later with David Davis’s management of the talks. They grew as people started to tell me that I had chosen a type of Brexit that I knew I hadn’t and would never vote for.

It took time to be able to face that I had made the wrong choice. At first, the remain campaigns didn’t speak to me – if anything, they offended me for what I saw as ignorance of the real issues facing real people. I was sensitive about my vote, but it felt as though remain campaigns on social media branded leave voters as ignorant and uneducated, even racist. I’m just a mum who wanted more money spent on badly stretched services.

But the unfolding disaster in Westminster was too much. In the end I couldn’t tell myself that the campaign promises were anything but a pack of lies.

Today, I just want to turn the clock back.

When ChangeUK announced they were looking for MEP candidates from all paths of life, I thought hard before applying. It was with disbelief that I was invited to an interview. I know I don’t have the experience, knowledge and expertise of other candidates, but I do have other real-life experiences that I can speak about for the benefit of others and I can talk to people like me, understanding where they are coming from.

It was an honour to be asked to stand as a Change UK MEP candidate for the East Midlands. The public aspect of it is quite frightening, but Change UK have encouraged me to tell my story and since doing so, I have been overwhelmed by the support and response of others. Thousands of people have been in touch to say they had a similar experience to me and that they regret their choice too.

When my daughters do something wrong, I ask them to own up to their mistake and fix it. Now I am fighting for a People’s Vote, I hope my daughters are proud of me for standing up and trying to fix my mistake.

This time, we’re going to make sure that everyone has the information they need before they vote.

Read the original article here: https://medium.com/@emmajanemanley/why-i-voted-leave-by-the-mep-candidate-fighting-for-remain-71057cb641a2

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