Brexit backlash and a People’s Vote

Can’t exactly be a secret to anyone who reads this blog, follows me on social meeja, or has met me for more than about 60 seconds at any point in the last 3 years that I’m pretty obsessed with what a disaster I believe Brexit to be, and very much desire that it doesn’t happen.

Guilty as charged yer honour.

One argument that frequently gets thrown at me in these when talking about these issues is that if Brexit is to be stopped it will be damaging. People will feel betrayed. That their faith in our system, and confidence in our politics will be shaken. That they are not listened to.

And you know what? I agree. 100% this is going to be the case. But…. at the same time though, is going to happen anyway in any eventuality.

I think we all have to accept that there are going to be serious ramifications for politics, for the country, and for our political discourse and public life whatever happens.

Here is why; if Brexit does now occur; it isn’t going to be the Brexit anyone was promised or was expecting. 16 Million people voted remain; and whilst they voted with wildly varying degrees of enthusiasm they were voting for a known quantity.

This isn’t true of leave. 17 million people voted leave, and they probably voted for not far off 17 million different visions of what that meant, what they wanted, what they expected to happen.

None of them voted for a Brexit that looked anything like what is actually on offer. May’s deal, or a disastrous “No Deal” Brexit were just not talked about by any Leave campaigner, or any Leave voters I knew.

It was all “Sun lit uplands” “Easiest Deal in History” “No Downside just considerable upsides” “My position on cake is to eat it and have it” (All actual quotes by leading Brexiteers BTW…..)

But now even it’s biggest adherents now accept that jobs will be lost, people will be poorer, tax take will need to increase and services will be cut. They accept that any benefits won’t be felt for 10, 20, 50 even 100 years. We are now told that this is in the name of some higher good, some true purpose. Sovereignty, Control of Borders, International Free trade; choose your own poison. I hear people now saying all the time that they don’t mind being poorer, losing jobs, we just need to get out.

People weren’t promised that in 2016; that wasn’t the conversation then. Most people don’t follow the issue obsessively or in detail like us policy wonks. They have been lied to that Brexit was some simple process that could happen easily and quickly with no consequences.

Those people who voted in some indistinct sense to kick out at a rigged unfair system and to send a message and make their lives better in some way (I suspect quite a lot of people who aren’t political nerks who voted Brexit did so like this) are going to be hugely disappointed when the reality of what any Brexit actually means kicks in compared to what they were promised. People are going to be seriously pissed. In any form of Brexit.

The right, the Brexit adherents and true believers, are going to cry betrayal whatever happens (why do you think they all quit and ran away when the reality of the compromises happened?). Whatever form of Brexit actually happens is going to be attacked as an establishment stitch up that it wasn’t “Done Properly”; that it wasn’t done by people with backbone who believed in it.

They were always going to do that, because the promises they made weren’t real and could never happen. They prefer the grievance to the solution. None of the real issues facing ordinary people in our country are either caused, or exacerbated by our membership of the European Union. It is someone else’s cause (rich disaster capitalists) and they have performed the most amazing three card trick to persuade so many people that leaving the EU will fix their problems.

And here is what will happen in any form of Brexit people are going to be disappointed when it doesn’t deliver what they expected.

People who expected to get richer form Brexit will be disappointed (unless they are a wealthy disaster capitalist, or an NHS privatiser).

People who expected to stop hearing foreign voices, or seeing brown faces, will be disappointed.

People who expected the NHS to get magically funded better will be disappointed.

People who expect more and better jobs will be disappointed.

People who expect little people to be listened to more will be disappointed.

People who expect us to become a buccaneering 19th century sea trading empire dominating the world will be disappointed.

People who think this will be all over in March and “done” will be disappointed

All of that is going to happen in any Brexit. Those who hate the left, hate the working poor, hate organised Labour were always going to use the aftermath of any Brexit, or any non Brexit to seek to cause division and undermine our values.

The damage to trust in our system, our democracy, is going to happen anyway because Brexit won’t really deliver any of what people hope or expect it to deliver. When people find out they didn’t get what they voted for they will feel cheated anyway. Betrayed anyway. Angry anyway.

In those scenarios though we are going to be in a much worse position to deal with it. It is often said, and very plausibly, that Brexit was as much the end result and product of the financial crisis and 10 years of austerity as it was a decision about peoples feelings on Europe. People who felt insecure, un-listened too, poorer and weaker kicked out in 2016.

Something that doesn’t stop any of that, but actually makes it worse, isn’t going to solve those issues. It is going to make them worse.

There are no good solutions to our currently predicament. Only least bad options. But if your opposition to a new referendum or just stopping Brexit is you fear a backlash I’ve got news for you that backlash and all the negativity is coming either way.


Originally published at Lunchtime Legend.