On the peak of Britain’s Brexit debate, passions ran so excessive that some talked of a “new English civil conflict”. That comparability nonetheless intrigues me for one particular motive: the facet that gained the civil conflict in the end misplaced. King Charles I used to be executed in 1649. Eleven years later, the English determined they’d made a mistake and restored the monarchy.
May an identical reversal occur with Brexit? I feel so.
Seven years after the 2016 referendum, and three years after Brexit truly occurred, opinion has shifted markedly. As the tutorial Matthew Goodwin wrote lately, some 60 per cent of Britons now suppose Brexit was the improper determination and would vote to rejoin the EU at a second referendum. An average of latest polls reveals 58 per cent of voters not solely regretting Brexit, however actively favouring Rejoin.
It’s straightforward to know why. Brexit was bought as a method of controlling immigration and enhancing the NHS. However the NHS is now in far worse form than it was in 2016. Immigration into the UK stays very excessive, with EU immigrants largely changed by individuals from outdoors the bloc. And the IMF predicts that Britain may have the worst performing economy within the developed world this 12 months.
Demographics and economics recommend that the Rejoin sentiment will strengthen over time. Younger voters are probably the most pro-EU of the lot, with 79 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds eager to rejoin. And, sadly, the harm performed to the UK economic system by Brexit is more likely to grow to be more and more evident.
Thus far these modifications haven’t filtered by means of into politics. Daniel Hannan, a distinguished Depart campaigner, claimed lately that there was a “plot to overturn Brexit”. If solely!
In actuality, with roughly two years earlier than an election, the opposition Labour occasion says that reversing Brexit is out of the query — and talks solely of “fixes” to the present deal. Even diehard Remainers usually moan that it’s going to take a era earlier than Britain can contemplate rejoining the EU.
However that is too fatalistic and too accepting of the mounting harm Brexit is doing. It additionally ignores the pace with which occasions and opinion are transferring.
The reality is that the marginal “fixes” to Brexit favoured by Labour will not be achievable and wouldn’t compensate for exclusion from the EU’s inside market. The general public appear to have realised this. Ultimately politicians should reply — and the concept of rejoining the EU will grow to be mainstream. A big Labour majority on the subsequent election would make that shift simpler.
Any marketing campaign to rejoin would face two huge additional objections. The primary and most vital is the declare that the EU wouldn’t need Britain again. The second is the argument that the British will flip towards Rejoin, once they realise what it entails.
European opposition to a British return definitely exists, however will be overstated. Michel Barnier, who led the EU’s Brexit negotiating crew, says the door is open for Britain to rejoin the EU “any time”. Man Verhofstadt, who was head of the European parliament’s Brexit committee, tweeted final week: “I’ve a dream. Ukraine and Britain becoming a member of the EU within the subsequent 5 years.”
After I rang Philippe Lamberts, co-chair of the Inexperienced group within the European parliament, and requested him about Britain rejoining, he replied: “That will be my dream state of affairs.” Lamberts thinks the 5 important political groupings within the parliament would all favour British re-entry.
Some EU member states, specifically France, would most likely take a special view. The French argue that the British had been a ache contained in the EU and that the bloc has labored higher since Brexit. However French opposition to British membership was worn down within the Nineteen Seventies and may very well be once more.
Most EU insiders, nevertheless, warn that, this time, Britain wouldn’t be supplied any particular offers. There could be no price range rebate; no decide out from the social chapter. Britain must settle for the free motion of individuals and, fairly most likely, the euro.
Some pundits suppose that when these realities sink in, the British would lose their preliminary enthusiasm for rejoining the EU. However that’s not essentially the case.
The concept leaving the EU will dramatically cut back immigration has been disproved. Embracing European social requirements could horrify the Tory proper, however would most likely be well-liked amongst many of the voters.
Even the euro may not be a deal-breaker. I opposed Britain becoming a member of the one forex 20 years in the past as a result of it was an untried experiment. However the euro is now a longtime worldwide forex, whereas the pound appears chronically weak. The younger voters who favour Rejoin care extra about points such because the atmosphere than summary notions of sovereignty.
How might or not it’s performed? I might favour a two-referendum course of. The primary vote may very well be held in 2026, a decade after the Depart vote of 2016. It will merely give the UK authorities permission to open negotiations with the EU. A powerful vote of approval — say, 60 per cent — would possibly allay some EU scepticism about whether or not Britain is simply too divided to cope with. A second referendum could be held on the phrases of the Rejoin deal.
It took 11 years for Britain to revive the monarchy. Why not attempt to beat that by a 12 months — and reverse Brexit inside a decade?