I’m going to say something that I think you’ll think is crazy, and then I’m going to set out my stall. I don’t think the UK is going to quit the EU.
Late Friday night/early Saturday morning I put the odds down as being 1% for the Government not invoking Article 50 and 0.01% of having another referendum. 0.01% is odds of 10,000 to 1. Well, let’s double the chances (making it 5,000 to 1) because then it’s the same odds as Leicester winning the Premier League in 2015-16 and that means I can use a nice footballing analogy.
So yesterday I was thinking that the UK remaining in the EU was like Leicester’s chances last summer, before a ball had been kicked. This morning, I felt like we’d reached October 2015 in the Premier League. Leicester were doing well but everyone knew they would fall away, no one really believed they would win it. I think I’ve now reached Christmas 2015. This is the point at which people were saying “They’ve got a difficult run of matches ahead of them, but if they come out of that well then they’ve got a chance.” The next week is Leicester’s difficult run of matches, and explain why shortly. Let me first issue a caveat – the possibility of remaining may not be Leicester. It may be Crystal Palace. Palace were competing for the Champions League spots in October/November kind of time and then promptly barely took a point for the rest of the season. I may be backing the wrong no hoper.
But let me try to build a case. And what a case it is, featuring as it does the redemption of David Cameron. He wouldn’t need a redemption if he hadn’t messed everything up in the first place, but it could be that this redemption does more for the country than a straight win for Remain ever would have done.
Now, in building this case, I’m combining information culled from multiple stories to produce one narrative. You may well have already seen some of those sources. I apologise for not crediting the individual theories, thoughts, anecdotes and stories, but most of them can probably be seen on my Facebook timeline so you shouldn’t have to look far to find them.
Let’s start this story with a picture. A picture I shall title Victory is Mine!
These men have just won the most amazing political victory of their lives. Something I described as the most important decision in the history of the UK since we decided to go to war in 1939. This is a campaign they fought long and hard for, one they passionately believed in, one they went to war with colleagues in their own party over. They’re very excited about it. Jubilant. I think, just before they walked on stage they were shaking bottles of champagne over each others like Grand Prix winners.
So this has been noted in plenty of places, but they are not happy men. This was not supposed to happen. They were supposed to be plucky losers representing the common man and using their new-found popularity to ride a wave into number 10 (Boris more likely, with Gove as Chancellor?) when Cameron stood down before the next election. They both knew, Boris especially, that Leaving would be bad, ne cataclysmic, but that campaign had no realistic chance, right? So now they are in a position where they have to make the biggest mistake in British history.
Why do they have to make it? That’s because of Cameron’s decision to walk away without pulling the plug. I barely stopped short of labelling his resignation cowardly in my previous post, but an excellent comment left on a Guardian article (since shared virally on social media) has made me realise that it was, in fact, incredibly astute with regards to the future of this country and our position in Europe.
For one, he stated that we shouldn’t invoke Article 50 until a replacement is in place. Invocation would lead to two years of negotiation with the EU and if he’s not going to be around for that, it should be left to his successor. What that did was buy us time to sort this mess out. Perhaps more importantly, it gives time for the general public to realise what a mistake leaving would be.
As the importance of this decision sinks in, it will become clear how much of a poisoned chalice the leadership is. Whoever comes in will go down as the Prime Minister who crippled the country, and crippled it not just by leaving the EU, but also in all likelihood leading to the breakaway of Scotland and, possibly, Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, and who wants that on their resume.
The other important element of this is the enormous amount of Bregret being felt across the country. There have been an incredible number of reports of people wanting to take their vote back. Comment pages on articles on the Daily Mail and The Sun websites show readers complaining that their newspapers gave them poor information in advance of their votes. What had been dismissed as scaremongering by the Leave camp has turned out to be all too real and these people feel cheated. So taking on the role of Prime Minister would not only mean irreversibly damaging the country (destroying the country as we know it), but also making a decision that the majority of voters no longer back.
So what does this mean? I realise that my case still has someone pulling the trigger, despite how unpalatable that job is. Well firstly, there is plenty of precedent in countries across the EU for ignoring or re-running referenda that initially came out negative. Now, none of those decisions were of the same scale as this one, but most of them featured wider margins of victory than in this one.
I contacted my MP earlier today to register my feelings about the referendum – about the fact that each of the promises made by the Leave side was a lie to one degree or another. These promises have been unravelling across the weekend when, in various interviews, leading players in the Leave team have admitted that money won’t go on the NHS, that immigration won’t fall, that free trade is unlikely to continue if we try to stop immigration, that the British economy will be stronger out – about the fact that voters no longer believed in their vote – and about the fact that the electorate were not educated enough to make this decision. My MP shared my concerns and I am convinced that there will be healthy discussions within Parliament about the fact that this is not the best thing for Britain. The vast majority of MPs believe the UK should stay and, I believe, will try to build a case to do anything to prevent this self-immolation.
What does that mean? Well, most likely I think will be a second referendum. I don’t believe the Government will just discard the outcome of the vote. This would cause far more problems with those most vocal on the Leave side not accepting it. Don’t get me wrong, I think they will be strongly against a second referendum too, but if they have a difficult case to argue. If they say we shouldn’t have another because the majority of people want to Leave the argument coming back to them will be “Why are you afraid of another vote, if the majority are with you?”, while if they accept a second vote I think they would struggle to get past 40% of the vote, perhaps even less.
MPs will make the case that their constituents have contacted them to say they made the wrong choice, that there is an overwhelming and compelling case that we should have a rerun and with the majority of their colleagues behind them I believe they will get their way. Thankfully.
I also think this may be agreed as soon as during this week. With pressure coming from the EU to invoke Article 50 as soon as possible in order to stabilise markets and enable Europe to start moving on, the UK will need to do something quickly. Admittedly, the EU can’t force us to do anything but we probably want to avoid annoying the rest of Europe much more. If we can clarify that there will be a second vote in relatively short order, and there is a much clearer backing for Remain this time, markets should stabilise and the worst can be behind us. The UK already look like dicks to the rest of the world, we would look a bit more sensible if we admitted we were wrong, and did so as soon as possible. Essentially, it’s like we all got really, really drunk and did some stupid things and now we need to go and contact all the people in our phones and apologise to them. Better to do that than say “I’ll just get new friends”.
So what kind of timescale would we be looking at? This is my made up scenario so I can make something up about this too, right? I’m building my case. What makes most sense is to have one done before the Conservative party elect a new leader. We want this done as quickly as possible and the Conservative party won’t want a leader with this hanging over their heads. Boris will happily endorse it, confident they can win again while Farage will hate the idea, and both for the same reason, they know Leave can’t win again. I would suggest we’d be looking at 6-8 weeks time for another run, so mid-to-late August?
That then gives the Tories a couple of months to sort out their new leader between the end of the next Referendum and their conference. The added advantage for them is that remaining in the EU would lessen the calls for a new General Election, something they’d like to avoid considering the mess they’re currently in (even with Labour in a similar mess). If they can hold off on an election until 2020, they might avoid some of the UKIP gains that would be likely in the event of an election called later this year. If we are to continue with the Brexit then surely a General Election is a must to ensure the public get the negotiating team they want for the exit mechanism.
So back at the top of this piece I said that David Cameron might have a redemption greater than if he had just won the referendum straight up. Well, that obviously only happens if we do get that second go around, but assuming that happens, the results the first time around have brought the deep unhappiness that exists throughout the UK society to the fore. Politicians are aware that they can’t just brush people to the side because they are unpredictable and they can mess up even the best laid plans. Politicians had become complacent, but if this leads to some kind of… well, it’s not going to be a revolution… but a rebalancing of power, of a wider range of voices at the table and the end of the Bullingdon Club domination of the Houses of Parliament, that will perhaps be the best thing to happen here since the end of Thatcherism.
So that’s my case. How crazy is it? Is it Leicester or Crystal Palace crazy? I guess time will tell, but right now I believe.
A couple of things that I didn’t fit into my narrative.
The biggest concern right now is the right wing extremism that is now coming out onto the streets. A search on twitter for #PostBrexitRacism should show you the kind of incidents that are occurring across the country. The far right in this country were always behind Brexit and they have taken they majority verdict as an indictment of their views. Suddenly they are justified in what they think because the majority are behind them. it is terrifying to think of what this country will become if we follow through with the Brexit. I am surprised that those on the Leave side a) aren’t condemning this behaviour more and b) that they don’t understand the role they have played in bringing this to the fore. I can’t think of many times in history when being on the same side as the racists has been a good idea and it will be interesting to see how this develops. Hopefully with the racist outbursts disappearing. In the meantime I’d urge anyone encountering any kind of incident to step in and to reassure those on the receiving end that the majority of this country are behind them, whatever the polls may appear to say. It’s sad that the most vocal are often the most objectionable and we should try to put a stop to that.
Finally, there has been pushback from a number of hardened Leave supporters. They won and they want their victory and the rest of us should shut up and accept it. I can understand that, they currently have a remarkable victory. What I find astonishing is that, those that I know, are saying this despite the promises they bought being pulled back in. It seems that if people didn’t instantly regret their vote after the results came out then they are sticking with it. It’s tough. I’d issue the same challenge to them as the Government will have to do to the Leave campaign as a whole – if it’s such a strong win then you should have no problem with another referendum. What I can tell you is that those of us appalled and distraught by the result, who fear for what it means for this country and our families, are going to continue to fight. This fight doesn’t end. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. And if we do pull out of the EU, when the money goes and the jobs follow, I’m sorry but I hope yours go first. You wanted this and you should be the ones that suffer.