Beware Brexiters’ “stab in the back” narrative

by Hugo Dixon | 16.11.2018

The Brexiters landed the country in this frightful mess. They must not be allowed to wash their hands of it.

As Dominic Raab and Esther McVey abandon ship – following Boris Johnson and David Davis – they will undoubtedly be preparing a “stab in the back” narrative: “If only Theresa May hadn’t betrayed Brexit, we would have got to the sunlit uplands.”

While it is true that the prime minister has produced a miserable deal – and that she could have played things better – the whole project was rotten from the start. The Brexiters never had a viable plan and they still don’t.

They pushed May into triggering Article 50 before she had a plan. And now the country is landed with a deal that does the opposite of what was promised: we will lose control not take it back. And we will damage our economy and public services too.

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But for all the huffing and puffing by Raab, Davis and Johnson – and the plotting by Jacob Rees-Mogg – the only alternatives to the prime minister’s deal are to crash out with no deal or no Brexit at all.

The Brexiters complain that May isn’t a true believer. But what did they expect when they ran away from the chance to lead the country after the referendum? Never forget that Michael Gove stabbed Johnson in the back – and that Johnson himself then bottled it and pulled out of the race to become prime minister when he still had a fighting chance. They do not have any right to complain.

Although these hardliners still have support in parts of the pro-Brexit press – especially The Telegraph and The Sun – they are now being attacked by other Tory papers. Most strikingly, the Daily Mail – in its front page splash today – accuses them of being “preening saboteurs” and asks: “Have they lost the plot?” Its long editorial is vitriolic about them.

Philip Collins takes up a similar theme in The Times, criticising “saboteurs” in a column entitled: “Delusional Brexiteers have lost the plot.” He ends up giving qualified support for a People’s Vote, an idea he had previously resisted.

The prime minister is, for the moment, holding her ground against the plotters. But her deal is in tatters. As I wrote yesterday, it looks like it is going down in flames. But only a tiny number of ideologues want to crash out with no deal at all. These are the key facts to bear in mind as the political drama unfolds. They mean that, whether May survives or not, a People’s Vote is the likely outcome as well as the only sensible choice.

This column was updated after Michael Gove made clear he was not leaving the Cabinet

14 Responses to “Beware Brexiters’ “stab in the back” narrative”

  • It is time for you as Ultra Remainers demanding a second referendum to get real.

    No one – not even you – should allow your notion of perfection – ie Remaining in the EU- to be the enemy of the good – the only workable deal on the table.

    For if one thing is clear it is that the centre will not hold if all the factions in this debate pursue their passionate but contrasting and conflicting notions of perfection in a blinkered tribal way that fails to take account of the divisions across political parties and in the different nations of the UK.

    It is time for Ultra Remainers to bite the bullet and compromise by accepting this deal.
    You must surely know by now that going back to stop Brexit will result in even deeper divisions throughout this country.

    Are you capable of compromising for the national interest by not letting your notion of perfection be the enemy of a workable compromise ?

  • Margot,
    What we are being offered is not accepted by a substantial group within the Conservative Party, who believe in the most extreme form of Brexit. The EU has no doubt tried to position themselves so ultimately we don’t simply defer hard Brexit to a time when we have a more hard line PM is in power. That doesn’t give me any confidence that any deal that TM agrees won’t be reneged on in the future, and I don’t see any reason not to see it that way, maybe you can. There are too many wealthy backers of Brexit who do not want to see their chances of even greater wealth being taken from them.
    Whether you like it or not, the best deal for ordinary citizens is to quit Brexit, but that can’t be done without opening the issue up again to the public as Leave Voters would quite reasonably feel cheated. What I am sure of is that if people had an honest Cost v Benefit of the different scenarios put in front of them without the hype there would be no majority for the hard Brexit of Jacob Rees Mogg and his chums. The idea that 17.4 Million people support his vision of the future of he UK has to be faced head on through democracy.

  • @Tony

    don’t bother trying to reason with “Margot”
    she’s a troll
    back in 2016, she was copy-pasting the brexiteer meme that “only if Brussels had agreed to David Cameron’s reasonable demands, then the referendum would have been won by remainers”
    in 2017, she was again copy-pasting on all sorts of forum the same message that “the UK was a free and fair democracy, and if only EU pawns would understand what freedom is”
    now, she’s calling people “ultra-remainers” to enter the ERG collective and become proper nationalist drones.

    frankly, don’t bother
    as a general rule, Brexiteers posting on the internet are both impervious to reasons and scared shitless of reality, for they might have to “take responsibility” and leave their “cloak of victimhood”.
    you might discuss things with them irl. not online.

  • Tony-

    “Leave voters would quite reasonably feel cheated” (by quitting Brexit)

    No, Leave voters have already been cheated by the false promises of Brexit. Stopping Brexit would merely correct this injustice to them. If someone is mis-sold an insurance policy and a regulatory body offers to cancel it and compensate them, would they feel cheated? I don’t t think so.

    The idea that correcting what has gone wrong is likely to increase divisions is flawed. The EU is offering us the chance to bury the hatchet with no questions asked. Then instead of the armies of Brexiters, a totally false artifact of the referendum, we would just be a normal country with normal people again, and enjoy respect from abroad as before.

  • If Margot & the rest of the Brexiteers are so sure they are right, why are they afraid of a people’s vote on the negotiated terms, these are terms negotiated by Brexiteers themselves (although they have now reneged on their own agreement, without explanation or a viable alternative plan)
    Another positive vote confirming the original leave decision,would definitively shut me up together with I would think, all remainers.
    This successful further vote, is what the Brexiteers need, they can then carry on with their their suicide mission.
    What exactly are they frightened of in the hereafter?

  • Just lately May has been mentioning “No Brexit” has a possibility if her deal is rejected. Once in the HoC and another time in an interview. Perhaps this lady is for turning after all?

  • @ Starbuck
    Flattered as I am that you should have kept a running tally of remarks I supposedly made as far back as 2016 and 2017, I fail to recognise some of them – either because you have taken them out of context, or because of your indigestible prose.

    For the record, I am a Remainer and I support the negotiated deal the Government has agreed with the EU. If that makes me a Brexiteer troll in your eyes, that is your paranoia.

  • @ James Jackson

    I guess you can have Ultra Remainers just as you can have Ultra Leavers and that what they have in common is a tendency to give fake labels to anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

  • What everyone forgets, I think, is that this only the first step and there’s a loooong way to go. In all honesty, for all the bickering, this deal will not alter people’s lives very much, if at all. As an ex-pat, I’m relieved that the 5 million people who decided to live in each others countries and who very obviously did not want this nonsense in the first place, will be protected. Incidentally, I have encountered no hostility here in France, rather a certain sympathy, unlike the EU people living in the UK who appear to be constantly bullied by would-be nazi thugs. When I look at some of the headlines, I feel ashamed of my country and its unending xenophobia. (Which is curious in itself, given that we spent hundreds of years invading other people’s countries!).

  • George Brooke says :

    Yes, George, I had also noticed that for the first time she’s included the option of not quitting. I think this is massively significant and totally ignored by the media. One wonders if all this hoo-ha has been a smokescreen to cover a deep-laid plot to actually remain in the EU ? 😉

  • Margot,
    I am glad if you are not troll, but aren’t you at all concerned that the ‘Deal’ has the backing of the likes of Liam Fox and Michael Gove? Liam Fox would sign a trade deal with US tomorrow if he could, so its clear his long term aim is that Britain would be free of Regulatory alignment with the EU. If there was ultimately a deal between the US and the EU, the terms would be better than we could achieve on our own. I suspect the deal would only last as long as it had to and then we would be back to Hard Brexit territory.

  • @Tony Evans

    Tony, you raise the possibility of the deal being taken back to Hard Brexit territory. I assume that is why, as you said in your earlier comment, the EU has built in so many safeguards in the draft Withdrawal Agreement. You will know that the gloss that Sabine Weyand placed on some of these safeguards gave rise to concerns about ‘vassalage’ in this country. And indeed In Facts itself has identified elsewhere the issues posed by the role of the EU under the Agreement.

    You and I would probably agree that, all things being equal, it would be better for Britain to Remain in the EU. My main concern is that it would be difficult now to put the genie back in the bottle, and that ‘stopping Brexit’ could deepen bitter divisions rather than heal them.

    As has also been pointed out elsewhere on this thread however, the PM seems to have left open the ‘No Brexit’ option in recent days. So I suppose it is just possible that, with concerns about the agreement on all sides, she may decide to allow Parliament a less constrained choice of options that might also include a second referendum. I imagine that she would only do so if continuing disquiet on all sides forces her hand.

  • When I seen the slightest flicker of a compromise from hard Brexiteers, I might at leasst read it. As it is they first ignored us utterly with an iron winner take all attitude and then insult us. This being the case, I will pursue a civil war to the end,