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No end of a lesson
23 Nov, 2018

Letter in the Evening Standard

On 21 November 2018, Matthew d'Ancona published an article in the Evening Standard under the title "I never thought I'd say it, but there could be an upside to Brexit".

On 23 November 2018, the Evening Standard published a lightly edited version of a letter from London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg, writing in a personal capacity, making serious points about the UK learning "no end of a lesson" and the need for the Remain campaign to make an offer to to Leave voters, while ending with a half tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a three-way referendum (more serious L4E articles about a three way referendum are here and here).

You can read the letter and Matthew d'Ancona's response online here. If the links don't work, the letter as published and reply are set out below:



Matthew d’Ancona is right [“I never thought I’d say it, but there could be an upside to Brexit ”, November 21]. Like Suez, Brexit could teach us no end of a lesson about the UK and where we stand in the world. But only if we learn it. 

Remainers are belatedly beginning to think about how to win another referendum campaign. We have to engage positively with Leave voters and make them an offer that meets their needs so that they would vote Remain with enthusiasm in any second vote. That means learning the lesson that many people had a rough time of it before 2016 and domestic policies need to change to pay more attention to their needs.

Brexiteers, however, are just getting their betrayal narrative in. To learn a lesson, and to ensure that their followers can see it too, they must fail even more obviously than they have already done. 

My suggestion is that we should say no-deal should be a choice in a second referendum — but only if the Brexiteers can come up with a concrete plan that is as defined as the Government’s deal. One that is based on facts and analysis, not just dreams and the triumph of the will. 

Michael Romberg



Matthew d'Ancona replies

Dear Michael 

Michael, your elegant reference to Rudyard Kipling — “no end of a lesson” — puts me in mind of another of the poet’s best-known lines: “And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire.

Remainers are emphatically not trying to rerun the 2016 EU referendum: in spite of the lies, illegality, Russian interference and a decidedly marginal outcome, that vote is history.

Instead, they seek a quite separate, freshly-informed public vote on the catastrophic failure of the subsequent negotiations to yield a deal that justifies the risks and upheaval of leaving the EU. The electorate deserves a final say.

As for Brexiteers, you are right that they are getting their betrayal narrative in. But then it was one of the few certainties of this process that they would do so. 

In their eyes, Brexit has to be a moment of epiphany, of national liberation and ideological purity. Its necessary complexity infuriates them, as it was always going to. Their bandaged finger is thrust back into the flame — with the twist that all of us may yet feel the pain.