What if we had lost?

It’s now over 10 months since the referendum. After the initial euphoria at the result, we enjoyed a brief and well-deserved break before plunging in to the next campaign – ensuring that we end up with the best Brexit deal possible. With Article 50 now triggered, however, the negotiations about to begin in earnest and memories of the referendum itself beginning to fade, it’s easy to forget how hard we had to work to achieve last June’s result.

Suppose, however, that it we had lost.

David Cameron had spelt out in no uncertain terms that this referendum, like Scotland’s vote in 2014, was a “once in a generation” decision. Admittedly, Nicola Sturgeon is straining every nerve to try to engineer a second vote on Scottish independence, but given that it was 41 years since our previous referendum on EU membership, we all knew that if our countrymen had voted to remain in the EU last June, we would have faced many more years of campaigning before a third vote would ever become even a remote possibility.

But just suppose a further vote had eventually been held in, say, 2025, what sort of state would our country – or indeed, the EU – be in by then?

We know that there was a great deal of unease on the Continent following the Conservatives’ 2015 General Election victory, which meant Cameron was going to have to make good his promise to hold the referendum. Laurent Fabius, France’s Foreign Minister, called his pledge “dangerous”. Until last June, Cameron had been described as a “lucky” Prime Minister, winning the 2015 General Election when many pollsters were predicting a hung parliament and securing the results he wanted in both the AV and Scottish independence referendums. Perhaps his track record helped calm nerves in Brussels and Berlin. After all, if remain had won, the implications for the EU would have been enormous.

A vote by the most consistently eurosceptic member state to remain in the EU would have been a green light for a further push towards federalism. Such a move may have initially been focussed on the Eurozone, especially given the victory of the enthusiastic federalist Emmanuel Macron in last Sunday’s French Presidential Election, but we would have inevitably found ourselves swept along in the federalist slipstream. Furthermore, even if voters in other EU member states voted the “wrong” way in any subsequent plebiscites, the EU could have pressed on confident that opposition could be muzzled. If even the truculent UK ultimately had decided to submit to the yoke of Brussels, the EU would have felt emboldened in the pursuit of its objective of creating a superstate. To put it another way, all 28 member states would have themselves been locked into an EU where the Jean-Claude Juncker mindset would have reigned unchallenged. “’If it’s a Yes we will say “on we go”, and if it’s a No we will say “we continue””, he famously said.

Now, however, there will be much nail-biting whenever a new treaty is put to a popular vote. The Brexit vote has shown that electorates are happy to defy a powerful combination of their own political leaders, businessmen and senior figures from both Europe and the wider world. The results of the Dutch general and French presidential elections may have been greeted with huge sighs of relief in Brussels, but it is worth remembering that in the first round of the French elections, 46% of voters opted for an EU-critical candidate. Macron’s victory does not imply a renewed love for the EU in France.

A remain vote would have bolstered the EU’s credibility in the wider world. It is doubtful whether it would have altered the course of events in Turkey, where accession to the EU now looks highly improbable following President Erdogan’s revisions to his country’s Constitution. It would, however, have strengthened the pro-European forces in Norway and Iceland. Maybe even the Swiss would have felt that sooner or later, they would have to join up. Instead, our vote to leave essentially buries the prospect of membership for Western Europe’s non-EU members and also makes the EU a harder sell in the Balkans and the former Soviet republics.

After all, although many of us are aware that one country, Greenland, had earlier left the EEC (as it then was), how many of us can actually remember it happening? It was a pretty minor piece of news at the time whereas the Brexit vote was splashed over front pages across the world, complete with pictures of either Donald Tusk or Angela Merkel looking distinctly gloomy.

The EU was never going to be the same after our referendum, however we voted. Its credibility would either have been boosted or dented.

As for how our country would have been affected by a remain vote, as Rupert Matthews pointed out, defeated leavers would have accepted the result with far more grace than the appalling behaviour we have witnessed from remainiacs like Gina Miller, Richard Branson and Tony Blair. We would have vowed to continue the fight but would not have accused voters in the opposite camp of being stupid. Nor would we have been cry-babies saying that the people didn’t know what they were voting for.

However, within a matter of only a few years, we would have seen much of our remaining distinctiveness gradually eroded. How long would we have been able to remain outside the single currency? How long before our armed services would have been absorbed into an EU army? What of the safeguards of our common law-based criminal justice system, so superior to the Napoleonic inquisitorial system of continental Europe, which the EU eventually would have replaced with a single criminal justice code? Would metrication have been pushed with renewed vigour?

Thankfully, instead of this nightmare scenario, we voted to leave and in so doing, besides the eventual benefits to our own country, we may well have put a big spanner in the works to the whole federalist project, for the good of the whole continent. As William Pitt the younger famously said 200 years ago, “England has saved herself by her exertions and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example.”

Leavers worked very hard for years to secure Brexit – but we were also helped by a string of good luck

By Patrick O’Flynn MEP

A TV advert came out last year starring James Corden as a motorist driving through central London and finding that every single set of traffic lights miraculously favours him.

After cruising through about four sets in a row, a by-now-ecstatic Corden yells: “They call me Mr Green Light!” The advert serves as a useful reminder of how such a random thing as a run of good luck can change outcomes completely.

I was reminded of it while in Westminster last week to take part in the political circus surrounding the triggering of Article 50. Because, let’s be frank, our victory has only partly been down to our collective political genius. It has also depended on an almost freakish number of factors and events having fallen in our favour in the most fruitful sequence.

No wonder many Remainers cannot break out of outright denial about Brexit. It is an occurrence that has come at them at very high speed, leaving them with an acute case of political PTSD. I suspect many re-run what has happened in their minds every day and simply cannot fathom how it happened.

Let me take you through the sheer number of consecutive green lights we have needed so you can fully appreciate what I mean.

Green light number one was staying out of the €uro and that depended on Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party pressurising John Major and the other party leaders into supporting a referendum before entry. Had a stronger conviction politician such as Ken Clarke been PM at the time, there would have been no chance of a referendum lock on the single currency. But as luck would have it, Downing Street was occupied by a balancer rather than a leader, someone who responded to pressure. And as a result, the UK kept its monetary sovereignty and was able to observe the unravelling of the €uro experiment from the semi-detached sidelines.

The next green light was the failure of the Blair Government to impose transitional migration controls following EU enlargement in 2004. The bottom end of the labour market was flooded and talk of wage compression and pressure on public services took hold in working class communities.

Then came the failure of all the main party leaders to honour their commitment to giving a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Naturally a British rejection of Lisbon would have been hugely disruptive to the EU. But the treaty could surely have been repackaged for a second time with some more tweaks to reassure UK public opinion. But no, it was steamrollered through and as a result public resentment built.

The great financial crash of 2008 further built popular resentment against establishment figures and exacerbated the stagnation of living standards that oversupply of labour was already causing.

Then came another hugely important green light for Brexiteers – the formation of the 2010 Conservative-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron. With Cameron already regarded with suspicion by the Tory base, the sight of him teaming up with Nick Clegg created the conditions for the rise of UKIP. And as well as transferring at least five points from the Tory score into the UKIP column, the very existence of the coalition also transferred ten points from the Lib Dems to Labour.

Another green light soon followed when the crashing of Lords reform by Tory MPs such as Jesse Norman gave Clegg an excuse to rat on boundary changes that Cameron was depending on for the 2015 election.

So Cameron, who like Major before him was a politician who responded to pressure and travelled light ideologically, was placed in the tightest of tight spots. What he had in addition – something the more cunning Major lacked – was a blithe overconfidence in his own ability to get out of such spots. Therefore, against the advice of George Osborne, he promised an In/Out referendum, confident that his brio would win the day, if and when that day ever arrived. A big green light for us there.

The lights were green again at the 2015 general election – with our First Past The Post electoral system delivering an unexpected outright Tory majority on a 37% vote share. Cameron was left with no excuse for not delivering the referendum.

Accordingly, 8th May 2015 was the first time that most people on the liberal left had even bothered to start contemplating having to win a plebiscite on EU membership. Up to that point most had dismissed the very idea of leaving as a fringe concern of a few right-wing Europhobes in the Tory Party and UKIP.

And even then, the early summer polls on EU membership showed Remain leads of 20-25%. Many pundits predicted a Remain landslide. So Labour and the Lib Dems felt able to take their eyes of the ball and plunge energetically into inward-looking party leadership contests. The prospect of a Leave referendum win was considered so remote that Jeremy Corbyn’s long-time opposition to the EU was barely considered relevant by pro-Remain Labour members as they voted him in by a landslide.

Are you getting the idea by now? They call me Mr Green Light!

And more green signals followed: not only did the more broadly appealing Vote Leave campaign win designation as the official Leave campaign (essential to keeping the dream alive), but the more immigration-focused alternatives were liberated to hit the segments of the electorate who responded to their blunter messaging. And nobody could claim collusion or choreography was going on between Vote Leave and Leave.EU because everyone knew that they really did hate each other.

Just as important was Cameron’s botched “renegotiation”. So cocksure was the then PM about his ability to win pragmatic voters around to Remain on economic grounds that he advertised in advance to his EU peer group that he would ultimately accept whatever they offered him. Unsurprisingly, a lousy deal was forthcoming.

Also, both David Cameron and George Osborne took bad reputational hits in the eyes of Labour-inclined voters in the months leading up to the referendum campaign they were destined to lead.

Cameron’s, one vaguely recalls, concerned a slightly trumped up story about his late father’s use of tax havens. Osborne’s concerned benefit cuts and blew up when Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the Cabinet in protest. The appeal of Osborne in particular to sectors of the electorate that Remain needed to turn out was much reduced. And while Osborne allegedly had been damning about the intellectual capacity of IDS, there is little doubt about who outsmarted whom on this occasion.

So Remain was left with a derided renegotiation and an undercooked campaign led by two Tory posh boys and involving almost zero input from the ambivalent leader of the Labour Party. Even during the campaign itself some crucial luck broke our way when postal vote ballots dropped on a day when record immigration figures led the news.

When polling day itself dawned it should have come as no surprise that torrential rain unloaded on London – depressing turnout in the Remain heartland.

So, my fellow Leavers, as well as recalling our heroic hard work and strategic brilliance, let us also try to understand rather better the trauma of our Remainer friends who were beaten before they even properly realised they were in a fight that they might lose.

One can only conclude that somebody up there must like us. I give you Article 50, courtesy of Mr Green Light.

This article first appeared on the Brexit Central website and is used by permission

The day the referendum became inevitable

Now some of us have been fighting the good Eurosceptic fight for decades. I take my hat off to those veterans who have been keeping the flame alive for far longer than I. The Campaign for an Independent Britain’s very own Edward Spalton is one such. I came late to the struggle. It was not until I read the Maastricht Treaty back in ’94 that I realised the truth about the EU.

But although we have all played our part, I think that there was one key moment that was the true turning point in relations between Britain and the EU. I want to take a moment to give credit where it is due and remember that moment.

It came in October 2011 when David Nuttall, Member of Parliament for Bury North, brought a motion to the House of Commons. That motion read:

“That this House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should

(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;

(b) leave the European Union; or

(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.”

This was not the only such motion to have been put forward over the years, but when it came to a vote in the House of Commons on 25th October 2011, it impact was massive. Prime Minister David Cameron had set his face against this motion. He ordered the Whips to do their worst to ensure that it got as little support as possible. There was no chance that it would be passed, the votes of Labour and the Lib-Dems would see to that, but it was crucial to Cameron’s authority that only a handful of Tory MPs vote for it.

The Whips went to work and made it very clear to each and every one of the Conservative MPs that it was career suicide to vote for Nuttall’s motion. When it became clear that Nuttall had rather more support than Cameron had expected, the Whips doubled down and went to work with a vengeance. All the dark arts of political arm twisting were employed. MPs with embarrassing incidents in their past were told that these faux pas would see the light of day. Those who hankered after a nice holiday with the wife were promised “fact finding missions” to exotic locations.

No stone was left unturned. No MP was left unaware of what rebellion would do their career. No ploy was too low or too dirty to be used. Anecdotes abound of what went on behind the scenes during the 36 hours leading up to the vote.

But when the votes were counted a staggering 81 Conservative MPs had backed Nuttall. Given the number of ministerial positions that obliged their holders to back the government, that was a truly astonishing figure for a rebellion on such a high-profile issue where the Prime Minister had nailed his colours to the mast.

It was, I believe, the day that an In-Out referendum on the European Referendum became inevitable.

So here are their names. Honour them. We owe them our freedom and our liberty.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Steven Baker (Wycombe), John Baron (Basildon & Billericay), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Brian Binley (Northampton South), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Dan Byles (Warwickshire North), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Bill Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), James Clappison (Hertsmere), Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford), David Davies (Monmouth), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Lorraine Fullbrook (South Ribble), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Anne Main (St Albans), Patrick Mercer (Newark), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Stephen Mosley (Chester, City of), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), Mark Reckless (Rochester & Strood), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Simon Reevell (Dewsbury), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Henry Smith (Crawley), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth & Horncastle), Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), Robin Walker (Worcester), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)

Mrs May calls the remainiacs’ bluff

David Cameron bequeathed a tough job to his successor. He had not expected to lose the referendum and had forbidden the Civil Service to produce any sort of Brexit plan. It did not help that the various leave groups had not managed to unite around an agreed plan either.

This meant that, having won our amazing victory against all the odds, we have tasked Mrs May’s government and the Civil Service with the challenge of working through a huge number of extremely important issues relating to Brexit virtually from scratch.

With so much information to digest and to turn into a viable exit route within a tight timescale, the relative silence from the government is understandable. It is wise indeed not to give a running commentary as the complexities are analysed and options evaluated. Nor is it a good idea to reveal your negotiating hand prematurely. The odd hint has crept out, such as the “Have cake and eat it” memo which caused such a stir last week, to be followed very quickly by a denial that it was any indicator of official government policy.

There seems very litle point bothering readers with idle speculation based on what at this stage can only be guesswork. However, whatever the Supreme Court decides about the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50, there is much to be said for our MPs being given some sort of briefing before Article 50 is finally triggered so that they know the escape route the government plans to take.

A motion by Labour calling for the government to publish its plans on Brexit is not therefore particularly unreasonable in and of itself as long as the party accepts that there are good reasons why it is taking some time for the plans to be ready for publication. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s debate revealed that many of our elected representatives are not up to speed on a number of EU-related issues including, for example, the interface between the Single Market, the European Court of Justice and the EU’s customs union.

The government had put forward an amendment confirming that the House of Commons will respect the view of the British people expressed in the EU referendum and call on ministers to start the Article 50 process of exit by the end of March. Although both the motion and the amendment are essentially symbolic, the amendment turned out to be an excellent way of smoking out the troublemakers. There are thankfully few of these among the Tories; although the majority of Conservative MPs voted for  remain, much of the Parliamentary party has rallied round its new leader in respecting the vote and seeking to get the best possible deal.

On the Labour benches, the rude awakening on June 24th that many voters in their heartlands had chosen to support Brexit has meant that a good few MPs were supportive and will not resist the triggering of Article 50 as long as they can be reassued that it will not  result in economic suicide.

With the vote passed by 448 votes to 75 and the Government amendment by 461 votes to 89, we can take some encouragement that the lower house will not derail Brexit. As the Daily Telegraph commented, “The vote….gives MPs a chance to show that they too acknowledge the primacy of the people on Europe. Those who refuse to back the amendment will be making a public declaration of contempt for the voters.”

Of course, Brexit has pulled away a traditional safety net for career politicians whose ambitions are thwarted. If you lose your seat in Westminster, there will usually be some sort of position available for you in Brussels. Indeed, if you manage to fail spectacularly, like Neil Kinnock or Peter Mandelson, you might end up as  Commissioner with a six-figure salary and without even going through any democratic process to get your new job.

For this reason,  the opinion of the electorate perhaps counts for more than it did before, for if you lose the support of your constituents and thus your seat, there will be one less alternative career option open to you.

So when the vote was finally taken, it was a relief that only 89 MPs voted against the government’s amendment, with the majority of Labour MPs siding with the government. After all, whatever the legal niceties about whether or not the referendum was binding, the government’s infamous booklet couldn’t have been clearer:- “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.”

Well, we made our decision to leave and as even the Guardian admitted last week, “Remain is still losing rather than winning support. There is no appetite for a second referendum.” It is time for the 89 MPs listed below to wake up and smell the coffee.

Conservatives(1):

Ken Clarke

Labour (23):

Helen Hayes

Meg Hillier

Peter Kyle

David Lammy

Chris Leslie

Ian Murray

Barry Sheerman

Tulip Siddiq

Angela Smith

Catherine West

Daniel Zeichner

Rushanara Ali

Graham Allen

Ben Bradshaw

Ann Coffey

Neil Coyle

Stella Creasy

Geraint Davies

Louise Ellman

Jim Dowd

Chris Evans

Paul Farrelly

Mike Gapes

Lib Dems (5): 

Nick Clegg

Sarah Olney

Mark Williams

Alistair Carmichael

Tim Farron

SDLP (2):

Alasdair McDonnell

Mark Durkan

Plaid Cymru (3):

Liz Saville Roberts

Hywel Williams

Jonathan Edwards

Green (1):

Caroline Lucas

Independent (2): 

Michelle Thomson

Natalie McGarry

SNP (51):

Hendry, Drew.

Stewart Hosie

George Kerevan

Calum Kerr

Chris Law

Angus MacNeil John Mc Nally

Callum McCaig

Stuart McDonald

Anne McLaughlin

Carol Monaghan

Paul Monaghan

Roger Mullin

Gavin Newlands

John Nicolson

Brendan O’Hara

Kirsten Oswald

Steven Paterson

Margaret Ritchie

Angus Robertson

Alex Salmond

Tommy Sheppard

Chris Stephens

Alison Thewliss

Mike Weir

Catherine West

Eilidh Whiteford

Philippa Whitford

Corri Wilson

Pete Wishart

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Hannah Bardell

Mhairi Black

Ian Blackford

Kirsty Blackman

Philip Boswell

Deirdre Brock

Alan Brown

Lisa Cameron

Chapman. Douglas

Joanna Cherry

Ronnie Cowan

Angela Crawley

Martyn Day

Martin Docherty-Hughes

Stuart Blair Donaldson

Marrion Fellows

Margaret Ferrier

Stephen Gethins

Patricia Gibson

Patrick Grady

Peter Grant

The man responsible for last week’s drama has gone AWOL

Gina Miller may count herself lucky to have escaped being burnt in effigy at the traditional Lewes bonfire celebrations on 5th November, but, along with Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, an image of David Cameron, the man responsible for last week’s High Court ruling and its hysterical aftermath was duly consigned to the flames – and rightly so.

It is Cameron we must thank for the Supreme Court now having to determine whether Parliament needs to be consulted over the triggering of Article 50. There was never any doubt about the Scottish independence referendum. Cameron made it clear months before the vote was held that the result would be “decisive, legal, fair, irreversible and binding” and while Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a second independence referendum at some point in the future, no one has sought to challenge the result of 2014’s poll.

Cameron seemed pretty confident the was going to win the EU referendum vote until the final hours before the result was announced, so why was this same clarity not built into the EU referendum bill?  Some people are now claiming that the vote was only advisory although a strong body of legal opinion insists otherwise and that the bill mandated the electorate to make the final decision.  There should never have been this ambiguity. During the campaign, it certainly didn’t feel like we were battling for an outcome that was only advisory. It felt more like a fight to the death which, thankfully, we won.

To prove the point, the Government’s infamous leaflet stated “It’s your opportunity to decide if the UK remains in the European Union” and added “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” On May 17th, just over a month before polling day, David Cameron said, “I am absolutely clear a referendum is a referendum, it’s a once in a generation, once in a lifetime opportunity and the result determines the outcome.” Your author heard the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP state quite unequivocally in Marlow, Buckinghamshire on 6th May that if we voted to leave the EU, David Cameron would trigger Article 50 the following day.

This statement came as somethng of a surprise given the Government’s lack of analysis on how we would leave. A clip has recently been posted to the internet where David Cameron was asked if he would trigger Article 50 on 28th June, and he replied “yes, of course, absolutely.” Such statements don’t leave much room for doubt.

Of course, this isn’t what happened. Mr Cameron resigned and has since left the House of Commons. In other words, he has gone AWOL leaving Theresa May to sort out the mess he left behind, aided, it now seems, by the Supreme Court, who will be deciding next month what will be the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50. We can but hope that the Government will be vindicated.

Mrs May appears confident that this will be the case, ringing Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel the same day that the judges reached their verdict, to tell them that Brexit will go ahead as planned. Nonetheless, this widely-reported reassurance was not sufficient to dissipate an outpouring of anger against the three judges responsible for last Thursday’s verdict and Gina Miller, who brought the action. Mr Cameron’s culpability has largely been overlooked, so completely has his disappearing act removed him from public consciousness.

Now the dust has settled, one thing is clear:- last Thursday’s High Court ruling stops a long way short of derailing Brexit.

To reiterate an important point, the High Court ruling is not the last word. It still remains highly likely that the Supreme Court will reverse the decision. Mrs May may know something we don’t, but even if the government loses this case too, she still seems to have a few cards up her sleeve.

Part of the anger vented against Gina Miller and the judges is borne out of an intense distrust of our MPs and a feeling that they will betray the people and fail to respect the outcome of June’s vote. While it is true that the majority of MPs  supported remain and a few remainers,  such as Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge, insist they will vote aganst triggering Article 50 because the majority of their consitutents voted to remain in the EU,  most MPs have accepted the result of the referendum. This is the feedback we have received from both Labour and Conservative sources.

No doubt the above paragraph will elicit a number of comments along the lines of how gullible can one be to believe these so-and-sos, but Brexit has provided a rude awakening for many Labour MPs representing traditional working class areas. It has exposed the huge gulf separating their constituents from the party which once claimed to represent their interests. For this reason, the parliamentary battle has largely shifted from whether or not the Brexit vote should be honoured to ensuring we get the best possible Brexit deal, with the debate focussed in particular on the Single Market. Labour MPs from Brexit-supporting constituencies in particular have faced up to the futility of opposing Brexit.

Of course, Parliament has two chambers and the House of Lords can amend legislation. With the upper chamber being stuffed full of europhiles, press speculation has centred around the possibility of their Lordships wanting a second referendum whereby the public will be consulted once again when the final Article 50 agreement is ready to be signed.

Of course, the Government can simply ignore the Lords’ amendments. David Cameron threatened to use the Parliament Act when they threw out an earlier bill for a referendum in 2014. Mrs May could invoke similar measures to overrule the Upper Chamber here too, especially as her statements have been quite unequivocal:- there will be no second referendum.

Given the sheer exhaustion participants on both sides of the referendum debate felt after June 23rd, we can be quite confident that there is little appetite to go through this gruelling exercise again. Opinion polls consistently show a majority against a second referendum among the electorate too. Let us, however, take a worst case scenario – and it is both the very worst case and very unlikely – if another referendum were to be called, we would be much better placed to win a second time round.

Firstly, we would have the government on our side. Although Mr Cameron’s performance was not seen as an asset to the remain camp, he certainly pulled all the levers at his disposal to encourage us to remain. Leavers were definitely the underdogs, yet we still won.

Secondly, he played on the disunity within the Leave community, including the lack of a coherent exit strategy. This time round, leavers will be defending an exit strategy produced by the government and containing plenty of detail. It may not be the preferred exit strategy of the entire Brexit-supporting community, but with Mrs May insisting thatOur laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster”, “We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration” and “I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here”, it is  quite clear that the final arrangement will see us leave the political project which is the EU. It may be only a holding position, but the main thing is getting out and this is what she intends to do.  It is far easier to work out how we can make Brexit “harder” at a later date than to make our initial escape seamlessly. All Brexiteers can surely unite around this concept.

Thirdly, although many local leave groups have disbanded, the contacts have been made and the groups could easily be reactivated if needed. Last week, I visited one leave group in Kent which has continued to meet and was in no doubt that its members would roll up their sleeves and spring enthusiastically into action if they were called upon to campaign for Brexit meaning Brexit.

Fourthly, the goalposts have moved. Many remainers who insisted that the economy would collapse if we left the EU have changed tack to saying it would collapse if we left the Single Market. In other words, they have inadvertantly conceded that life outside the EU but within the Single Market wouldn’t be so bad after all in certain circumstances. If Mrs May’s deal gives us access to the single market, as we strongly believe that it will, it will be very hard for these erstwhile remainers to row back and reactivate Project Fear.

Finally, the longer the campaign, the more people who will be made aware of the shortcomings of the EU. This is why Cameron decided to cut and run rather than go for a long campaign with an Autumn 2017 ballot. It was slow, back-breaking work to move undecided voters our way and time was not on our side, but in dribs and drabs, between us we changed many minds. The tide definitely moved in our direction as the campaign progressed. I have since discovered a few people in my circle of friends who voted remain but who, I am sure, could have been won over if there had been more time. If we were forced by their Lordships into holding a second referendum at the end of the Article 50 process, we would have two years to put the issue beyond dispute and I have no doubt that we would.

What is more, the EU seems to share that opinion. Unlike the Danish rejection of Maastricht or the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty, there are no pressures coming from Brussels for a second referendum. Right from the moment when the result was announced, the principal concern of the EU hierarchy was to prevent contagion.

Some, no doubt, will be glad to see the back of the country which has been the biggest foot-dragger in the EU since the 1970s, but even those who regret our departure seem resigned to its inevitability. At the last meeting of the EU Council, Mrs May was made to feel like an outsider. When she insisted that the UK would play a full role until the moment of Brexit, she was met with silence.  She was given only five minutes to talk about her position on Brexit and one  government spokesman summarised her experience of the Council meeting as “a very odd position…very different…from the one Cameron or Brown or Blair or Major had … She is on her way out and we are on our way out.”

In summary, it is vital not to let last Thursday’s court ruling unduly depress our spirits. Most people on both sides of the channel whose opinions count believe we are on the way out,  come what may. It therefore probably won’t be necessary for us to fight another Brexit referendum, but in this worst case scenario, even our fiercest enemies know that there will be many groups up and down the country like the one in Kent I visited last week who will once again rise to the summons that “England expects every man to do his duty”.

 

Remainiacs have moved their goalposts!

While the official Leave campaign faced much flak – both during and after the campaign – for giving misleading information, the Remain campaign was no better.

This scathing article exposes their hypocrisy. The author compares current statements from hard-core remainers with the things they were saying during the campaign.  The cusp of the author’s argument is that  Open Britain, which is what the failed Britain Stronger in Europe has now become, is arguing that leaving the Single Market would be a disaster. A few months ago, on the other hand, they were saying that leaving the EU would be a disaster. In other words, adopting the exit strategy they are now throwing their weight behind, would mean there need not be any economic damage from withdrawal. This isn’t what they were saying in the run up to June 23rd.  To quote:-

For top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.”

We must be thankful that most remainers, including Labour MPs, have accepted the result of June’s vote but it would be very good news if they were prepared to admit that they were at the time deliberately diverting attention away from the EEA/EFTA option which they are now ardently embracing. From David Cameron downwards, they all knew that this exit route would take us out of the political union, preserve our trade links and – most importantly – be a far more popular option than continued EU membership.

Furthermore, this implicit admission shoots dead any idea of a second referendum. If erstwhile hard-core remainers are admitting that the EEA/EFTA  exit route really isn’t too bad, they would be laughed out of town if they tried to crank up Project Fear again. Thankfully, the goalposts have moved; the debate is no longer about in or out, but rather about the best route out. For this, we must be thankful.

Photo by grassrootsgroundswell