In the summer of 2016, if you’d asked me how likely was the chance that in the end we wouldn’t leave the EU, I would have said very, very, very low. Like, asteroid hitting the Earth and wiping out all life in Earth in the next week level of statistically unlikely. The Leavers had won a referendum and basically had control of the leaderships of the two main parties. I couldn’t see how from there we could end up not leaving the European Union.
Since then, the Brexiteers have made unforced error after unforced error, weakening their hand slowly but surely until we get to where we are now: over a million people marched this weekend in favour of remaining in the EU, while Nigel Farage rallied for Leave in front of around a hundred people in a mostly deserted car park. Whatever you wish to say about security measures and the “Brexity people” and “those who like going on marches” circles on a Venn diagram having little crossover, the optics of this were very, very bad for Brexit. Meanwhile, over 5 million people signed a government petition asking for Article 50 to be revoked. In the summer of 2016, the most passionate Europhiles in Westminster were scared of saying anything stronger than we should try and stay in the Single Market, just to put this all in context.
Also over the weekend, there arose rumours of a plot to get rid of Theresa May and replace her with an interim leaver. David Lidington, Hunt and Gove were mentioned. However, it seems like the cabinet couldn’t decide between them, and several had strong feelings against one or more of the potential candidates. This is a microcosm of the problem facing both the Conservative party and Brexit in general: there is not only no consensus on the way forward, but all parties to the debate are so divided there is no room for compromise.
Think about where Brexit lies at present. No one really wants May’s deal, so that looks destined to die; there is a split between Norway Plus and second referendum, one that could be solved through leadership but since we have none, that isn’t going to happen; parliament won’t let no deal happen. Where does that leave us then? Most likely, May stays PM until the week of April 12th and gets Lidington to go to Brussels to get her long extension for her. Then, she’s probably finished, right? Given she won’t step down voluntarily and the Conservative parliamentary party is clearly terrified of the next leadership contest as it could spell the end of the party, not necessarily.
Summary: no way to get rid of May, no way to accept her deal which remember, is the only deal the EU will sign off on, Norway Plus seems to lack numbers, as does a second referendum, particularly as the Labour leadership are paying it the finest lip service. Since we’ll never actually leave on a no deal, this points to staying in. How? As we’ve seen already, the pull of the referendum result gets fainter the further away in time it gets. This is logical: if you had a government who had done nothing for five years and everyone hated it, you would have a general election. If after five years, the referendum result still can’t be acted upon, it looks more and more reasonable to do something other than take the referendum result. You can’t shout at me for saying this, but this is obviously true and more and more people are believing it.