After more than a hundred thousand protestors gathered in central London last weekend, Lord Adonis tweeted a picture of proceedings with the caption “The moment Brexit died?” It highlights how much the anti-Brexit group think they have slain the enemy, which I think may be very much be the product of bubble politics. Sure, Leave and Remain are still neck in neck in polls on the subject, with Remain even slightly ahead of late (had the negotiations gone smoother to this point, I would expect at least a 30 point lead for Leave based on confirmation bias), but is Brexit really in any real sense “dead”? Let’s look at the evidence: we have both a government and an opposition that is determined to leave the European Union, with a nationwide referendum result giving them legitimacy to do so. Yes, it may die of its own contradictions – that is a different thing to anti-Brexit campaigners killing it.
Having reflected on this for a while, I think I’ve figured out the major thing anti-Brexit campaigners are doing wrong. It isn’t that they are persistent or shouty – those are both probably essential to what they are trying to achieve. No, it’s that they have carried on from the Remain campaign in the referendum in telling us all of the reasons that leaving the EU will be a catastrophe, while spending no time at all explaining why being a member of the EU is in itself a good thing. Sometimes you might hear about Brits ability to live and work on the continent being brought up, but usually in passing, before getting back onto why “Brexshit” is going to be awful again.
Part of this is about time: anti-Brexit campaigners feel the clock is against them and they don’t want to come out with any moves apart from Project Fear given that constraint. I wish they were thinking about the bigger picture: Brexit is very likely to happen. We are very likely to leave in some capacity in March 2019. And even if Brexit is somehow thwarted, the same issue stands anyhow: European Union membership has to begin to be sold in terms far beyond Project Fear.
Remainers, try and put yourself in Leaver shoes for a moment. Difficult, I realise, but bear with me. You are being told that leaving the EU will be a disaster because we are too intertwined with the rest of the EU. That the EU will enforce their rules, and Britain will be crushed as a result. That no good deal is possible, because the EU can’t bend the rules it has created. If you’re a Leaver this sounds like a horrible prison we are currently inside. This is why you hear some people say things like “I don’t care if I we have to take a 30 year hit to our finances, it will be worth it!” Imagine for a moment that the EU really were the fascistic organisation of some Leavers’ imaginations. Would you still think leaving would be a bad thing, regardless of financial consequence? I bet many of you would. So the point I’m making is, spend less time going on about how leaving the EU will be a disaster and more time convincing Leavers that at the very least the EU isn’t the Fourth Reich, building towards getting them to empathise with why you feel passionately about EU membership. I bet more of that will create more Remainers.
I’m not saying this will be easy – I don’t know immediately how one does this. But for Remainers, it is almost certainly necessary.