A lot on both sides wish it would just go away, and who can blame them after May and her Tories have made a pig’s breakfast out of the entire process. One wonders, in fact, whether the phrase “pig’s breakfast” might not be added to by “brexit” itself, as in: she made a complete brexit of it.
However, while we are all heartily fed up with May and her clown circus, no matter what we think of the process, what do Brits think about the goal?
Now, last week-end, hundreds of thousands marched in London in favour of staying in the EU – organisers reportedly estimated over a million, and allowing for the usual exaggerations, it’s still a substantial number of people, certainly a lot more than appeared in London yesterday, March 29th, to protest that we were still in the EU. One can at least conclude that the pro-EU side is more willing to turn out than the anti-EU codgers, perhaps because they are younger and more able to walk Or maybe ore committed to political processes, rather than threats of violence..
Additionally, almost 6 million people, including me, signed an online petition calling for article 50 to be revoked, reversing Brexit. This is roughly 10% of the British population, signing a single petition. This is the biggest response to a public petition in British history (official figure:
5,992,444 signatures). The next largest was to leave the the EU without a deal in March – 597,278 signatures, about 1% of the population.
This pro-EU petition was of course instantly rejected by May last week without any consideration or reference to the desires of almost half the voters in the 2016 referendum – unsurprising given how stubborn and insensitive she is, but those are the charming personal qualities that caused her to make such a brexit of it all in the first place. She doesn’t give a fuck about the pro-EU Britons, they are invisible to her.
So in terms of responsiveness, at least, the pro-EU lot have it all over the antis. One reason might be that some of the original antis were old conservative codgers who are (alas) no longer with us, having been replaced by younger pros. Possibly, and this is an invidious suggestion, the antis are less likely to be following the mainstream internet and news and may not be aware of online petitions, or how to find and sign them. Or possibly the antis are less politically engaged, and just rage inwardly about those damn foreigners.
But what about people in general? Back to the Guardian article.
All we can really tell is from the opinion polls.
A range of polling suggests the public have moved in a pro-EU direction since 2016. The polling average compiled by Sir John Curtice and the body What UK Thinks puts Remain ahead, by 54 to 46, with practically every poll conducted in the past year or so recording a small Remain lead.
According to their Poll of Polls, the remain share has crept up gradually since this time last year. Bearing in mind that it wasn’t clear what a mess leaving was going to be before the 2016 referendum, as Boris, Gove and the rest of the gaggle of geese lied repeatedly, this is not surprising. The events of the last couple of years haven’t been edifying for the leave side, either.
However, it is still a very narrow margin, one that could be overturned by a good campaign by the leave side, and a repeat poor campaign by the remainers. Also, there are indications that those who voted last time are more likely to turn out than previous abstainers or new remain supporters. Also a lot of people are not enthused by another referendum, on both sides, so predicting turn-out – 66.8% in the 2017 election – is speculative at the very least.
However, the arguments for a confirmatory referendum are these: (1) the electorate has changed, and a lot of young people whose futures will be enormously affected by the outcome were unable to vote last time; (2) the leave campaign was dishonest last time, and the voters were not informed about the economic impact of leaving outright, or how complicated a negotiated deal would be; (3) Parliament has shown it is deadlocked and has voted many times against what it doesn’t want without voting once for what it does; (4) the government side has come up with only two solutions to brexit, May’s deal and no deal, but is unable to pass either; (5) the previous decision was very narrow, 52-48 to leave. In view of this, to cement the decision to leave, it would be wise to put it to the people to ratify what the House proposes to do, whether it be to leave outright deal or no-deal, or to remain as we are.
If Parliament cannot decide, then there is no democratic option but to go back to the people, either by general election or referendum. A general election may result in another hung parliament, but a referendum would yield a result, however narrow.
If the chips once again fall to leave under whatever deal or no deal the Tories propose, then there can be no further argument from the remain side, and the UK has to take its lumps, with all the economic disruption that is likely to continue. At least the argument stops. If the voters choose to stay, then the battle isn’t necessarily over for the anti-Europeans, but they would at least have to cool it for a while.
If politicians are allowed to change their minds, as Boris Johnson and Mike Gove notoriously did when they sighted a leadership grab opportunity, then why not the electorate at large? If they don’t change their minds, they will at least have shown more consistency than would-be Tory leaders who would stop at nothing to get the job they crave. And the leavers would then get the government they deserve, though the rest of us would be shafted.