Photo credit: LBC
It's been nearly 16 months since the EU referendum, and I can safely say the attitude of (many) Remainers has shocked and surprised me. Fair enough, Tory Remainers in the Cabinet are between a rock and a hard place; they can't 'stick to their principles' and declare that we'd be better off in the EU (as they'd said pre-June 2016) without drawing the ire of the Leave masses. Damian Green, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister, will surely be slapped down for telling Emily Maitlis on Newsnight that it "would have been (better)" to stay in the EU. But what about MPs in other parties, or more to the point, everyday Remainers?
I'm basing a lot of my thoughts on introspection, although a YouGov poll back in June found 26% of people who backed Remain thought the government had a duty to enact Brexit. It continues to puzzle me that so few of my friends (in the millennial age category) who voted Remain last year seem bothered about Remaining now. On June 23rd 2016, I remember a lot of weeping and wailing amongst young people in particular, with one of my friends admitting they cried when hearing the result. Many of them (like me) posted long rants about how terrible a decision it was to Leave the European Union. So why are they so indifferent now?
I've asked this to a few people, and predominantly the response is "I don't like that we're leaving, but we just need to get on with it now". This line of thought has also made Question Time rather turgid; every week there seems to be a sheepish panelist who says "I voted Remain, but..." This is where Ian Dunt's analogy is very apt.
In 2015, when I stood for Parliament, I of course accepted the national result and the result in the Derbyshire Dales seat. Similarly, I didn't then pledge allegiance to something I didn't believe in (Patrick McLoughlin as MP, or the Conservatives as the majority government). It's such a basic point to make, but in one of the huge political decisions of our lifetime, it seems to get lost in translation.
over 60% have expressed their skeptism at the government's handling of Brexit, why are they so happy to be passive about it? The retort to that might be that there is a growing clamour for an alternative, namely Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. However, Corbyn and his front bench team haven't pledged any policy that comes close to some sort of EU re-entry/second referendum/referendum on the final deal. Sadiq Khan came closest to suggesting a Remain policy, but Labour's Brexit position, despite being altered to back a longer transitional period, is still fuzzy. Remember these quotes from recent months?
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor: "The damage that would be done to our economy by pulling out of the Single Market at this time could be substantial"
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Business Secretary: "We wouldn't want to leave membership of the Single Market"
Jeremy Corbyn: "Our aim is to have tariff-free trade access to Europe - I think we should put it in those terms rather than anything else at this stage"
John McDonnell, again: "I think people will interpret membership of the Single Market as not respecting that referendum"
Barry Gardiner, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade: (Reporter question) You want to end up with the same benefits, but you're definitely leaving?
"No, what we've said is it's an open question"
Emily Thornberry, Shadow First Secretary of State: "The Labour position is this - we leave the European Union, as leaving the European Union it means we need to leave the Single Market"
Rebecca Long-Bailey, again: "We want to retain the benefits that we currently have as part of the customs union and the Single Market. Now whether that's inside or outside - that's a moot point."
Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party: "We think that being part of the customs union and the Single Market is important in those transitional times...and it might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations".
My own view is that many Corbyn supporters are so determined not to admit fault in their leader, that they're prepared to swallow whatever Labour's Brexit position may be. Fair enough some Labour voters of older generations may not be as ideologically wed to the idea of EU membership, but were the legions of young voters who voted Labour in 2017 really happy when Corbyn said 'wholesale' EU migration had destroyed conditions for British workers?
I'm not intending to re-run the 2016 referendum. I support the Lib Dem position on having a referendum on the final deal, with the option to reject the deal and stay in the EU (so not a second 'In or Out' referendum). I'm just puzzled as to why many people seem to think one vote on one day in June 2016 is eternal and should guide all policy. Had the vote been 52-48 to Remain, I'd have been similarly confused had the likes of Nigel Farage, Liam Fox and John Redwood said "I'm not happy we voted Remain, but we should just get on with it". I also highly doubt that Leave voters across the country would've glumly accepted the verdict (nor should they have done, as we live in a democracy).
I'd just quite like to know the answer to Eddie Mair's question (which flummoxed Amber Rudd): when does the remit of the EU referendum run out?