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Reasons to be cheerful… if you’re pro-European

by Nick Kent | 10.07.2019

Pro-Europeans are in a jittery mood, uncertain about what the future holds, and nervous about a new prime minister committed to a no-deal Brexit. But there are reasons to be cheerful. We have come a long way since 2016, and if we hold our nerve, we will win through in the end.

It’s easy to be gloomy right now. We may have watched aghast as Theresa May’s bad driving kept crashing the national car – but we didn’t think she would drive us off the cliff. Now we have two would-be drivers competing over who can drive the country faster towards the precipice.

And their chosen destination, if they are not able to pull off three miracles in three months (a completely new agreement with the EU, an as-yet uninvented technological solution to the Irish border and uniting one of the most divided Parliament’s in our history), is a no deal Brexit. That is genuinely scary – as Monday night’s BBC Panorama showed. 

Worse, all but 0.25% of us are mere spectators while Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt compete, as we saw last night, in an absurdly comic “leadership” contest in which both candidates seem to want to trash everything the Tories have ever believed in. Perhaps because the bulk of those people choosing the new Tory leader aren’t voting Conservative, but for the Brexit Party.

Even MPs are on the sidelines, struggling to find anything to debate, worried by threats that the likely winner will prorogue Parliament to force through the hardest possible Brexit.

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But, but: we need to stand back and look at the bigger picture. There are plenty of reasons for pro-Europeans to be cheerful.

Let’s not forget how far we have come. Three years ago we were reeling in shock after the referendum. The only person talking about a second vote was the then health secretary, one Jeremy Hunt. Few took him seriously. But now, with Labour at last committed to backing Remain in a confirmatory vote, a new referendum is far closer than any but a few dreamers thought possible in 2016.

Boris Johnson is no more likely to be able to provide strong and stable government than May was. Having made hard Brexit promises to Leavers and soothing noises to Remainers, Boris will not be able to appease both factions. 

The parliamentary arithmetic hasn’t changed either. If anything it looks set to get worse for the Tories after the Brecon by-election. While there is no obvious route for MPs to stop a no-deal Brexit, as last night’s votes on the Northern Ireland Bill showed, they haven’t run out of options yet. 

Philip Hammond’s strong commitment to oppose no deal is a major headache for the new prime minister. In fact, Hammond will be one of several senior Tories no longer in the government and therefore able to join with MPs in all parties determined to prevent us crashing out. They may even be joined by May herself. And Sir John Major’s threat to challenge in the courts any attempt to bypass parliament to force a no deal Brexit shows the determination there is to stop it.

We have opportunities to make our voices heard. We can join the “No to Boris, Yes to Europe” demonstration in London on July 20 to make the case for staying in the EU. And there will be another march for a People’s Vote on October 12.

Pro-Europeans might not feel like a rousing rendition of Ian Dury’s “Reasons To Be Cheerful” right now, but actually there’s plenty to be optimistic about. We are not there yet but if we hold our nerve we can stop Brexit and begin the task of bringing our divided country back together.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

3 Responses to “Reasons to be cheerful… if you’re pro-European”

  • You also have people beginning to turn against Johnson as they see him waffling and struggling in the spotlight. And when he is unable to deliver the unicorns he promised, even his supporters will be after his blood. Then, possibly, people might finally turn to a more rational, moderate person to step up.

  • Whom do you suggest? I can see any such person at the moment who is in a position to step in. If we could identify someone then I would happily support them.

  • Rory Stewart waiting in the wings? I hope he doesn’t wait too long. It was refreshing to hear some analysis of the issues. Boris’s waffle will be his undoing, but if not, he has many other opportunities to screw things up.