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Analysis

C’mon Boris, you can back a new referendum too

by Hugo Dixon | 15.01.2018

When Boris Johnson came out for Leave in March 2016, he hinted he was in favour of a double referendum. With the other leading Brexiter, Nigel Farage, saying he is warming to a new referendum, it is time the foreign secretary jumped on the bandwagon. All the more so, since he is having qualms about the whole Brexit business, according to The Sun.

The pro-Brexit tabloid writes today that Johnson has:

“confided with friends over his concerns that Theresa May will be worn down and eventually forced to accept a bad deal by mandarins and Remain-leaning Cabinet ministers during trade negotiations that start in March. Boris has told confidantes that still having to accept dictats from Brussels would leave the UK as ‘just another Norway’ … In that soft Brexit scenario, the mop-haired Tory boss has even claimed to pals: ‘I’d rather us stay in than leave like that’.”

Johnson is right to be worried that the negotiations will end in a bad deal. He’s also right that we may have to accept diktats from Brussels – although it’s wrong to imply this would be a continuation of the status quo. At the moment, we are one of the most influential countries in the EU. The risk is that we will move from being a rule-maker to become a rule-taker.

What’s more, Johnson would be wrong to think we might end up like Norway, which has full access to the EU’s vast single market. The risk is that we end up with the worst of both worlds: becoming what the foreign secretary has previously described as a “vassal state” without full access. But he is right on the big point: it is indeed better to stay as a proud nation leading the EU than leave with our tail between our legs.

So what is Johnson going to do about it? The smart answer is to pick up an idea he flirted with when he announced his conversion to Brexit in the Telegraph two years ago. He wrote: “There is only one way to get the change we need, and that is to vote to go, because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No.” The idea was that after we’d voted to quit, the EU would offer us a better deal – and, after that, presumably, we could have another vote.

Time has moved on and the context isn’t quite the one Johnson envisaged. We are facing a bad deal to quit the EU rather than an enhanced deal to stay. All the more reason to follow Farage and offer to give the people the final say. That wouldn’t just be in the national interest. It would be the best way of avoiding the opprobrium of history for leading the British people on a merry dance to a destructive Brexit.

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    5 Responses to “C’mon Boris, you can back a new referendum too”

    • Hugo the vote would be different if we went to the poles again.

      The vote last time was;
      1. Stay in as we were. Half in and half out, with a rebate, objecting to a ton of stuff. We were always the bad winging Europeans ….. not quite committed but there being painful.
      2. Leave

      Now it I feels as thought it would be different were we to vote again. We would be in many respects recommitting and by doing so we can no longer hang about on the margins. If we recommit we need to do so fully and play a full part. So option 1 would be.

      1. Stay in and play a full part with the goal of moving towards a fully Federal Europe. This means we move towards the US model. 1 Army, 1 foreign policy (get rid of all those costly embassies) fully merge and really make Europe work as best as well can. i.e. we start to play the part of the good European.

      2. Keep going along the path we are resetting up our own country again

    • And if we stay in and accept a Federal Europe, we can, with a bit of opposition from the French, make it in our image with us sitting at the top of the table. Why not? We have experience as empire builders. This could be a new European empire.

    • I note what you say James. You know, there’s a lot of news that just doesn’t get through to the UK from where I am in Germany. I wonder why?

      Due to the massive cultural differences between all European nations, there just isn’t the consensus in the general populations anywhere to create a United States of Europe. German’s are strongly for the European Union but there is absolutely no chance of them moving any closer.

      The USE is a pipedream.

    • The UK tabloid press love to portray the EU as all wanting to move towards a far more integrated federal state. That is far too much of a simplification.
      Unsurprisingly, the Commission, as well as key Euro Parlementarians, such as Verhofstadt, have a more centralised view. But these are often European career politicians and it is understandable that they have plans and ambitions, as managers in most organisations have. However, real power lies with the national governments, following the principle that he who pays the piper, plays the tune. In Germany, Merkel’s party the CDU is not for more centralisation, and in many respects they actually have alot in common with British Tories, in wanting to limit the powers of the Commission. It is true that Schulz, the leader of Germany’s second party, the Social Democarats, has a more federal view, but again, he has a particular pedigree as former Leader of the European Parliament.

      I think it would be mistake for pro-EU forces in our country to try and align themselves with the more federal groups on the continent, as that would never command broad popular support in the UK. If we are to seek to stay in the EU, we would have to align ourselves with those supporting retention of the existing powers of member states, such as the a looser groups such as the German CDU

    • Important that May, in her detailed speech ahead of the referendum, concluded that the UK “should stay in the EU and lead it”. She repeated this view in a speech a few days before the referendum to a Goldman Sachs conference adding that ” we should not try to reconstruct the past”. She has never explained her volte face on getting the job, though appointing the distinctly dubious trio, may provide a clue. The sooner she is true to herself the sooner we ca n terminate action under Article 50 and join the lively debate on the future of the EU, as it evolves from post war concern to avoid future conflict within Europe to face the challenging world of the future, where it is clear solidarity with our neighbours will be essential – and we should be at top table.
      The current EU debate covers some consolidation on the eurozone – very much in our interest – but also provision for states not intending to join the euro and a fresh emphasis on subsidiarity. We have long sort to remain in a reformed EU. Now we have that opportunity. We would be crazy not to take it – imagine the effect on confidence and investment. Compare that with years of uncertainty only to secure a far less favourable relationship with our key market, now growing faster than the UK.