Jeremy and Theresa won’t say
It is hard to imagine Vince Cable, Nick Clegg, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage not telling us how they would vote in a new referendum. So what do we learn from Jeremy Corbyn’s and Theresa May’s refusal to answer the question? London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg tries to work it out.
In fairness, the question is hypothetical. It depends on what form the Brexit that is being offered takes (and, with less impact realistically, on what form Remain takes and on circumstances at the time). But it ought to be possible for a politician to say “I’d vote for Brexit on the basis of EEA membership; but I would prefer Remain if the alternative was leaving without a deal” (or whatever). And frankly, Brexit or Remain is so black and white it is just not believable that a politician does not know the answer to that question.
Theresa May won’t say
Theresa May is head of the government negotiating Brexit. She will determine what the deal is. If the deal on offer is worse than no-deal she will take us to no-deal. That as a matter of government policy must be an acceptable position, since it, rather than Remain, is the fall-back.
But she refuses to say how she would vote in a second referendum. Here in October 2017 (video and transcript in the Daily Telegraph) (the same LBC interview here on youtube in case the Daily Telegraph puts it behind the paywall). Same again in August 2018 (reported here in text on Bloomberg and on video on Sky news, where she also refused the answer the question whether Britons would be worse off under Brexit).
What if she said “I’d vote Leave”. That is what one would expect. Her policy is Leave. She is in charge of the deal. The Remainers in the Conservative party would shrug their shoulders. She might be asked “what made you change your mind?”; but anyone reading her great pre-referendum Remain speech would not bother, since it was mainly taken up with wishing to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, so some of us struggle with the statement that she did actually vote Remain in 2016.
She must think that she would vote Remain. And that the UK would be worse off under Brexit.
So she really is implementing a policy with which she disagrees. She is doing it either because she sincerely believes that the 2016 referendum obliges the UK to go through with it no matter how damaging it turns out to be, or because she thinks it is necessary to hold her party together, or personal ambition.
But not because she thinks it is a good policy.
Jeremy Hunt has changed his mind
Conservative Remain campaigner Jeremy Hunt said in October 2017 that he had changed his mind because of the arrogance of the EU in its response to UK offers. At that time he was Health Secretary; now he is Foreign Secretary.
Keir Starmer knows
Labour’s shadow Brexit spokesman is absolutely clear: “Oh yes, I would vote in. I voted in last time, I’d vote in if the question was ever put again.” That was on 25 September 2018 at the Labour Party Conference. It placed him fully in line with the overwhelming majority of party members. (And with London4Europe.)
Jeremy Corbyn is now like Theresa
On referendum day in 2016 Jeremy Corbyn tweeted “I've just voted to Remain. The EU provides the best framework to meet the challenges of our time”. He had apparently voted No [ie Brexit] in 1975, and he was a Euro-sceptic of long standing.
But now Jeremy Corbyn has joined Theresa May and also does not say how he would vote – here at the September 2018 Labour Party Conference. At least not how he would vote in a referendum.
Because he does know how he would vote in Parliament. He told Theresa May in his 2018 party conference speech: “If you deliver a deal that includes a customs union and no hard border in Ireland, if you protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental and consumer standards – then we will support that sensible deal.”
His policy is to win an election and implement Brexit. From the same speech, still addressing Theresa May: “But if you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can”. So there is no doubt that Corbyn supports at least some forms of Brexit over Remain. Perhaps he supports Remain over some forms of Brexit, but if so he has stopped saying that
Why does he not say how he would vote? Politics? Is he just trying to string along everyone in his party – Remainers and Leaver? Man of integrity or what? Does he, like Theresa May, think that the referendum result needs to be implemented even though there was no plan and irrespective of the consequences? Does he think that if he delivers Brexit he will retain the votes of Labour Leavers who might otherwise desert him while Labour Remainers’ votes are in the bag anyway?
Liz Truss wins the booby prize
Liz Truss (Justice Secretary at the time) and former Remain campaigner justified her conversion to Leave because HM Treasury’s short-term economic forecasts of the effect of Brexit did not come true and said that she had now seen the opportunities of Brexit.
But she also gave this as her reason why she would now vote for Brexit in a further referendum: “It’s the settled will of the British people, we now are on an irrevocable path to leaving the European Union, we have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and times have changed.”
That is bonkers. A national collective decision is binding on the nation. But no individual has to think it a good idea.
If Labour win the next election, Labour will form the next government and Liz Truss will be out of a job. But she does not have to think that a good result. And she does not have to vote Labour next time round.
That she might even think that a referendum result obliges her to vote in line with the majority next time is a sign of the oppressive climate of nationalism that Brexit brings.
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