I’VE never been more proud of, or felt more sorry for, my mother than I did on Sunday evening. “I’m ashamed of myself,” she told me, during one of our lengthy telephone conversations. “And I’m ashamed of my country.”

She’s wrong to be ashamed. My mother Moira, a committed Brexiter, had incrementally come to the conclusion after nearly three years of soul-searching that she should never have voted Leave, and that in any second referendum she wouldn’t vote Leave again.

It takes great courage to admit you’re wrong, and it takes a brave mind to rethink your most staunchly-held beliefs, but my mother had the depth of character to do just that – which is why she should feel pride, not shame. The personal struggle she’s gone through to reach the position she now holds has been difficult for her – to have a belief you’ve championed for much of your life crumble before your eyes can only be psychologically wounding, and as her son I’ve been acutely aware of the battle she’s had to reconcile her politics with the unfolding reality of Brexit, and how upsetting that’s been for her.

My mother and I are close, but Brexit wasn’t good for our relationship. It’s the one big issue we differ on entirely. I’ve an emotional attachment to Europe. I’m not one for identify politics, but being European is part of my soul. My mother, however, detests Europe. Throughout my life I’ve always understood that and accepted it – because her antipathy to Europe is also part of her soul.

You need to know a little about my mother to understand her. Moira was born in London during the Blitz to an Irish mum and an English dad, who’d fought in both world wars. She still fears loud noises due to the air raids of her infancy, and her first memory is of wounded soldiers being demobbed. My mother still feels a sense of outrage that she grew up playing on bomb sites, while Germany was being rebuilt. She blames her father’s relatively early death on his war wounds. Like so many of her generation, she was raised to distrust Europe and hate Germany. Given her life experience, I cannot blame her, and I’ve always respected her view of the world, even though it wasn’t mine. I saw the European project as the one chance to put the suffering that my mother and her parents experienced during the war behind us forever. Unity defeating hostility.

However, just as events in her early life shaped her opposition to Europe, the events of her later life sowed the seeds for her decision to abandon the “curse” of Brexit, as she puts it.

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Moira sees Brexit as a “uniquely English phenomenon”. She’s aware that her sense of “Englishness” drove her vote. However, my mother moved to Northern Ireland when she married my Northern Irish father. She lived through the Troubles, raising two sons. It was the risk to peace which first began to erode her belief in Brexit. How could these so-called champions of the Union, the Tory Party, seem ready to sacrifice lives in Northern Ireland for Brexit?

My mother is an old-school Labour supporter, and like many such voters she had concerns about immigration. Again, we differ, but I respect her position. Like many, her views weren’t driven by racism – she simply believes in limits on economic immigration. When it comes to refugees, however, she thinks all should be welcomed, often citing Jewish friends her parents had in London who’d fled Nazi Germany.

The rise of the far right, piggy-backing on Brexit, is something that therefore terrifies and disgusts her. To her, like many Brexiters, leaving Europe was somehow emotionally linked to Britain’s struggle against Germany in the 1940s – she’ll often talk of the country as an island that’s stood alone – so the idea that neo-nazis could make political capital out of her vote was like a bath of cold water.

Her own grandchildren also played their part. The discussions that my adult daughters had with their grandmother over their concerns about Brexit’s impact on their lives affected her. These are young women who want to live, work and fall in love in Europe. The thought that she might be somehow limiting their chances upset my mother.

Her other grandchildren also reflected back to her how personal Brexit had become. One grandson has an Estonian mother and lives in Belfast; another a Czech mother and lives in Brno; and the third grandson, a Filipino mother who lives in Spain. Like so many families these days, the Mackays are a mongrel bunch, sprawled across the continent.

Her Estonian grandson – who’s just six – asked Moira if he’d “be sent back” with his mum if Brexit happened. It broke my mother’s heart to think that her own vote had brought fear to a child she loves. The thought of thousands of other children with foreign parents feeling the same was the final straw when it came to Brexit.

She’s angry that her patriotism to England was exploited by the lies of rich career politicians like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg. She’s upset with herself for not seeing through the lies. To her, the arch-Brexiters are very much “enemies of the people”, and I cannot print what she’d like done to them. She’s a woman slow to anger but deadly when riled.

This is where her wrong-placed sense of shame comes from – that well-intentioned voters like her were manipulated by liars. “I feel like I should put on sackcloth and ashes and walk the streets of London,” she said.

There’s no shame in being wrong, I told her. If there was, then everyone would be living in disgrace. And admitting a mistake is the right thing to do. Now, she says, she’ll never vote Leave again in any future referendum. It would also be impossible for her to vote Remain, though. Her antipathy to Europe hasn’t died, she just realises Brexit was a dangerous fantasy,so she’d abstain.

There aren’t many mums in their seventies who appreciate REM, but Moira summed up her new view of the world with a line from the song What’s the Frequency Kenneth? It goes: “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.”