Remainers unite! Divided we fail

Jon Danzig |

The Financial Times has published an article which provides the raw truth for the Remain movement: Britain’s Remainers are too divided.

It’s something I have been complaining about for some years. My disappointment in the inability of Remainers to work effectively together has moved to frustration, to anger, and now to resigned despair. Truly, deep, despair.

By not working together, we are giving a bigger chance of a crushing victory to the direct enemy of Remain, Nigel Farage’s ‘Brexit Party’, which we should be under no illusion, has enormous and unbridled ambitions to turn our country into an isolated, nasty, right-wing state.

Three years before the referendum, I asked Dirk Hazell, leader of the strongly pro-Remain European People’s Party in the UK (UK EPP) what he thought would be the likely scenario if there was a referendum in which Brexit won. He replied:

“England would get more like Spain under the dictator Franco, but with worse weather.”

At the time, I thought this was ridiculously far-fetched. Now, I am not so sure. The threat of the far-right in the UK is serious, but I fear that it is not being taken seriously enough.

The Remain parties and groups, being splintered, ego-driven, brand-orientated and power-hungry, have hopelessly underestimated the threat of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Remainers lack a true realisation that only by working together, with a common cause, can there be the greatest chance of decisively defeating both Farage and Brexit.

Credit needs to be given to the LibDems for reaching out to the other pro-Remain parties to try and achieve some sort of collaboration, but their overtures were rebuffed.

It was Nigel Farage that caused the referendum to happen in the first place.

He promised “an earthquake” before the previous European elections in 2014, and he delivered. His UKIP party won that election with more MEP seats than any other UK party.

Consequently, the Tories, terrified that UKIP would steal their power base, responded by promising an in/out EU referendum in their manifesto for the general election in the following year, 2015 (which David Cameron never expected to win outright).

Labour and the LibDems did not offer a referendum, and if Labour had won the 2015 election, we would not now be on the road to Brexit.

Brexit was never previously a mainstream call in the years and decades leading up to the referendum. Leavers were always only in a minority, on the far extremes and side-lines of the Tory and Labour Parties.

Now, they are in charge.

Most people in Britain don’t want Brexit, they never did. Only a minority of registered voters voted for Leave (just 37%).

In most democracies across the world that hold referendums, such a minority vote could never have resulted in Leave winning, as a minimum threshold, or ‘super majority’, would have been required for a Brexit victory.

Now, all polls show that more people in Britain want us to Remain in the EU than leave.
That’s been the case in over 60 consecutive polls from different organisations since the 2017 general election: Britain doesn’t want Brexit. It’s most unlikely that all those polls could be wrong.

Yet, a low turnout in the European elections, combined with a divided, splintered front by the Remain movement, could give an unnecessary win to the Brexit Party.

Yes, the European elections are run on a form of proportional representation in the UK, but not a very good version of it.

You don’t get a second or third choice. You can only vote for one party. With several Remain parties represented on your ballot paper, it means that some Remain parties may not even reach the minimum threshold needed to get a seat.

Hugo Dixon, editor of Infacts, argues that a key test will be the total number of votes cast for all five Remain parties taken together. That will give a good indication of how strong the popular momentum is behind staying in the EU, he says.

But it will be seats that truly count, more than the number of votes, and if the five Remain parties had agreed to work together in the European elections, they could have got many more seats for the same number of votes.

It’s a truly lost opportunity.

The polling company, YouGov, has calculated that if an anti-Brexit pact had been formed between the LibDems, the Greens and Change UK for the European election, in say a notional 6-seat constituency, the pro-Remain alliance would have won two seats, the same as the Brexit party.

Instead, YouGov argues, without an anti-Brexit alliance, the Brexit party will take three seats in such a constituency, Labour two and the Conservatives one.

As the Financial Times reported:

‘The forthcoming European elections ought to be a golden opportunity for British politicians who want a second referendum and, ultimately, a reversal of the Brexit process.

‘But unfortunately for the Remain side, it’s an opportunity that is not being fully grasped.

‘With a little under two weeks to polling day, most of the campaigning momentum lies with Nigel Farage and his slick Brexit party.

‘His movement is united around his image; it is focused on an unrelenting message about a hard Brexit; and it is attracting large numbers of disillusioned Conservatives to big rallies.’

The newspaper added:

‘By contrast, there are no fewer than five parties across the UK advocating Remain and a second referendum. These are the Liberal Democrats, Change UK, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. And thus far they are making a lot less noise.’

Of course, the pro-Remain ‘noise’ could be much louder and more effective if allies worked together.

A serious example of ‘not-working-together’ is the failure of pro-Remain parties to coalesce around a single candidate in the forthcoming Peterborough by-election on 6 June.

It was thought that pro-Remain parties would all support Femi Oluwole, a young and dynamic Remainer activist. But the accord fell through.

Remainers need to practice the ideology of the European Union: working together.

Why have Remainers learnt so little since the catastrophic loss of the referendum in 2016, that frankly, Remain should have won, if only they had been better organised, and united?


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