If Remainers get another shot the key will be combining pragmatism with hopeby Jonathan Lis / June 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
The second anniversary of the doomed European Union referendum might seem like a good time to renounce referendums forever. The spring of 2016 was a festival of national gloom, thick with vitriol, bombast and naked dishonesty. Also, it is becoming increasingly apparent, with outside influence and outright cheating. On the eve of the poll, thousands of people will have hoped, demanded or seethed “never again.” So why would Remainers want another, how could we make it different, and perhaps most crucial of all—how could we win it?
The question of why is not as clear-cut as some pro-Europeans propose. There are many Remain voters who continue to despise Brexit but insist we should respect the vote, and others who feel that a people’s vote would fall victim to the same dirty tactics as last time—with the same result. On the other side, some fervent Remainers have insufficiently considered the question of how a great number of people would respond to a new referendum, let alone a Remain win. We must take these concerns seriously. Indeed, we must make them a focus of the entire campaign.
The principal fears are that Leave voters—particularly from poorer areas, many of whom voted for the first time in years—will definitively conclude that the system is rigged against them, and that the “establishment” will always win. Some high-profile Brexiteers allege that there could even be civil disobedience and unrest. Indeed, they may actively encourage it. Worryingly, there would be no obvious means to staunch the poison. We would never have any cast-iron proof that Brexit was a bad thing, and so an epochal myth of betrayal would be born without any clear way to dispel it. This could assume the hue of a “stab-in-the-back” myth, in which the fabled liberal multicultural elites supposedly stole the promise of freedom and sovereignty from the rooted and “authentic” middle England.
Alarm bells sound from both left and right. Tabloid newspapers denounce Remainers as “thwarting the will of the people,” as though 37 per cent of the electorate from one day two years ago must exclusively represent the nation’s dreams and aspirations for the rest of time. Certain voices on the left, meanwhile, now denounce pro-Remain organisations like Open Britain and Our Future Our Choice as being in the pocket of right-wingers and “centrists” more intent on blocking a future Corbyn government than a Tory Brexit. The truth—that these organisations are dominated by the left and centre-left, many of whom support Jeremy Corbyn on a range of issues beyond Brexit—escapes this narrative. In any event, the anti-Brexit movement must be cross-party because Britain is cross-party.