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Remainers must change course to stop Brexit

by Nick Kent | 11.09.2017

The referendum may have been a snapshot of public opinion, fought on a fancy franchise with a dodgy question and won by those who told a farrago of lies to do so. But Brexit is going to happen if Remainers don’t change course.

There is a tendency for Remainers to think that the summer has been good for us. The government has retreated from its silly rhetoric of “no deal is better than a bad deal”, the Leavers have had to accept a transitional period which only a couple of months ago they were bitterly opposing, and the general election has given Remainers the chance to amend the so-called Repeal Bill.  

These are welcome victories but in truth they are small ones. Hard or soft, Brexit means Brexit. It is true that leaving without agreement would be disastrous and that a transitional period will help business. But the Leavers will still get Brexit in March 2019. And they know that, above all, that is what they have to achieve.

If Brexit is delayed it may be stopped. Brexiters know that because everyday people who voted Leave pass away and would-be Remainers join the electoral register. By 2021, Britain will be a majority Remainer country, a year before the next election. That means that the Leavers must keep on doing what they always have done – using their bully-boy tactics to hound the government and scare Remainer MPs.

You can see that approach at work in the letter apparently drafted by Change Britain and circulated to members of the ironically named European Research Group of Conservative MPs. “The truth” – it is easy to spot a rogue in politics because they always claim a monopoly on truth – says the letter, is that Britain must leave the single market because it is “a political project, and it constantly requires its members to introduce new European Union laws”.  

Even Margaret Thatcher conceded in her memoirs, written in retirement when her views of Europe were more hostile than ever, that: “I still believe it was right to sign the Single European Act, because we wanted a Single European Market”.  And we got it and it is worth billions of pounds to our economy every year.

Time to get tough

While the Leavers have been focused on forcing through Brexit, Remainers have gone off into huddles. Some think we have to reconcile ourselves to Brexit; others argue that if we keep quiet Brexit will unravel because it is so obviously daft; yet others think the public will just wake up one morning having changed its mind. The reality is that if we want to stop Brexit – and we still can – we need to pull together. Joint marches and street stalls are welcome but insufficient.

Look at it from the perspective of the person who voted Leave and now views with dismay the unhappiness that the vote has caused, perhaps in their own family. Are they really going to clap themselves on the forehead and say, “Doh! How was I that stupid?” Voters need permission to change their minds and they won’t get it if Remainers harp on about how they respect the vote or indulge in technical waffle about customs unions and the European Economic Area.

Remainers still believe Brexit to be bad because we are certain that it will make our country poorer, less influential in the world and at risk of break-up. We don’t trust the arguments of the Leavers because they have repeatedly lied. We know that the rest of the EU isn’t going to give us a good deal, not because they are vindictive but because it isn’t in their interests to do so.

We know that there is no golden future for the UK outside the EU. Indeed, we have watched as first the Leavers conceded we would lose from trade barriers being erected, then that we would have to pay to get out, then that immigration would not be able to be cut dramatically and now that business needs a transitional period. They will go on backtracking on their promises and wriggling over their past statements because they told the people they could have everything good from the EU, none of the bad and, what’s more, the EU would have to agree to all this.

Brexiters lied and cheated their way to victory and nothing they say or do now can undo that dreadful fact.

Remainers need to stop being the nice guy in the fight, who shakes the hand of the man who assaulted him and offers to buy him a drink. It is time to get tough.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

12 Responses to “Remainers must change course to stop Brexit”

  • So what is suggested? So far a number of well- intentioned bodies and people and institutions are working towards the aim of rescuing the vountry from itself.
    You say nothing of what else is proposed.
    Unless and until Mr Corbyn is convinced or replaced the opposition does not exist.
    Unless and until Scotland, N Ireland and Wales ALL tell Parliament convincingly they can will secede and there will be no UK there is a problem. What are you going to do to achieve that?

  • All well and good Nick, but what form of protest/ action are you suggesting?

    We are faced with confirmation bias. Many people who voted Leave, in response to a campaign founded largely on deceit and magical thinking, wouldn’t change their vote even when faced with the truth. How many people do you know who have changed their minds, and would now vote Remain? Rationality seems to flee the room as soon as Brexit is mentioned. The EU is the ultimate scapegoat for all manner of ills, and has apparently ruined lives whilst providing relative prosperity for 40 years.

    It may well be that the only available options for the UK will be either a lemming style hard Brexit, or the Norway option. Time and inclination rule out virtually anything else in the time available. That being so, perhaps we should be pressing Parliament for the EEA option, to cover the transition period leading to a final agreement. In theory.

    The reality is that public opinion will change. Everything depends on that, but nobody knows how long it will take. First, there must be some pain, and a period of reflection. Ultimately, the public will lose patience with the snarling scorn, aggression and duplicity of those who are so eager for us to jump off the cliff edge, often at little expense to themselves. And the media and internet trolls may ingest their own poison.

    So what does getting tough actually entail? The person who should be getting tough is Theresa May, who should put national prosperity and economic factors ahead of her frankly ridiculous red lines. Never again should we have a PM who undervalues our economy. She should face down the ERG, the right wing of her party, and the media, and go with the Norway option, on the basis that she is the custodian of our economy. She has nothing to lose that she hasn’t already lost, and could still go down in history as a leader who saved a nation from itself.

    Hasten slowly, I think.

  • Hi Hugo

    Thank you – but your post seems to be unfinished. It started well but failed to deliver. Did you run out of ideas or is there a part 2?

    You are right – Brexit will happen on 29 March 2019 unless something decisive happens to stop it. Brexit (and a hard one at that) is now the default option. All the Ultras (the ‘headbangers’, as leavers who favour EFTA/EEA call them) have to do to succeed is cling on long enough to make their date with destiny.

    Their bullying and screaming will only increase with intensity the nearer we get to Brexit Fools’ Day (which we will commiserate together as a nation on Monday 1 April 2019).

    You say Brexit can be stopped – but you don’t say how (and neither do many leading Remainers). You rightly say marches and street stalls are insufficient but you don’t suggest anything constructive to add to the mix. You say it is time to get tough but that sounds like empty rhetoric.

    As you rightly point out, Leavers are not suddenly going to admit they made a mistake or were misled. Yes we have to give them room to come to that conclusion but even that is not enough. The people changing their minds is meaningless if they have no way of collectively expressing that ‘will’ and we won’t have another election until 2022.

    The only thing that can stop Brexit is parliament – both houses acting in unison – and even then it might not be enough. Because all this speculation presumes a willingness of the EU to accept some sort of plea for a stay of execution. We cannot bank on that – particularly if our plea is not contrite enough (or worse yet comes as a demand).

    I don’t have any answers. Which is why I fear we will crash out with at most the barest minimum of a deal to prevent complete gridlock at our airports and seaports. But it will be painful and the economic shock will be profound.

    Any CEO/CFO and PLC board not planning for this (almost inevitable) disruption to business had either better start now or resign. Most shareholders will be expecting a comprehensive update in the annual reporting season at the start of 2018. Any senior managers not in a position to say what concrete action they are taking had better look for a new career.

    Kind regards

    Huw
    @HuwSayer

    • the piece was edited by Hugo Dixon
      its author is Nick Kent

      otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment : the only way to stop Brexit is through an Act of Parliament.
      but if you leave it as is, MPs will follow the path of least resistance and support the party first, country … well much later down the line.

      If you truly value democracy, beyond its iconic polling day, then people need to start besieging Westminster and Nr 10 with daily assemblies, until the government fall and new elections are called.
      as it is, neither Corbyn, nor May will change their stance on Brexit (one is focused on bringing a new International, the other on building barbwire fences).

      Only by voting in MPs vho support membership of the EU (or custom union if anything else), do you have any chance of stopping Brexit (or at leats its most destructive aspects).
      irrespective of party affiliation, so long as MPs are secure in their position, they will not care about those constituents who didn’t vote for them.

      and if you want to go the whole yard, then start applying the Brexiteer’s tactics on those Brexit-happy MPs : go the full demonstration at their office and family house, demouce them publicly in the street, boycott companies associating with them, reveal their tax-dodging operation, associate them with the worst of their friends or business partners … and don’t leave hacks and pundits at tabloids (Times and Torygraph included) out of this operation, make sure that they are treated equally as those MPs.

      Honestly, I don’t see any easy or rationale way out, simply because the twin poison of personal greed and class oppression is so deeply ingrained in both state institutions and culture, that anything short of a real revolution is pretty much doomed to a “repeat failure”.
      Brexit is just a symptom, a very costly one, of much darker forces robbing the British people from meaningful representation and citizenship

      • In my opinion, a Labour government will be more likely to steer towards a reversal. Corbyn’s stance is changing towards a single market access now. The majority of the Labour members are remainers, and he will follow if conference wants him to. He has always stated that he supports brexit only because he as a democrat has to respect the outcome of the referendum. If there is a clear change of mind in the country, he will take that up.

  • Yes indeed, concerted action has to happen if Brexit is to be stopped in its tracks. Trade, enterprises and people are even now drifting away.

    It is vital to get back in before the repeals in the Withdrawal Bill are triggered. The Bill is clever in that the powers to reproduce EU regulations by domestic regulations come into force with Royal Assent, whilst the repeals are at the discretion of Ministers when the new regulations are in place. But if you repeal an Act and then repeal the repealing Act, the old laws do not spring back into place.

    Spoiling action thus needs to be to delay the regulations, though I don’t think the Henry VIII issue is that important.

    To help this along, the legitimacy of the ‘voice of the people’ has to be challenged. There are some good reasons for Leave but even stronger ones for Remain – in particular the humanitarian ones that the Stronger In campaign refused to promote. I can’t understand the animosity against foreign judges. Also, austerity has deprived the UK of administrative capacity to go it alone.

    Write to every peer you know of!

  • Yes, but isn’t InFacts – a worthy organisation that I admire and support – as much to blame for the incoherent response from Remainers as anyone?

    What are you guys doing to join up with other Remain groups? You even split into two groups. Why???!!!

    We need a political project not a load of waffle. You are the opinion makers. So how will you & we do it?

  • I don’t want to be really rude, but like in all the other comments I would like to see some helpful suggestions. So far the only thing that seemed to work were polite but stinging remarks re their mental capabilities to overly pompous and cliche spouting Brexiteers.

  • How to #StopBrexit:
    0. Change public opinion in case there is a referendum/GE. I have ranked zero as it doesn’t guarantee stopping Brexit soon.
    1. Pressure on MPs – postcards, emails, ask to see them at surgery, whatever – and hope they represent us instead of suck up to their parties. Might work if enough people do it relentlessly. I’ve just ordered a pack of postcards.
    2. The legal route. Plenty of stuff going on. I urge those who feel powerless, to visit the ‘Wolchover – Action Page’ on Facebook. You may say I’m a dreamer…but I want to say I tried everything!

  • It seems to me that there are a number of Remain groups, each doing their own thing. Wouldn’t it be better to have a single group which is absolutely focussed on stopping the lunacy of Brexit?

  • To stop Brexit will require:
    -a national campaign for Parliament to take back control, the subject cannot be dealt with by referenda as has been proven by the effects of the EU Referendum;
    – a national campaign to oblige MP’s to respect their obligation to decide the issues before them having regard solely to the national interest;
    -a massive effort to educate the country about the EU, an ” EU for Dummies ” for example;
    -a system to expose and speedily correct the publication by the Press of news which is false or misleading.

    Quite a programme indeed, but as one of the previous commentators Starbucks stated, Brexit has revealed a number of disturbing elements of our national life, in particular the abuse of Press Freedom, which if not corrected could have further disastrous effects on democracy in the UK.

  • Well … that said nothing. Just reiterating the current issues isn’t offering suggestions for ways forward.
    Anti-brexit campaigning needs a broad appeal mass involvement – as last weekend in London. Such togetherness inspires continued action and helps change the wider the public mood. But the eventual focus has to be on MPs in Westminster. Only they can block the bad deal we negotiate. Blocking the deal is the first necessary step to any prospect of remaining in the EU. A Parliamentary majority needs perhaps 20 Conservatives to vote with the Labour, LibDem, SNP … opposition. They’re not going to be bullied into acting. They won’t rebel if it’s an existential threat to the Government, not far into its five year term. So, what ideas do the opposition Parties have to get the good Conservatives to join them?