Tony Blair has said very recently that he now thinks there is a 50% chance Brexit won’t happen. If you go on Twitter and search through the #FBPE pro-European hashtag, you will find a lot of people who have almost convinced themselves that not only will Brexit not happen, it can’t happen. Remainers are starting to fall into a weird sense of complacency given the situation.
We have a governing party who is determined to see Brexit through. Even the most pro-Remain Tory MPs (bar Ken Clarke) talk about simply softening Brexit via retaining Single Market membership (and sometimes, they won’t even go that far). Corbyn has lightened his stance on Brexit – but only a little. He’s talking about trying to get a customs union of some description with the EU as opposed to the hardest imaginable Brexit he was peddling before. I know that Remainers look at the state of the negotiations, side by side with how angry Leavers are at the moment and think that Brexit is in the midst of falling apart. This is wishful thinking. I don’t think it’s 50-50 that Brexit happens. I think the possibility of it not happening is less than 10%.
The fight is there for Remainers to up that number a little, of course. But this newfound complacency takes several forms. A really bad one is the “Brexiteer X only wants Brexit because he/she stands to personally gain from Brexit”. The gold standard on this count is the idea floating around Remainer Twitter accounts that Jacob Rees-Mogg stands to personally gain 1.2 billion pounds or whatever colossal sum of money you like from Britain leaving the European Union. This is a form of political comfort food: you convince yourself that your opponents must have corrupt reasons for pushing forward their agenda. This implies they could be easily switched from their current support if only the financial gain for them went the other way. The other thing this sort of trope does is make you feel good that your side is the morally and historically correct bunch, while the other side could only be supported by someone corrupt.
Whatever the truth of this story about JRM and his personal Brexit benefit (which I think is probably hot air), I have no doubt whatsoever that if Jacob Rees-Mogg stood to lose a fair amount of money from Brexit, he would still be just as for the idea of it happening as he currently is. Remainers are vastly underestimating the hardcore Brexiteers with this sort of thinking. Having been around them myself, I can’t begin to tell you how devoted they are to the idea of Brexit. It is something bordering on religious devotion. Remainers are unwise to neglect this fact.
Yes, there are scenarios under which Brexit might not happen. The deal May gets could be terrible, leading Labour and significant number of Tories to vote it down and then enough Labour and Tory MPs could come together and form a government of national unity to reverse Article 50in order t avoid hard Brexit. Again, I think the chances of this are slim, but you never know. In in the interim, Remainers should realise that Brexit is still more likely than not as things stand and plan accordingly.