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How to conduct the referendum campaign
15 Dec, 2018

Letter in the New European

The New European of 6-12 December 2018 seemed to be a leadership edition. At any rate it carried articles by Andrew Adonis calling for John Major to lead the Remain campaign and by Zoe Williams saying that Jeremy Corbyn would be the best leader.  The New European of 13-19 December 2018 published letters taking issue with both propositions, including this one from London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg, presented below as edited by the New European. It was somewhat over-edited especially in the 3rd paragraph, dealing with the role of political parties and of Remain and Reform as a programme - the text as submitted is at the end.


Zoe Williams calls on Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Remain campaign as a sort of warm-up act to his general election victory. This would surely encourage the six million Conservatives who voted Remain in 2016 to vote Leave. She calls for a Remain and reform agenda, so replicating the ethics of the Leave campaign. Finally she would galvanise Leave voters' turnout by expanding the franchise so as to heighten the grievance narrative.
Let's remember the objective: it's not to win the referendum; that would be a hollow victory. The aim is to heal the country.
So: no promise we cannot deliver on. The Remain campaign should say that there are real problems in Britain, few are down to the EU and Brexit will make them harder to address. Similarly, there is a bigger chance of the EU reforming if we are part of it.
We should run the referendum on the same franchise as in 2016. Whatever the arguments for and against different franchises, we cannot undermine a Remain victory by allowing a narrative that we only won by rigging the re-match. If we do, the next referendum will be just a year away.
We cannot achieve a decisive result if we address only the sort of Leaver problem that we are comfortable discussing: the economically left behind.  So we have to address the concerns of those whose vision of society requires more of a sense of order with little immigration and for whom sovereignty is important.
Here I agree with Zoe Williams. It needs passion. But we must use it to challenge the most deeply held views: British exceptionalism and the idea that English identity is diminished rather than expanded by European identity. 
The third paragraph as submitted to the New European read:
So: no promise we cannot deliver on. Only the political parties can form governments; no British government can reform the EU on its own. So the Remain campaign should say that there are real problems in Britain, few are down to the EU and Brexit will make them harder to address (Government preoccupied by Brexit, less money, some need pan-European solutions). We should note, neutrally, that all the political parties have their analysis of problems and solutions. At the next general election voters will be able to choose. Similarly, the EU will reform and we can say that if inside the EU we would have a voice and a veto. But we should not say that any particular reform is likely or even that it will be UK policy - that would depend on which party was in power.
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