Mid June saw significant developments on Brexit – in the Commons the EEA vote was lost with splits in the Labour ranks which go beyond the splits between Soft Brexit or staying in the EU – 15 Labour MPs voted with the Tories to Leave. And in the Love Island camp the contestants showed they did not understand Brexit at all. It is easy to scoff, but these represent crucial swing voters. More on Love Island later.
On EEA Corbyn was right – it is not a good option. Like Eloise Todd, I do not wish to be in a half way house taking rules but having no input. EEA is not anti Brexit, but a formula for accepting Brexit and trying to salvage something on trade. With 15 MPs coming out as hard core Leave Brexiteers (or Lexiteers) Labour faces a re-run of the battles of the 1970s, which allowed Thatcher to win in 1979 and let the Tories to control government for 18 years. A forgotten history could be restaged.
But first things first, what about Love Island? Remainers tend to argue a People’s Vote is a simple road to victory, very unlikely even before the 15 Labour Leave MPs voted with the Tories and declared de facto for Brexit. Even a small Labour pro-Brexit (ie Lexit) faction is enough to make a popular vote difficult to win, so looking at public opinion becomes vital.
The broad picture in the electorate shows four main camps. Hard Brexit and Hard Remain who will not shift, leaving Soft Brexit and Soft Remain as the crucial groups for a winning strategy. Sadly, things have moved against Remain. The last poll to look at the big picture, around Easter, had some 30% of Remainers now agreeing that Brexit should go ahead to “respect the 2016 result”. Brexiteers argue the 2016 vote was a unique appeal to the people so unchallengable. Constitutionally it is clear there is no bar to another vote, but the idea another Referendum is undemocratic leads Remainers into
thinking it has to be rebadged as a “People’s Vote”. Reclaiming the 1975 Referendum would solve that
problem but this has become part of a ‘lost history’.
Love Island suggests an uphill struggle. Outside the Westminster bubble most people are unaware of the Brexit debates and what the EU means. When one of the Love Islanders misheard “Trade Deals” as “Tree Deals” it was laughable. Hayley Hughes said she did not have a clue about Brexit
a welcome honesty. And when Georgia asked if Brexit meant that Britons could not go to Spain it was easy to dismiss her as speaking for the Ibiza Party crowd. So what? Remainers have to start understanding what the crucial soft Brexit and Soft Remain voters think and win their suppor.
Soft Leavers tend to think on the lines that the EU is a club and if we stop paying the subs then there is more for the NHS – which is Theresa May’s line. Soft Remainers think the EU is a trading partner and if we stay in we have more trade. Which is the pro EEA line. Most people have no real idea what Brexit means and think the vote in 2016 was the last word in democracy. Yet Leave did not stop campaigning after they lost the 1975 vote and the key issue is the principle as David Davis said in 2013, that “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”.
This argument is one all should agree on. Brexiteers are unlikely to do so, but will be on the back foot. Any strategy for Remain has to embrace democracy, and taking David Davis at his word makes sense.
Published on Left Foot Forward 21 June 2018