Brexit… Or Maybe Not Quite!
“… at twenty minutes to five, we can now say that the decision taken in 1975 by this country to join the common market has been reversed by this referendum to leave the EU.” (David Dimbleby on BBC One, 24 June 2016.)
A shockwave felt across the world. The words 14 million people in Britain did not want to hear. Brexit became reality. Nigel Farage’s dream had come true. Nigel Farage had won.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, Farage was even claiming victory: “Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom. This, if the predictions now are right, this will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people.”
The British pound immediately crashed to its lowest levels in 31 years. Well, all the experts had been warning the British public for months that a Brexit would do lasting damage to the UK economy. But nobody listened to the experts, because they were told not to trust them. The experts were wrong and alarmists. “Project fear”, the likes of Farage and Boris Johnson had said.
Then, at 8 o’clock in the morning, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that was it: “The British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”
Britons woke up with the news. A terrible hungover for the Remainers, a great victory for the strong Leavers, some big regrets for many who “thought my vote would not count” and millions of young people across the country feeling they had been robbed of their future by the older generation. A real generation divide in a very divided kingdom.
Before the official announcement of the referendum result by the Electoral Commission’s chief counting officer, Jenny Watson, at Manchester Town Hall, the Leavers were already at work to walk away from their promises with Nigel Farage calling rubbish the idea of an extra £350m for the NHS that he said was mistakenly promised by the Boris/Gove’s official campaign, not him.
Also MEP Dan Hannan depreciating the mere idea of a reduction in EU immigration on the BBC: “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed.” Grilled by Evan Davis on Newsnight later, the politician went as far as saying he could accept a situation where there was “free movement of labour” within the European Union.
Later it was Michael Gove and Boris Johnson’s turn to speak in a press conference. They both gambled on their careers by backing the Leave campaign. They backed Leave and it paid off!
Boris said: “In voting to leave the EU, it is vital to stress there is no need for haste, and as the prime minister has said, nothing will change in the short term except how to give effect to the will of the people and to extricate this country from the supranational system. There is no need to invoke Article 50. And to those who may be anxious both at home and abroad, this does not mean that the United Kingdom will be in anyway less united, it does not mean it will be any less European.”
Within minutes, in Brussels Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, told journalists the 27 remaining member states wanted to negotiate Britain’s exit plan “as soon as possible, however painful this process will be.”
But, apart for the loud shouter Farage, the Brexiters were in no hurry. Why?
Why would they not want to accelerate the way out? Was it not what the referendum result was all about, delivering Britain’s exit of the European Union?
Or was it?
Well. Let’s imagine, just for a moment, that not everything is as it seems…
As we know, after the Conservative party conference, next October, the new Prime Minister, favourite Boris Johnson, will be “chosen” in a Conservative party leadership election.
Once his government is finally in control of everything, replacing David Cameron’s cabinet and ministers, Boris will meet the 27 other EU leaders in Brussels and explain that he could still decide not to invoke the almighty Article 50, providing they offer him a better deal than the one David Cameron negotiated back in February, threatening them with the nuclear weapon: A full immediate Brexit, in the event that they would not give him what he wants.
After some long days and nights of negotiation, the EU would eventually offer Boris the best deal possible: Access to the single market, restriction of the freedom of movement, special immigration controls, special status allowing the UK to reduce its contribution to the EU budget, a special associate status, etc.
Junker and the 27 other EU leaders would immediately call it a great day for Europe, nearly guaranteeing the survival of the 28. The other 27 countries would then also be able to renegotiate their own membership within the EU.
“I am happy today to announce that I have championed the lead for a newly, more transparent and reformed European Union. Veni, Vidi, Vici,” Boris Johnson would tell the media, outside the EU Council’s HQ.
In getting exactly what he would have been asking for, the new PM would call a new referendum, back in the UK, with the same Remain/Leave question, opened to the same voters as well as all 16 and 17-year olds in the country. This time, all Brexiters would support the Remain together with most former Remainers, whilst the lone wolf Nigel Farage and his far-right friends would, this time, be on the wrong side of History.
The results of the second referendum would come as no surprise, with a higher turn-out and a Remain vote reaching nearly 80%. Boris would become the hero of a generation: The young generation who had been denied a fair result on the first contest. The hero of a country: Boris would have avoided the splitting of the United Kingdom. The hero of a continent: Boris would have saved the EU project and lifted the importance and the leadership of the Britain in Europe, against the usual France-Germany duo.
At the General Election that would follow, Boris would be elected Prime Minister with the highest number of votes ever registered for a Primer Minister and receiving the largest majority since 2001 when Tony Blair reached a majority of 167 seats, reducing the opposition to a fragile combination of Labour and LibDem MPs. The SNP, Green and UKIP MPs would have been wiped out of Westminster.
As for Nigel Farage, he would be nowhere to be seen after yet another defeat trying to become MP for South Thanet and various frantic media appearances during which he would have first conceded defeat, then unconceded, before conceding again, then unconceding and finally reconceding.
Of course, all that is only political fiction.
But… What if?
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Eziogutzemberg | Dreamstime.com — Brexit, Symbol of the Referendum UK vs EU