- It was a very good night for Remain – but not for the reasons most people are talking about
A conversation that will rumble on for at least the next couple of weeks will be around whether Remain or Leave “won” these elections in the UK. On one side, you will hear endlessly about the success of the Brexit Party, the clear victors in terms of political party vote; on the other, how if you add up the votes for parties advocating Remain unequivocally and then the ones advocating Leave unequivocally, Remain wins. I would push both of those arguments aside to tell you why Remain actually won the night.
At this point, three years on from the referendum, we should have either already left the EU or find the popular demand for doing unbelievably overwhelming. The fact that we even have to debate whether Remain or Leave won an set of EU elections we shouldn’t have even taken part in, had the Leavers been remotely effective post-June 2016, says it all. The UK should be in the EEA by now, with Tories plotting to take us further out of the European orbit, with no one bothering to even poll Remain-Leave anymore as it had ceased to really being a thing, with everyone pretty much resigned to whatever life outside the EU would have awaited us in this alternative universe.
Plus, the result makes a Labour shift toward a second referendum more likely, which makes it happening more likely.
2. This was a really bad result for the Tories – again, for different reasons than will be widely discussed
The Tories failing to get less than 10% in a national poll is catastrophic for them. Yet a lot of Conservatives will be relatively relaxed. A new leader is on the way that will solve everything, and all those who sent a message by voting for the Brexit Party on Thursday will come flooding back when they deliver on Brexit.
Except that the Brexit Party’s victory will only harden the idea within the Tories that no deal Brexit is the only solution. And the thing is, and I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, but no deal isn’t even really a thing. All it means is that the UK loses all of its trade deals overnight and has to either come crawling to the EU on their terms or lower all our tariffs to zero for everyone and become the world’s dumping ground, watching British manufacturing and agriculture destroyed along the way. No deal isn’t going to happen – all those Tory leadership contenders saying they’ll do it, are in the end bluffing.
The only thing is, you’ve now strengthened the idea that no deal Brexit is the only true Brexit in the minds of the Leave electorate. Thus, you’ve created a situation in which the Tories can never deliver a Brexit that is Brexity enough, leaving the Brexit Party enough oxygen to carry on for a generation.
Oh, and one thing the EU election results suggest that no one is mentioning: the Tories are bleeding their Remain vote to the Lib Dems. If the Lib Dems are even marginally revived because of this, it will make a Conservative majority much more difficult to achieve given most of the seats the Lib Dems could feasibly get are current Tory seats (a lot of them taken off the Lib Dems in 2015).