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Remainers' fantasies
06 Aug, 2019

We too have them

We deride Leavers for their fantasies. But we are not immune ourselves. London4Europe Committee Member Michael Romberg looks at where we have to stop dreaming.

 

52:48 is enough to win

Only in the limited sense that the Brexit started in 2016 will come to a stop. But it will be supplanted by the Brexit that starts the day after the referendum held in 2020. Brexiters’ objection to a referendum on the terms – Best of three? – makes no sense as the 2020 referendum would ask a different question from that in 2016. But it will galvanise many.

We have to win at least as convincingly as in 1975 (67:33) and with at least the turnout of 2016. That means persuading six million Leave voters to vote Remain.

So it’s not about getting students or new 18 year olds to vote. It is about changing the minds of millions of Leave voters. Since the People’s Vote campaign decided not to campaign overtly for Remain, we will have only a few months to change deeply held beliefs.

 

That the battle is to obtain the referendum – once we have it Remain is the only possible answer

As in 2016. That worked really well, didn’t it.

The country is still at half and half in the opinion polls, even if ours is consistently the bigger half. The basis of the Remain lead is people who did not vote in 2016 being more likely to say they would vote Remain than Leave. But these are the flakiest voters.

Most Leavers want No-Deal. They are not turning to Remain.

We will have to persuade people not only to vote Remain, but in some sense to change their mind which no-one likes doing, to not demand what they had been promised which will be frustrating and to vote for the country to change course, which some will see as a national humiliation. Are you sure that is going to be easy?

 

Talking about the defects of 2016 will help

Cambridge Analytica, Arron Banks, Scotland voted Remain, the rôle of the DUP, £350m … whatever.

None of that lands with Leave voters. They voted Leave in one of the largest public statutory votes we have had. Whenever we go on about the past we lose another voter.

Our only argument is: yes, 2016 created a valid mandate for the Government to pursue Brexit. Now there is a plan for Brexit. You, the people who voted for Brexit-the-idea, should decide whether you like Brexit-the-plan.

 

It’s OK to talk about the benefits of the Single Market without addressing Freedom of Movement

Few dispute that being in the single market and customs union is better for trade than any other relationship with the EU.

What was in dispute for a long time was whether we could have our cake and eat it. That has morphed into a debate about whether the absence of Schrodinger’s cake is down to sabotage by Remainers/ the EU’s desire to punish the UK or the realities of life.

More fundamentally there is a dispute about whether it is better to have frictionless trade and freedom of movement or trade barriers and no freedom of movement. We will lose that argument if we accept Leavers’ view that freedom of movement is a bad thing and argue about whether or not it is a price worth paying. We should argue that Freedom of Movement is desirable in itself. We need to find people with whom Leavers can empathise to make that case.

 

The EU will rescue us with an offer

It hasn’t. It has shown no sign of intending to do so. At most we might get David Cameron’s deal. But even that assumes a degree of EU goodwill which is probably not there any more.

So our line is to campaign to Remain in the EU as it is, the bits we like and the bits we don’t like.

 

Talking about the cost of Brexit is enough

People believe in views of the facts that suit the position they have adopted. So on the whole Leavers think that Brexit will be either good for the economy or make no difference.

More importantly, a country where people have voted Remain because they wish to Leave but do not think they can afford it is not a country that can heal.

 

Everyone votes Labour

The country faces real problems. They need to be addressed. Brexit will make it harder to do so. But we must not make promises that we cannot deliver on. Only the political parties – not the Remain campaign – can get into Government. So we cannot promise that we will address them, just that the political parties will and that voters can choose a government at the next election.

Nor should we campaign on the basis that the problems that led to Brexit are those that Labour has identified. The parties compete not just on policies but also on determining what the issues are. There are millions of Conservative Remainers. A Remain campaign all about how everything is the fault of Tory austerity and only Jeremy Corbyn can save us is only going to lead them to vote Leave.

 

It will all be OK after the Vote

It won’t. We will never go back to pre 23 June 2016. For a start even if we vote as in 1975 there will be eleven million Leave voters. They will not just have lost. They will be embittered by not receiving the Brexit they thought was theirs by right.

Our campaign has to look forward to healing the country. That means respecting the 2016 result and the voters who chose Leave. It means offering them a better tomorrow.

 

Conclusion

The referendum will be an uphill struggle to persuade six million Leave voters enthusiastically to back Remain. That requires a campaign that sets out the positive case for EU membership not only factually but also with an emotional resonance that we have not yet managed.

 

 

 

The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.