I have said again and again that Brexit is very, very, very likely to happen next year. Also, that far from the hard Brexit scenarios imagined by most, I think the UK government will fold on almost everything (as they have done up until now) and come to a deal that is essentially continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Unions given some other name to obscure the fact that this is what we’re going to do. But there is one thing I think Remainers should take comfort in, and it is never talked about.
Another thing that I’ve written about before is a second referendum on the European question and Remainers being careful what they wish for. The polls suggest the country is still 50-50 on the subject. This is often mentioned by Leavers to disparage Remainers and their hopes for thwarting Brexit; yet when you stop to think about it, 50-50 is a really terrible number for those passionate about leaving the EU to be stuck on.
Consider for a moment that outside of a few obsessives either side, most people had very vague views on Britain’s membership of the EU pre-June 2016. Leave winning should have swung feeling on this very firmly into the Leave camp – we should be seeing polls of around 70-30 towards Leave now. I remain convinced that had a Leaver become PM after June 2016 and negotiated for a soft Brexit to happen as quickly as possible, we would probably be looking at 75-25 towards Leave now. Other than a few obsessive Europhiles and those on the Left who see EU membership as part of their identity (yet still love Corbyn, go figure), no one would have looked back. We held a vote, we decided and that’s the end of it.
It wasn’t a situation like a general election where strong tribal allegiances or political identities come into play. That it’s 50-50 still tells me that for every person who voted Remain and wants the government to “just get on with it”, there is someone who voted Leave and regrets it, for whatever reason. This leads to the conclusion that there is probably a large group of Leave voters who are very much still persuadable on the European question. There has to be, unless the polls are wrong – and I highly doubt they are that wrong.
What I’m saying is that the negotiations as they have played out has not allowed Brexit to become a confirmed fact in the minds of the electorate overall. It is still a debatable point. This isn’t much for Remain hopes to rest upon. But it is a lot better than nothing.