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The Sign Still Says 'Stronger In' and It Ain't Coming Down Until The Fat Lady Sings!

25/07/2016 16:44 | Updated 25 July 2016

So, we're going to Brexit are we?

At 4:40am on Friday, June 24, when David Dimbleby declared that the Leaves had carried the day in the EU referendum it certainly felt like we were as good as out. But one very eventful month later the form of our future relationship with the European Union feels a lot less certain.

From the moment David Cameron effectively resigned as PM and made it clear that he would not be the one to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and by doing so start the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU, it became clear nobody else was in a hurry to push that button either.

Then, with polls already suggesting that 1.2 million of the 17.4 million who voted to leave the EU were suffering from a political version of buyers' remorse - a calculation which if accurate would turn the result on its head - Tony Blair popped up to suggest that we should keep all options open because 'the will of the people is entitled to change'. And whatever you think of the controversial former New Labour PM, when it comes to understanding and gauging the mood of British public opinion, we ignore his counsel at our peril!

It's just plain common sense if you ask me - you wouldn't dive head first into an empty swimming pool, just because someone told you it was full of invisible water, would you? As a child I was always told to 'look before you leap', and in business and life I've learned to trust my instincts. And now as people are coming to see that they were lied to by the Brexiteers, and that all the eminent economic experts warnings of the dangers of leaving the EU weren't part of an elaborate establishment conspiracy, the will of the people may well change.

I suspect there is a fair way to go in the court of public opinion before parliament will be bold enough to go against the mood that existed in the country on June 23, 2016, but going by the distance sentiment feels like it has already shifted in a month, I wouldn't discount Mr Blair's suggestion being realised by 2017.

There is a constitutional legal challenge in progress that is seeking to question the government's stated view that Theresa May possesses the power to trigger Article 50 without reference to the UK parliament. This action is being taken by my lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, on behalf of a group who believe that such a momentous change should be made by act of parliament, and not on the say so of the Prime Minister.
This case will not be over quickly, and already Theresa May has publicly said that she will not attempt to trigger Article 50 this year, and I strongly suspect she won't make any move in that direction until the legalistas have completely clarified the matter. Personally I think, privately, for reasons mostly connected to career preservation, no member of the new government is over keen to pull the lever on the EU escape hatch, and the longer they can reasonable blame 'legal reasons' for not doing so, the happier they are.

The truth is that with the passing of every day the argument to remain gets stronger, which is why I still have a 30 meter 'Britain Stronger In' sign on the roof of my headquarters, just outside London's Waterloo Station. People are realising that in a post Brexit world there is no £350 million a week for the NHS; that there are real economic costs and consequences to leaving the EU, and that those who urged people to 'take back control' had absolutely zero plans on how this could be done if they won!
In the early days of the campaign Boris Johnson suggested that should the UK vote to leave in the non-binding referendum the result could be used as stick to beat a better deal out of the Europeans. Then we could have a second referendum, which might well see Britain remain inside the EU club after all. Boris' suggestion, not mine!

It seems to me this might well be where we're headed, and whether the above scenario is right or wrong, the future of the UK as a member of the EU ain't over until the fat lady sings!!

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