The European Elections are out of the way, and soon Theresa May will be as well.
Despite concerns that the D’Hondt party-list system would mean that Remain parties would end up under-represented because of split votes, they’ve done well, provided you don’t consider Labour a Remain party—which, with Corbyn in charge, it’s hard to do.
With Scotland’s largest Remain party guaranteed a few seats, I’d hoped to help the Scottish Greens win their first MEP, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, it’s great to see the Greens do so well elsewhere in the UK. Good, too, to see prominent Remain voices like Seb Dance, Richard Corbett, Molly Scott Cato, Catherine Bearder and Alyn Smith secure in their seats. The Brexit Party may be crowing about being the largest single party, but the vote share of unambiguously Remain parties outweighed that of the hard Brexiters. And the Tories got absolutely hammered, showing just how deep and loyal their support is.
In the weeks since No-Brexit Day II, I’ve tried to recover from four months of nerve-racking political news by getting on with other things, like marking, dealing with crashed hard drives, and getting sick again for a bit. But I chipped in a few times on Metafilter’s endless Brexit threads, and a few extracts from those comments are worth collecting here.
We’re being dragged out of the EU on the basis of an illegitimately secured Leave victory. Vote Leave funnelled an amount equivalent to almost 10% of its allowable limit through a single person only days before the referendum, after Remain had stopped advertising because it had reached its own, so that it could keep spending during the crucial final days when many waverers typically make up their minds. An overspend which the High Court heard “very likely” won them the referendum. An overspend which saw people involved referred to the police. If Remain had won the referendum by 51.9% to 48.1% and it was now clear that Britain Stronger in Europe had been up to that sort of dodginess, what do we imagine that Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest would be saying about it now?
The government leaflet issued during the referendum is worth a fresh look. This was “Project Fear” in early 2016; today, it’s a factual account of what’s happened in the years since, and the prospects facing us now—if anything, an underestimate of what awaits us. And even though it makes clear that the Government believed that “a vote to remain in the EU is in the best interests of the people of the UK”, it’s a long way from the blue-and-yellow-flag-waving propaganda it’s been made out to be by Brexiters since. If it made people more likely to vote Remain, maybe that’s because thinking about the issues in a dispassionate way rather than a heated Facebook-propaganda way has that effect.
Brexit supporters might be noisy online and willing to turn out in their hundreds for Farage, but we’ve seen many head-to-head examples of popular shows of support for Remain and Leave this year, and they didn’t suggest that there are hordes of angry fascists waiting to storm Westminster. Theresa May’s take on the local elections of their being a sign that the electorate wanted Brexit was so obviously wrong that it was laughable: those results should give Remainers strength, not concern.
It’s true that Farage’s branding of his new party will give a bad impression on the night of the EU results when he gets 27% of the vote [pretty close: it was 31.7%], but it won’t change the underlying reasons for the paralysis at Westminster. If anything, it will show that support for No Deal, which will gravitate to Farage, is way less than the 52% that they’ve been pretending.
I suspect that nothing much is going to happen over the summer and we’re going to end up with a repeat of March in October, except that the wind is going out of the sails of No Deal. By then it will be well over three years since the referendum. You can already feel the collective sense of burnout: since Easter everyone has been keen to talk about anything except Brexit, and the gradual reintroduction of it into the current affairs programmes feels reluctant and different in tone from the frenzy of December-April.
I don’t want to take anything for granted, but I don’t want to be prematurely defeatist, either: I was at the beginning of the year, and it didn’t help.
Theresa May had just announced her resignation as Tory leader, effective 7 June.
Meanwhile, in all the talk today of the Conservative party and members deciding whether or not we get stuck with Boris Johnson, I haven’t heard anyone considering the DUP’s role in all of this. They’ve made it clear they won’t countenance a hard border, and that they see a no-deal Brexit as a threat to the union. If the Tories choose a no-dealer as their next leader, surely they’ll face an immediate vote of no confidence in Parliament.
A Few Links
How Brexit ruined my life. Funnier than it sounds.
Labour’s Brexit tactics have failed spectacularly. Not much has changed since May 2016, when nearly half of Labour voters were unaware of its stance on the EU referendum.