I was a Remainer. This is why I've just changed my mind

Phillip Ullmann
Sir Nicholas Serota Lays The Final Brick Of The New Tate Modern
Small is beautiful, nimble and agile. We can start afresh and respond better to our needs and opportunities outside the EU (Source: Getty)

I have changed my mind – and you can too.

Every relationship is built on trust – from the first moment you catch that special someone’s eye, through a whispered “I do” of a marriage proposal, to the last comforting moment holding hands in old age.

Trust helps us look past others’ shortcomings and binds us together. But we all know that when trust is gone, a relationship can’t work and it’s time to go your separate ways.

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Lack of trust has been the elephant in the room of the UK’s EU membership referendum – who we choose to trust, establishment politicians and businesses, remote bureaucrats or our own skill and ambition – is the key question we must ask ourselves.

I supported Remain but the more I saw of this campaign, the more I recognised the potential for freedom outside of the EU. Like so many, I was turned off by the mud-slinging and the lack of any positive case for either side. I felt deafened by the campaign, until I chose to trust my own experience and changed my mind.

We all know our shared history: Great Britain at the forefront of industry, democracy, tolerance, beauty and strength – leading the world. But today I see a Britain cowed, staggering beneath the weight of EU bureaucracy, so big that it can’t possibly govern.

Voting for a Brexit may mean uncertainty in the short term, but I believe it may be our only chance to step out from the shadows and unleash a social revolution.

Read more: Why we in Australia would welcome Brexit

A Brexit is an opportunity to break down the old hierarchies and renew the unique talents and values that make us great. Our goal must be to reshape our country as one where anyone, whether you moved here for a better life or were born in the UK, can achieve their dreams.

The question is whether we choose to stay in the EU – forever on the edges trying to improve a system that is fundamentally broken and will never have our best interests at heart – or whether we grasp our own future with both hands and start afresh, building a future system that is right for us.

I’ve seen people at similar crossroads: on one side the safe, familiar choice; and on the other the road less travelled.

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I recall the example of district nursing and social care in the Netherlands: centrally controlled, nurses’ time was managed to the minute, patients dissatisfied and forgotten, as morale plummeted beneath management regulations. But the Netherlands turned a corner when Jos de Blok launched the not-for-profit Buurtzorg.

Starting from 10 nurses in 2006, Buurtzorg now employs two thirds of all neighbourhood nurses in the Netherlands and with good reason: morale has soared with nurses freed from pointless paperwork. Care has dramatically improved as patients have begun to heal faster halving the average recovery time, while neighbours have pitched in to help the most vulnerable.

This is a successful model we cannot ignore, of empowered individuals helping their families and communities.

So when people ask: “how can the UK survive alone?” I reply with the example of Buurtzorg, reminding them that small is beautiful.

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Tomorrow, we can choose to be small, nimble and agile, able to respond to our needs and our opportunities.

We can choose to tear down the old hierarchies, sparking a social revolution of creativity and enterprise.

We can choose to reclaim our place as a world leader, inspiring a new Golden Age.

But most of all, we can choose to trust our own experience of a system that has failed us, to not be afraid to make our own choices. To make our own decision to forge our own path.

Phillip Ullmann, executive chairman of Cordant Group, writes in a personal capacity.

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