After Tony Blair’s Brexit speech last week, former Deputy Director of Britain Stronger in Europe (and now Edelman exec) Lucy Thomas tweeted this:
Not all former Remain campaigners agree with this. #Brexit was democratic vote & need to work for best possible version not fight it. https://t.co/5rvPKvh3wX
— Lucy Thomas (@lucycthomas) February 17, 2017
Shortly before that an interesting discussion on Twitter ensued between Sunder Katwala and David Aaronovich, with this Aaronovich tweet being the highlight of it:
Especially when your "woo Gisela" approach has borne so little fruit.
— David Aaronovitch (@DAaronovitch) February 18, 2017
It refers to Sunder involving Gisela Stuart MP in his British Future report, a report that argued rights of EU nationals in the UK should be protected before Stuart then voted exactly the opposite way in Parliament. Steve Peers determinedly slams Stuart in The Guardian here.
The line Thomas and Katwala pursue is a variant of that argued for by – among others – Liz Truss, Caroline Flint and Chuka Umunna, and is also behind the compliant behaviour of the House of Commons in the Brexit notification bill debate.
Jessica Elgot and James Savage it up:
Blair is right but the wrong messenger, say many remainers. But who else is willing to say this? No one, because it risks your career.
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 17, 2017
So many Remainers are instinctive insiders, find it psychologically hard to be insurgents. They get with the programme. @Williamw1
— James Savage (@SavLocal) February 17, 2017
It’s essentially pretty simple. If you think Brexit – and especially the version of Brexit Theresa May is pursuing – is wrong, you still have to argue that it is wrong. Critique, argue, oppose, campaign. But do not fold. Folding is essentially what the likes of Thomas and Katwala are doing. Just as they could not really muster an impassioned case for the EU during the referendum (and were out-thought as well), so they cannot muster determination to oppose now. Meanwhile the hard core Brexiteers are still sounding like insurgents, making impassioned pleas for the hardest and swiftest form of Brexit possible, behaviour that has borne fruit by pushing Theresa May that way.
Also – as Rob Ford correctly points out – had the referendum result been the other way, Farage would not be shutting up now, so why are so many Remain people (other than Blair, the SNP and the Lib Dems) so compliant? Likewise in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon legitimately keeps up the pressure for a second referendum, a point Alex Massie makes in this excellent piece about the Blair speech – that’s the sort of determination that needs to be widespread on the UK-EU issue. But then the SNP see themselves as the insurgents, and Remain people do not.
Ultimately if the UK is to end up with some non-disastrous, softer Brexit, or indeed get at the end of all of this a second referendum and possibly no Brexit at all, it needs those who see the foolishness of this whole thing to stick to their guns and not give in.
[UPDATE 20.2.2017, 1600]
It has been pointed out to me that Sunder Katwala’s organisation British Future is a charitable organisation and hence was non-partisan in the referendum, and hence my comparison between him and Lucy Thomas is unfair. That is a fair point. But British Future did still go for Gisela Stuart as its enquiry chair, presumably with the aim of calming down the EU citizens’ issue post-referendum, only to then be bitten by her…
All true. But it doesn’t answer – or even pose – what is now the main question: how should those opposed to May’s version of Brexit mobilise and organise themselves in order to get their point of view across most effectively? Can we have some concrete, practical ideas and proposals, please?