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How Events And Demographics May Stop Brexit

13/07/2017 13:26 BST | Updated 13/07/2017 13:26 BST
Francois Lenoir / Reuters

On June 8th, by a wafer thin majority of 20 votes, the Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad won the 'safe Tory hold' seat of Kensington from Tory Leaver MP Victoria Borwick.

I wrote to Lady Borwick months before the election to warn her that by continuing to support Leave she risked losing her seat. At the time the idea of losing a supersafe Tory seat like Kensington seemed ridiculous, far fetched, impossible even. But it happened.

What is the significance of this remarkable event? Thousands of solidly Tory voters in Kensington switched to Labour and the LibDems. Why did they do that?

Kensington Tory voters are as diehard as any supporters of the party can get.

But - Kensington voted by 69% to Remain in the EU Referendum. A lot of smart, well educated, well informed and worldly people figured out which was the sensible choice for their country.

As A C Grayling has succinctly pointed out , The recent vote was not a vote 'for Labour' or 'for Libdems' it was a vote against Theresa May, her Brexit policies and her Brexit Cabinet. Not a vote in support of Corbyn's muddled and disingenuous lack of a stand, but a vote for a 'less worse' option, a protest. (Much like the referendum was largely a protest vote against the then government of Cameron.)

The same happened throughout Britain; Conservative voters switched to a 'less worse' option. Anything rather than support Empress May. The fabulous claim is being made by BeLeaver politicians that "80% of the electorate voted for a pro-Brexit party". Nonsense. They voted to deny Theresa May a mandate to pursue her version of Brexit. If that meant voting Labour, so be it, but on the basis of taking wind out of May's sails and thinking that if even Corbyn were to win he might not be so manically obsessed as May with delivering the fatuous "Brexit means Brexit".

But Labour cannot deliver any kind of acceptable Brexit. There is no 'cake and eat it'. No 'special deal' offers coming from Brussels. The clear options are: Stay In. Get Out. Accept a Norway deal.

A Norway deal is out of the question politically. Accept all the EU rules, ECJ jurisdiction, free movement of labour, pay £10bn a year for the privilege... and without any say in the EU decision making. Pointless.

Get Out means to risk a 'cliff edge' exit when the kind of 'magic cake' deal that is dreamt of by the Brexiteers proves to be an impossible fantasy. Suicidal.

Stay In? Inconceivable a year ago, but being talked about more and more in the lobbies and corridors of Westminster and by commentators. Now a real possibility.

What would it take to stay in? Possibly some temporary EU concession on immigration controls, the emergency brake that David Cameron was too timid to ask for in November 2015, might be enough to satisfy those voters who desperately want to limit immigration. Or perhaps simply an undertaking by the UK government to actually apply existing EU law - Article 45 of the Lisbon Treaty - by which EU jobseekers without work or independent financial means of support can be asked to leave the UK after three months. Such moves may not satisfy the 'out at any cost' voters, but the latter appear to diminishing in numbers as time goes by and the horrendous complications and drawbacks of leaving become more apparent - even to the editors of such august publications as the Mail and Sun - and the economic indicators become ever more gloomy.

So how might Brexit be stopped?

It comes down to the oxygen of politicians: votes, and especially future votes. Stopping it now would take a change in public opinion, significant enough and publicised enough for politicians to notice and to be concerned about. More and more commentators are now uttering the heresy : Will Brexit actually happen? This is a good sign. As A C Grayling has pointed out, the more the impossible is repeated as a possibility, the more possible it becomes. The enormous complications and economic risks of Brexit are causing many voters to ask 'Is it really worth it the pain and grief?'. Nick Clegg has quoted one local as saying: "Is it worth the bother?"

And this finally ties in to the headline of the article.

Events? A Tory MP dies and the by-election results in another swing away from the Tories and a lost seat? A scandal emerges about corruption of the referendum vote by foreign influence? The DUP deal is declared illegal? Trump is impeached and a trade deal with UK is his last priority? The possibilities are endless. The foundations of May's Brexit are so unstable that it needs little more than a nudge to bring down the tottering edifice. And by their nature, events are typically unpredictable and unforseen.

Finally, demographics. Stopping it would require recognition by politicians of the inevitable demographics - young voters are pro-EU. By 2022 1.5 million new young voters, all born as EU citizens, will have replaced those who will have passed away. The referendum was tipped by the choice of just 650,000 voters who chose to tick the box marked Leave instead of Remain (apart from the denial of votes to 2 million British expats).

Latest surveys show that already, if a vote were to be taken now, 54% of those polled would vote to Remain. Registrations to vote amongst under 34 year olds surged before the election. They overwhelmingly voted Labour. Many would have done that because they preferred Corbyn as a leader. Equally, many would have done so because they were born as European citizens, and want to stay European citizens.

Will the young generation forgive the politicians who sold their birthright for a mess - not the biblical mess of potage, but just a mess - to appease xenophobic and jingoistic elements in the two main parties?

100 years ago, in WW1, young men were being called to the front to do their patriotic duty for King and Country, to fight the demonised Hun. The Generals urged the lads 'over the top' into the slaughter of Flanders fields. For some Brexiters, not a lot has changed. "Over the top lads, give those foreigners a bloody nose! Trust us, it'll be fine when we're over the top." Folly is as prolific today as 100 years ago. But no longer will young people be fooled by those who appeal to blind patriotism, narrow nationalism and the supremacy of British gung-ho. They know that Europe is not the enemy. Europe is really our best and closest friend. The real enemy of British pride, prosperity and peace is within, in the form of those who disseminate thinly covered racism for profit - the owners and editors of the Mail, the Sun, the Express and the like - and the paymasters who can put up the cash to manipulate the opinions of millions. You probably know who they are.

Events and Demographics. That's how Brexit may be stopped.