George Stephenson compares Brexit to the Prague Spring and calls for tens or hundreds of thousands to join the March on 23 June to demand a People's Vote.
It sometimes feels like the aftermath of the crushing of the ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968, or the invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940. The defeat seems so overwhelming and the victors so sure of themselves. We wonder how something like this could have happened in our country, and how we can possibly overcome it. Of course, there are also the brave and committed people who keep the flame of resistance alight- those whom Tony Blair referred to when he declared last year ‘we are the insurgents now’. However, for many people, making the best of a bad job seems like the best, or the only way of coping.
I believe, though, that the situation is closer to that in mid-1989 in Central and Easter Europe. We can see the first small glimmers of hope, and the chance that things might be different - although we’re not yet seeing the crowds storming the Brandenburg Gate or massing night after night in Wencleslas Square.
Calls for a People’s Vote on the terms of any deal on withdrawal are gaining momentum across a broad spectrum. There has been a consistent lead for a number of months now in polls of people saying that it was the wrong decision to leave the EU. Some polls have indicated that Remain would win (by a small majority) if the referendum were held today. More and more people seem to think that negotiations on Brexit are going badly, as evidenced by many campaign group’s ‘Brexitometers’. And of course the government’s shambolic handling of pretty much everything to do with Brexit has made their ineptitude clear to see to everyone.
Czechs protesting in Prague in 1989 chanted ‘Jakeše do koše’ ‘Jakeš (the Prime Minster) to the bin’, so fed up were they with their corrupt, repressive and incompetent government- something that seems to have some parallels with our current situation.
So there are grounds for optimism, and perhaps more so than at any time since June 2016. We may be able to achieve this, even if it is by a more step-by-step process than an outright rejection of Brexit.
We have, however, to make sure that we don’t waste this opportunity. If we fail to organise properly, neglect to build our political alliances, or come across as dismissive of those who voted ‘Leave’, then we will lose the argument.
Let us then make sure that we organise our campaigning properly and target our resources where we can have best effect. Let us mobilise our wider supporter base to bombard their MPs regularly with letters, or attend surgeries, so we cannot be ignored. Let us turn out in our tens or hundreds of thousands on 23 June to demand a People’s Vote. Let us encourage, and seek ways where MPs of different parties can work together on this most important of cross-party issues. Let us be magnanimous and welcoming to anyone who declares that they are a ‘Remainer Now’, and listen to the reasons why they may have voted ‘Leave’.
To slightly misquote Charles de Gaulle in his broadcast to occupied France on 18th June, 1940 ‘La flamme de la Resistance Européene de doit pas s’etiendre, et ne s’eitendre pas!’ (The flame of the European Resistance must not be extinguished, and will not be extinguished!)