With less than 200 days left for the UK departure from the EU in March 2019, it is natural to reflect on the ‘Remain’ and #StopBrexit activities since the dodgy referendum of 2016. What have we achieved? To what extent have we reclaimed the narrative? What – if any – impact did we have? How should we continue?
At first glance, it would seem that the plethora of diverse ‘Remain’ actions since the dodgy referendum achieved very little. There were major marches in Manchester, Leeds and London as well as other smaller ones in towns around the UK. More are planned for the various party conferences in the near future. Brexitometers proved popular and consistently capture and indicate the shift of views towards ‘Remain’. Stalls, performances, EU flag waving events continue unbated. Conferences, gatherings, meetings continue to take place. Against all odds, ‘Remain’ remains alive… But what have we achieved and how to move forward?
We tend to forget the context. Against the grassroots variety of #StopBrexit activities (under-funded and under-resourced), rarely if ever mentioned in the mainstream media, is the official state/Tory propaganda machine dominated by ‘Leave’. Ask: What have they achieved? The Tory cabinet remains divided and only through arm-twisting tactics May(hem) manages to push her Chequers plan (Read: Brexit In Name Only). Already dismissed by the EU and the Labour party, it seems likely to be modified or even dropped. All the talk behind the scenes is on which red lines will be crossed…
The pretense of planning for a ‘hard’Brexit at times swings between surrealism and tragedy (lifesaving drugs transported through planes, stockpiling medicines, government plan for electricity barges in Irish sea should Northern Ireland be cut off, M20 could be giant lorry park for years in event of no-deal Brexit, etc). However, the treasurer Philip Hammond gave it all away when he warned that leaving the EU without a deal would blow an £80bn hole in the public finances. And – interestingly – May(hem) refused to rebuke him. The Tory government is in disarray, even paralysis… No wonder in recent days Gina Miller called for an ‘end to the chaos’.
So, what has ‘Leave’ achieved since the dodgy referendum of 2016? Certainly not the high moral ground. Dodgy funding and on-going revelations that ‘Vote Leave’ broke the electoral law, have stripped Brexit from any moral authority. Originally, the Brexiteers may have positioned themselves as the anti-elite democrats, but Brexit looks increasingly as the project of the privileged, of the few, of the elite, of the cheaters… Recently, ‘OpenDemocracy UK’ captured this situation with the following words: “…You would expect a bold, democratic adventure like Brexit to generate public support. It had the press, the government and institutions such as the BBC in lock-step support of what they accepted as the country’s historic choice. Yet for two long years the division expressed in the referendum barely changed. This will come to be seen as the great, strategic failure of the Brexiteers. They had their moment and lost it…”
There was a time immediately after the dodgy referendum that we were too shocked and even afraid to openly state “#StopBrexit”. It took many months for ‘Remain’ to bring back to the mainstream narrative this call loud and clear (Speak it – Share it – Demand it). As we head towards the ‘meaningful’ vote on the ‘deal’ in the Parliament sometime before this Christmas, ‘Stop Brexit’ is as pertinent as ever. The People’s Vote (PV) has some appeal and one can understand why, but practically speaking it is highly unlikely to take place before the ‘meaningful’ vote and March 2019. Sadly, many politicians continue to display moral cowardice. They need a referendum to hide behind the result and PV offers them that escape option. ‘Remainers’ however, can afford to be honest. The objective remains the same, and although seemingly unattainable, it is as relevant and as pertinent as ever. It is during the darkest moments that we must focus and not compromise our principles. We are freedom fighters. We will always seek the light. #StopBrexit