The UK looks destined to partake in the European Elections next month. With the impasse that has engulfed politics in Westminster looking endless as MPs gallop off on holiday, the British public could get the first real chance to have its say on the Brexit process three years down the line. It’s a huge opportunity for those of us still wanting to Remain in the EU to take a foothold – but, as of writing, we are destined to blow it.
Among the many faults of the Remain campaign in 2016 was an air of complacency. From then-prime minister David Cameron all the way down to the average pro-EU voter, there was a general sense that the fear factor of abandoning the status quo would take hold, just as it did in Scotland two years prior and Remain would win. Clearly, that was not to be.
In 2019, nearly three years after the referendum, this sense of complacency looks nowhere near diminished. With ‘no-deal’ seemingly off the table for good, many Europhiles have argued passionately that the best way to Remain in the EU is to hold another referendum. It’s a policy that has been rebuffed by the government and parliament itself – yet in essence it is still within reach.
A so-called People’s Vote is not, never has been, and probably won’t be an inevitable solution to the current Brexit gridlock, but there is probably going to be an election next month to the European Parliament and there is nothing stopping us from seizing it as a proxy plebiscite.
Unlike the 2017 General Election which saw a silent pact between both larger parties to avoid discussing the EU, a policy area they are both weak on, this election provides a real chance for a retrospective vote in which Brexit is the sole concern. There is reason to believe, given the Article 50 end date, that any MEPs elected by the UK will sit in Brussels for a maximum of three months, meaning any pledges in the campaign unrelated to Brexit are irrelevant.
Those of us who still want to remain in the European Union must mobilise and vote accordingly. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Well, no. Because that pesky Remainer complacency is coming back to bite us all on the backside yet again. YouGov’s latest polling has the Brexit Party and Ukip on 34% combined, Labour on 22%, the Tories on 15% and the pro-EU parties on just 29% between them.
Break that down even further and Leave voters are staying true to themselves with nine out of 10 supporting pro-Brexit parties, whereas less than half of Remainers are planning to back parties opposed to Brexit. Instead, pro-EU voters are continuing to fetishise to an extent the Conservative Party, but mostly the Labour Party in the blind hope that they will somehow see the error of the ways and come out against Brexit.
But let’s recap, we’re talking about a Tory government that has embarked on a three year long Brexit crusade to appease its most ardent hard-line Brexiteers in a self-indulgent move to soothe its internal divisions and Labour has plodded alongside them almost every step of the way. The pair of them are even colluding behind closed doors to ensure there is a consensus to get us out of the EU by any means possible. The idea that Labour would ever fully back a People’s Vote has been a cynical ploy from the start to placate many of its Remain-leaning voters – and frustratingly, it looks like it’s worked.
In the same survey, YouGov asked its respondents how they would vote if Labour supported leaving the EU but remaining in the Customs Union (which is essentially their position by the way) and their vote falls 7 points to 15%, and Remain parties’ share rises to 37%. This shows that a fair portion of voters still believe the Labour Party is more pro-EU than they actually are. It’s a myth that could yet be the death knell of the Remain campaign.
The point is, Remainers, no matter what their political creed cannot be precious or tribal over who is offering Remain as an option. There are five parties; the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Change UK all offering a route out of Brexit – any vote for another party will be interpreted as a vote for Brexit.
It really is that important. If you want to Remain, shirk your party hat, hold your nose and vote for one of the above. Sure, Leavers have it easier, they can vote for more parties, and larger parties, demarcated as pro-Brexit but you can bet they won’t succumb to any such complacency regardless – and if Remainers want to keep their hopes of staying in the EU alive, they cannot afford to either.