While there has been little political progress in the last two days, the people themselves have made their voices heard (or at least, a considerable number have).
Theresa May spent Wednesday night going on the telly to tell the people that she knew what they wanted. This was possibly a bit of a bad idea considering that the People’s Vote march was only three days later and represented a cheerful, raspberry-accompanied flipping of the bird at her vision of Brexit.
Additionally, a petition created to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit entirely has now received over 4.5m signatures, making it the most-signed petition in history.
So, from the looks of it, you’d think that Remain was winning, right? Given that we now have a delay to Article 50 whatever happens and there is talk in the air about “Brexit being in the balance,” if you are a Remain-voter then now would surely be the time to start feeling optimistic for the first time in nearly three years.
“Maybe this Brexit madness will finally be over,” you might think. “Maybe we can just go back to how things were and pretend it never happened. Maybe everything will be ok.”
Well, sorry to piss on your chips, Remainers, but the door to staying in the EU might not be as open as you think.
Are We Actually Going to Leave?
Probably. Even though the will against Brexit is arguably at its most powerful since the result of the referendum was announced, that by no means guarantees that the referendum decision will be reversed.
First of all, May’s deal. I would wager a vital body-part (you only need one lung, right?) that her deal fails again, but maybe, just maybe, enough MPs would be terrified enough at the idea of Brexit not happening that they might just change their minds and give her a majority.
Again, I’d wager one whole, semi-healthy lung that it won’t happen.
So instead, indicative votes are the most likely outcome of this week in Parliament, where MPs will vote on exactly what kind of Brexit they want so that a majority (and a plan) can be found.
Sounds promising, right?
Sort of. There are rumours abound that these votes would be whipped – i.e. that the Conservative and Labour parties would tell their MPs how to vote.
It would be a perfect example of how utterly useless our politics is to have a vote on what MPs want… and then refuse them the right to say what they want.
There is probably a majority in the House of Commons to Remain: i.e. most MPs probably want to remain in the EU. However, despite some polls now putting Remain at 60% amongst the people (according to the Lib Dems, at least) many of these MPs who want to Remain are the MPs for largely Leave-voting constituencies, which gives them a dilemma.
“Do I do what I think is best, or do I do what my constituents want me to do?”
Imagine, for example, that you are a Labour or Conservative MP in a Leave-voting constituency that wants to vote to Remain via a second referendum or revoking Article 50. These are the obstacles that you have to contend with:
- Your party telling you not to, because both parties’ leaderships support Brexit. If you disobey them your career as a politician takes a significant blow (assuming that this MP isn’t a bell-end, they might one day go on to do some real good for the people they represent – disobeying their party will likely derail that).
- Your constituents want you to vote to Leave – even though they are coming from an honest place, as an MP you know that leaving the EU will make them poorer but ignoring them could lose you your seat.
- Daily abuse that threatens your family if you fail to see Brexit through (no, really, this is a thing that all MPs are currently facing).
- The very real and credible argument that the result of the referendum was a decision by the people that should be respected – to say otherwise is to belittle them.
- Voting in favour of Brexit would just finish the whole sordid affair and allow you to focus on sorting out local issues like education, healthcare and benefits – all of which are suffering massively because of Brexit stealing the limelight away from them.
These examples are just a few among a plethora of arguments that MPs have to face every day. For this reason, even if revoking Article 50 or holding a second referendum are serious choices in an indicative vote, the safest option for an MP to vote for would be to have at least some kind of Brexit, even if it’s an utterly useless one.
So the likely winner of a series of indicative votes is likely to be a softer Brexit, like Norway, Canada+ or Single Customs Market Union v. 3.2 or whatever the hell it is they decide to call it.
To be clear, a soft Brexit results in the following:
- Everything about being a part of the EU, trading with the EU, and freedom of movement within the EU, remains almost exactly the same;
- Except now we don’t have a say in the deciding of any of these factors because we have elected to remove ourselves from the top table.
Yet, for some reason, this may well end up being the result next week – to honour the referendum result in name only, but choosing to give ourselves less power.
But What About The March? What About The Petition?
A million people at yesterday’s march sounds great, as does 4.5m petition signatures. But the fact remains that these are still a drop in the ocean compared to over 17m people who voted in favour of Leave.
However much Remainers might believe that these two events might show that the tide is turning, officially, and for the government at least, the majority still lies with Leave.
Well Is There Any Hope For Remain At All Then?
Yes, definitely. Despite the odds, yesterday’s march, the petition, and the realisation of May’s total failure as a leader are all starting to bring the option of remaining in the EU out of the realm of fantasy and instead become a genuine, viable option.
Some MPs are becoming noticeably more vocal in their support for remaining, and the defection of Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson to the People’s Vote yesterday indicated that someone with considerable power was prepared to defy Corbyn’s abject leadership.
Additionally, there is an argument to say that MPs might be sensing that their parties are about to be absolutely eviscerated by the public. If they are given indicative votes, they could go against their party’s wishes – if support for their party then flatlines, it might do them some good to be able to demonstrate that they voted against their derelict party’s policies and stand them in good stead for the future.
So It Might All Be Alright For The Remainers In The End, Then?
If the UK decides to stay in the EU then the economic issues around Brexit will be nullified.
However, the backlash will be horrendous.
While it is highly unlikely that there will be the carnage in the streets that prominent Brexiteers are warning about, trust in government will be at an all-time low. The debate will rage on for years, with justified fury being thrown at MPs and the government alike.
The result of this would likely see one of the most seismic shifts in UK politics in over a hundred years.
…However, if we leave the EU and are worse off, which nearly all economic institutions insist will be the case, then the same scenario will apply, just with a different section of society being furious.
So Whatever Happens, A Lot Of Us Will Be Angry?
Yep. It’s the perfect analogy of Catch-22, zugzwang, or whatever you want to call it.
British politics as we know it will be annihilated after Brexit – the only thing that we can really ask ourselves is this:
Whose side will you want to have been on when the dust settles?
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