Yesterday, Brexit was basically unstoppable. Theresa May’s government was set on it. Resistance to it within the Conservative Party had collapsed to such an extent that only Ken Clarke voted against triggering Article 50. Likewise, an unpopular and divided Labour Party led by a closet leaver and paranoid about UKIP’s threat to its working-class base, not only seemed unable to challenge the government but unsure if it even wanted to. The majority in the referendum seemed not only to have authorised Brexit but to have delegitimised any suggestion we change course.
But today that question was suddenly re-opened. Brexiteers have spent the past year accusing Remainers of wanting a second referendum. But Theresa May just announced one. She explained that she was calling an election so her government could “put forward our plans for Brexit…and then let the people decide.” A remain majority in this General Election can neutralise the leave majority in the referendum. Brexiteers will no longer be able to shut us down by saying ‘the people have spoken’, if they have just said they want to remain.
Producing that kind of result is going to be an incredibly tough task. But it is one that it is within our power to deliver. The implausible pledges leavers made on market access, reducing immigration and money for the NHS have been tested against reality and found wanting. What is more, the electorate in a General Election will likely be more sympathetic to EU membership than the one in the referendum. I gather that the Liberal Democrats, the most resolutely pro-Remain party, have added thousand of members today alone. That comes in addition to big increases since the referendum, making this a surge on top of a surge.
Anything other than a solid Tory majority would be a shock outcome. But I’ve had too many nasty shocks in the past twelve months to rule out the possibility of a pleasant one.
Some (spoilery) inspiration. These poor bastards didn’t relent in the face of apparently insurmountable odds and neither should we.
That’s why I just donated more money to the Liberal Democrats than I’ve ever donated to anything before. If I was still in the UK, I’d be hitting doorsteps, making calls and delivering leaflets. But I’m not, so please do some extra on my behalf.
I am alarmed by the prospect of an emboldened Theresa May with an enlarged majority, holding a mandate for five more years of austerity, culture wars and international isolation. But to get that she must run the risk of defeat. And in that possibility is the hope that Britain can remain part of a European Union.
Addendum: Anyone who think the Star Wars theming of this post is facetious underestimates how seriously I and many others take Star Wars!