The Will of the British People is to Remain in the EU

One month ago, the major pro-Europe organisations came together to launch the single combined campaign, “People’s Vote”, i.e. for the British people to have a vote on the final Brexit deal to be proposed by the Government.  It is important to recognise that such a vote is not the organisations’ final objective, but rather the essential mechanism through which the present will of the British people will be expressed. Leavers will argue that this will has already been expressed through the 2016 Referendum.  This brief paper concludes that this has changed and that the present will of the British people is to remain in the EU.

Ever since the outcome of the 2016 Referendum, it has become increasingly more apparent that the Leave campaign seriously misrepresented the consequences of leaving the EU.

The claims that withdrawal would allow substantially greater spending on the NHS and other public services have been comprehensively contradicted by the great majority of economists and by the Government’s own impact studies.  These all indicate that, on any Leave scenario, the UK economy, and thus UK public services, will be adversely affected.

The slogan “take back control” has proved to be the opposite of the truth as the electorate realises the immensity of our loss in the shaping of the future of the largest economic bloc in the world, with which we conduct nearly half our trade.  The UK is patently losing much control over its most important political and economic relationships and thus over its own future directions.

It is now evident that these losses will be nowhere near compensated by our freedom to strike our own trade deals.  Our bargaining position is far weaker outside the EU and new trade deals, when eventually completed, are likely to come with conditions and regulations no less demanding than those within the EU.

The alarmist narrative from the Leave campaign concerning immigration is now seen in its true light and there is far greater public understanding of the critical contributions of immigrants to the wellbeing of the UK, most notably in the NHS, social care, agriculture, construction, education and hospitality industries.

Shorn of these misrepresentations, Brexit is emerging as a petulant and self-harming retreat from critical relationships with our most important friends and neighbours.  This unforced retreat runs counter to the British bulldog spirit of engagement, perseverance, leadership and collaboration in a multicultural world – the spirit that forged the United Kingdom, the Empire and the Commonwealth, as well as our continuous historic role in the shaping of Europe.

The most serious of all misrepresentations concerns “cherry-picking”.  As negotiations with the EU have progressed, it has become apparent that freedom to make our own trade deals is incompatible with remaining within the EU customs union.  The stark choice offered by Brexit is to suffer either: (a) the adverse economic consequences of leaving with no deal or: (b) the adverse political consequences of remaining within an EU single market and/or customs union, with nil or limited power to shape that market in the future.

The 52% of the electorate who voted Leave can now be seen to comprise three discrete segments of opinion: those who are willing to accept (a) above and leave with no deal; those who are willing to accept (b) above and become a rule-taker ; and those who now recognise the incompatibility and would prefer to Remain.  Even before adding back this third category, the 48% Remain vote is clearly the largest unified segment of opinion across the UK. Nor is that the end of the story. It is highly likely that many Leavers in each of the first two Leave segments would prefer to Remain rather than accept the consequences of the other getting its way.

It is evident that the present will of the British people is for the UK to remain in the European Union.  The time has come for all Remain politicians to speak their minds plainly, to reject both hard and soft Brexit outcomes, and to ensure the people have the democratic opportunity to affirm their will.

Richard Morris

Member, National Executive, The European Movement
Member, Executive Committee, Sevenoaks & Swanley Together in Europe
16th May 2018