My father is someone I’ve always thought of as a core Leaver. He once spouted the “Nazi Germany lives on within the EU” line to me – in 2009, so way before this was common currency. He liked Farage/UKIP and felt the Tories under Cameron were too liberal and cuddly. His feelings toward Theresa May were basically that she was trying to get on with delivering Brexit and that was good.
Speaking to him yesterday, he’s changed his mind. “Having thought about it, the chance to live, work and retire in 27 different countries is huge. Plus, the whole thing has turned Britain into an international joke”. Thinking about this from every angle, he does live in Canada, where there will be no positive press on Brexit (there is no positive press on Brexit anywhere outside of Britain from my experience). Perhaps that has had a cumulative effect on him. Still, I always thought that when my dad starts talking about Remain in a positive way, I’ll know the worm has turned. So, I have to start seriously wondering.
Of all polls taken on the question of whether we should stay or leave the European Union taken in the UK over the past year, only one has returned a lead for Leave. The one thing Brexiteers can take heart from in these polls is that it remains very close between the two positions – 56/44 is as commanding a lead as Remain has ever got post-referendum. The lead for Remain is always within the margin of error, in other words, and in another referendum would depend hugely on how many young people turned out on the day, always something not to be overestimated.
As everyone undoubtably already knows, people are very, very sick of Brexit. Whether they think we should leave and “just get on with it” or they want to Remain and never talk about it all again, the whole of the UK is desperate to find a way of ending the discussion. Now that we are almost certainly headed for another extension to the Article 50 period, one has to wonder how people’s attitudes toward Brexit changes and how that is reflected in the polls.
The Tories have now convinced themselves that people will see that Boris was shoved into applying for an extension and is earnest in wanting to get Brexit “done”. Maybe. But there is another possibility: more people begin to see that the only way Brexit actually finishes in any real sense is if we just end up staying in. The last extension had a huge impact on the polls and I have no doubt this one probably will as well. I’d guess a seeping of support away from the Tories toward both the Lib Dems in one direction and the Brexit Party in another, but I wouldn’t put any money on such a thing happening.
Perhaps the Tories have started to worry that instead of rioting in the event of Brexit not happening, again, that people will turn off of Brexit altogether, in big enough numbers to be dangerous to the party. Labour can just about turn around and save face if Brexit becomes unpopular; the Tories are, as is often stated, ‘lashed to the mast of Brexit’. As the boat turns from the Santa Maria into a floating barge filled with dog excrement, this becomes a real problem for the Conservative party. They need Brexit to remain “the will of the people” because otherwise the basis of the entire party’s direction falls apart.