Brexit: The Forward March of Remain? It Still Hasn’t Got Out of the Starting Blocks

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Yves here. This post, raising doubts about the depth of support for Remain,  makes for a telling contrast to the triumphalism after the massive demonstrations for a “People’s Vote” on Brexit last weekend.

By Mark Perryman, a member of both the Labour Party and Momentum. He has edited numerous books on the politics of the Left, including The Corbyn Effect, and his new book Corbynism from Below will be published by in September 2019. Originally published at

“The remain campaign, from its passion-free name and its inherent self-righteousness, is the worst campaign I have seen in my lifetime” –

Suzanne is brutally correct.

I voted ‘Remain’. But sheer bloody uselessness of both the original campaign and now the doomed ‘People’s Vote’ / second referendum, needs accounting for, and then some. Forward march? Remain never even got out of the starting blocks – not for the Referendum, and despite their big march, not now either.

Back in 2016 “Labour says R-E-M-A-I-N” said it all. The campaign started off bad, got worse and has never recovered. It is not the job of Labour to ever be in the business of remain, don’t change, everything’s fine as it is. Leave that to the Tories, that’s their niche appeal (the clue is in the name; Conservative).

Corbyn’s “remain but reform” stance during the referendum campaign was quite right. It could have chimed with millions, most of whom wouldn’t drape themselves in an EU flag in a million years. But – besieged by opposition from his own MPs and the party bureaucracy – Corbyn left the Labour Remain campaign in the clutches of Alan Johnson. Alan writes half-decent memoirs but in the crucial capacity of leading Labour’s Referendum campaign he was a spectacular flop (even his own constituency voted Leave by a large majority). Corbyn should have grabbed control of the campaign and steered it in the direction he was following himself, but he wasn’t in a powerful enough position to do so. The caution killed dead Labour’s chance of swinging a large part of its working class Eurosceptic vote. The PLP ‘chicken coup’ of the summer of 2016 then justified itself mainly by the make-believe idea that Remain losing was all down to Jeremy. Seeing off ultra-Remainer Owen Smith in the second leadership challenge and doing better than expected in the 2017 General Election strengthened Corbyn – but too late to save that vote for Europe.

However, the post Remain campaign wasn’t buying any of this. Forget Labour’s existential problem of having both large numbers of Leave-voting constituencies and large numbers of Remain ones. Forget that in a people’s vote, they’d lost. Their solution? Let’s have another one.

If such a venture was to be secured, or at the very least to soften the worst excesses of a Tory Brexit, the Remain camp needed to shift popular opinion. In this they have singularly failed. And yet they plough on regardless. The message has stayed the same, the EU treated as an entirely unproblematic institution, a line that convinces no one except the pre-existing adherents.

There’s little sense of the popular meaning of Europe either. A few weeks before the march, came the one occasion that flag achieves any kind of popular purchase in the UK – the Ryder Cup, this time won by Europe. Yet the Remain crowd are entirely disconnected to such opportunities, be they golf or indeed the most Europeanised institution in British society, football. The campaign lacks any kind of popular touch. Choosing to front your eve-of-march message with Messrs Blair, Clegg and Heseltine? Enough said.

Much more credible has been the emergence of pro-remain critical thinking including Anthony Barnett’s superb book and from Compass their ground-breaking report . Both address the most fundamental error of the post-referendum Remain campaign; their assertion that everybody else apart from them misunderstood what they were voting for. This is absolutely no way to win a political argument. It’s anti-politics writ large, and the polls reveal the dire consequences. The support for Leave remains virtually unchanged.

Of course that 700,000 gathered in London to march from A to B in time-honoured fashion is impressive. And if has finally found ‘a cause worth marching for’ well good on him too. Don’t lets be curmudgeonly. The extra-parliamentary Left should welcome Will and his co-thinkers to the world of protest politics with open arms. Yet Will has fallen for precisely the same illusion that too many of us have done in the past, looking out over the crowds in Parliament Square at the end of a big march. “When hundreds of thousands give up their time for peaceful protest, they are never wrong.” They may not be wrong, but social change only occurs when a march is connected to a movement rooted in localities , and so far the People’s Voters have failed to construct anything remotely resembling that.

I can reel off plenty of marches I’ve been on over the years: Rock against Racism, CND, Anti-Apartheid, the Poll Tax, Stop the War, for Palestine, against Trump. Some smaller than Saturday’s, some bigger. But protest isn’t simply a numbers game. It’s about turning the campaign from People’s Vote to People’s Power.

Remain has palpably failed ever since the shock of being on the losing side. A failure caused by not creating any sort of extra-parliamentary leverage. They needed to base their campaign in the parliamentary constituencies of Tory MPs holding onto marginal seats. A non-party force pressing home the case that sticking with the government will lose them their seat could have had a substantial impact. Street-by-street, block-by-block, doorstep-by-doorstep.

Saturday proved Remain has the numbers to do this, but to date it hasn’t had either the leadership or the endurance for an effort with none of the glamour of a Saturday afternoon stroll from Park Lane to Parliament square but one that is a hundred times more effective. And the advantage of our rotten electoral system is that the number of places requiring such an effort are relatively small yet crucial to the parliamentary arithmetic.

The Guardian writer John Harris is optimistic that Saturday was proof that such an effort may yet be possible. John “It felt like it on the first back in June, but now we know: there’s now another mass activist movement, and it makes politics way more complicated / interesting/ unpredictable.” He shares the critical perspective of others that the causes of the vote for Brexit cannot be lightly dismissed, chronicling this case extremely well via his series of short films ‘Anywhere but Westminster’ – so John’s estimate of what is happening should be taken seriously.

I’m not convinced though. The march had all the feeling of one final hurrah of the same social forces that lost in 2016 with none of the lessons learned since. If the turn to localities, , is to happen now, good. But we’ve had two and a bit years since the referendum already. Where’s the kind of ‘mass activist movement’ that was needed for the long haul of shifting a bloc of soft Leave voters, most especially in those key Tory marginals? Missing in inaction, that’s where.

The Remainers’ world view is fuelled almost more than anything else by the bile they like to chuck Labour’s way. Labour has made it clear the party will be seeking to overturn May’s deal. But because Labour is also committed to respecting the result of the referendum virtually anything else it says or does is treated by the Remainers as an act of unforgiveable treachery.

But as any final vote approaches, Labour’s position does deserve some close scrutiny – beyond the usual simple binary of left and right. Of particular interest are the Labour MPs – often of the right – who whilst not committed leavers, represent Leave-voting constituencies – MPs like Caroline Flint, Gloria del Piero, and Gareth Snell. If their votes are to be lined up against Brexit, Chuka Umunna’s time might be better spent bending the ears of his old friends on the Labour right backbenches, rather than cosying up with his new best friend, Anna Soubry.

Already in the Guardian is suggesting , “For more pragmatic Remainers the temptation to back a deal, depending on the softness of its content and the degree of compromise made by May, and which has also been agreed by the EU27, will be a serious option.”

Blinded by their anti-Corbyn rhetoric, the Remain crowd so far have entirely missed this crucial variable. Corbyn and Keir Starmer won’t be calling on Labour MPs to vote with the Tories to secure their version of Brexit. But a section of the Liberal commentariat will, in the so-called ‘national interest.’ And there are Labour MPs ready to answer that call.

And this is crucial – because unless and until May’s deal is defeated, there is no conceivable electoral arithmetic for a majority in favour of launching a second referendum.

The danger now, however, is that a fractured Parliamentary Labour Party will defy Corbyn to vote, for a variety of reasons, all of them wrong, with the Tories, replacing the votes of potential Tory rebels to save May.

Will Remain see the urgency of stopping such a scenario? To date they’ve shown little interest in the dilemma of Labour MPs representing leave-voting constituencies. Instead they invest every effort in portraying an ever more extreme version of the socio-economic wasteland of Britain after Brexit. Scare tactics, combined with an idealisation of the EU, has been their retreat from politics: blaming their allies for the actions of their enemies, their blundersome tactic. Sadly, Saturday’s march didn’t change any of that, not one bit.

 

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57 comments

  1. Clive

    As a thought experiment, I have often asked myself how, if it were me in charge, would I have tried to ensure a Remain majority in the referendum. It is not an easy task because Remain had little in its product offer (if I may borrow a marketing term) to counter the seductive, if highly inaccurate, winds-of-change populism of Leave.

    Remain was never going to win over the right-wing swivel-eyed loon faction in Leave. There was no point in trying. Yet Remain insisted on trying and in doing so wasted time and effort its limited media bandwidth on a frontal assault where it was doomed to fail.

    Remain did have a chance at shifting disenfranchised working class voters thinking of voting Leave. While it was on the back foot (due to immigration, while probably being a net economic , nevertheless offered unscrupulous capital the opportunity to say to someone already in a low wage job with no employment rights “I can get 10 more from eastern Europe just like you if you don’t knuckle down and stop complaining”) it could have made an argument that, bad though things were for the working class in the EU, just wait to see what happens if we were to leave the EU. But in order to do that, Remain would have needed to be run, in terms of its leadership, by left-wing Europhiles.

    Once, however, Remain succumbed to the metropolitan elite (centralist Labour and the Liberals) it was sunk. The unpleasant reality lurking in neoliberal left-ish parties like Blairite Labour and (all-to-often) the Liberals is, while they’re quite happy to champion the working class, the last thing they want to do is to actually be the working class. The moment the working class — as it inevitably must — pipes up and spouts illiberal demands (anti-business measures which the neoliberal Blairite Labour element of Remain hated or anti-immigration and “Britain First” which the Liberals hated) out popped, again, as it always does, the vicious authoritarian streak which never lies that far below the surface of these two political animals.

    Naturally, this also spilled over into the choice of representatives who fronted the Remain campaign in terms of media presences. Why anyone in Remain ever thought that the dire collection of showbiz luvvies, Blair’s apologist in chief Alistair Campbell, “” and Conservative technocrats would ever resonate with the working class makes me wonder if Remain had even the slightest hint of self-awareness.

    This, for example, is what Remain chose to foist onto the electorate in terms of TV slots Did Remain really understand that it needed to shift working class votes? Nothing, nothing at all, in that even remotely engaged working class Leave’rs. I ask you, if you were a Leave-leaning voter outside of the middle or upper classes, did you see a single frame in that which countered the notion that the EU was an elite racket and offered you nothing whatsoever? It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to work out exactly who would make a production like that — and how they made it for themselves and people like them, rather than any serious attempt to win over anyone who thought differently.

    Short version: Remain lost because it didn’t like the kinds of people who voted Leave and, shades of the Democrats here, would rather lose than look at their agenda. And lose, they promptly did.

    None of this, of course, seeks to underplay the bait-and-switch which Leave is about to unleash on the working class itself. But that’s another story (the story here being how Remain lost).

    1. vlade

      Yup, the only thing that is comparable to Remain campaign was Hillary’s one – tells you how when you take things for granted, you end up with nothing much..

    2. PlutoniumKun

      That Remain video struck me as particularly odd when I saw it back during the campaign. The idea behind it was obvious and reasonably good – get a range of people, from popular CEO to minority single mum to talk about why the EU is great. But then they picked not one, but three makers of craft beer/cider/wine, and then quite weirdly (to my eyes) seemed to truncate the contributions by the pregnant black lady and the young student talking about roaming, which I would have thought were the key contributions for the youth/working class vote. My first thought was ‘I bet they were making a point about the EU protecting us from the Tories, and that got edited out’. I could be entirely wrong, but my first thought when I watched that was that someone with a very heavy hand cut out some of the contributions, probably because they were seen as too political.

      I suspect that as so often with political ads, the agencies are less concerned with impacting on the voter than with keeping on the right side of the person paying the bills – this isn’t always the same thing, as any Democrat should know.

      1. Clive

        Yes, amongst all the awfulness of that ad, the student was the most bizarre. I remember, too, this ran during the referendum but when I searched for it I — seriously — had to double-check I hadn’t inadvertently been fooled by an Onion-like parody put out by Leave. It’s that bad — ineffectual advertising is merely a neutral waste of money and opportunity (as in, it fails to convince anyone to consider what’s on offer). But counterproductive advertising which actually leads the viewer to consider buying The Other Leading Brand is an own goal.

        If the script (and it was probably scripted) for the student had had her say something like “I’m weighed down by £30,000 in Student Loans and wonder what kind of job opportunities I’ll have if we were to be outside the EU but at least I can do the few things that a young person like me is able to afford like quickly and easily travelling across the whole of Europe whenever I get chance for a cheap ferry crossing with just my backpack and my phone. But now Leave wants to take even that away from me and bring back rip-off roaming fees?” — that would have been a great message.

        Instead, even I who is fairly tolerant was moved to throw things at the screen and yell “get over yourself you stupid snowflake and stick your sense of entitlement where the sun don’t shine… along with your bloody iPhone”.

        If I recall correctly, at the time the thinking went that Remain’s big problem was getting the vote out and overcoming apathy. So perhaps this TV slot was an attempt to remind Remainer voters what they’d be keeping alive. Which I kind-of get. But “CEOs for Europe”, “business” and the threat of a Hipster Craft Beer Crisis wasn’t going to win anyone toying with voting Leave over.

        Plus, the whole thing was so tweely English-centric, I kept expecting to have someone call round and offer me a cup of tea, cucumber sandwiches and a slice of Victoria sponge.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes – even I, as a significant consumer of hipster craft beers, wines and ciders was unconvinced. They obviously did put some thought into, say, picking the nice lady CEO of EasyJet (note the subtle little advert they inserted, did Easyjet pay for it?) rather than bloody Michael O’Leary, but would it have killed them to find, say, a retired older person talking about the ease and low cost of retiring to the sun in Spain and visiting friends around Europe? A builder talking about how he can now do contract work in Germany? A community environmental activist who has used EU law to win local battles over pollution or planning issues?

    3. DaveH

      “As a thought experiment, I have often asked myself how, if it were me in charge, would I have tried to ensure a Remain majority in the referendum”.

      Given the margins involved, the tactics used to win and the attention-to-detail paid by the average voter, I reckon a big red bus with “Let’s not go back to having to pay for mobile data on holiday” would probably have swung it.

      If Cameron hadn’t been so complacent, what he should have done is set out the outlines of the relationship that he intended to negotiate. He was Prime Minister, he was well within his rights to say “as Prime Minister, I will be negotiating with the EU in the event of a leave vote and this is the deal that I intend to seek. If you think that sounds better than the status quo, then vote leave. If not, then don’t”

      Cut Farage and his ilk off at the knees, no “all things to all people” scattergun approach, no projecting what you thought you might have been getting. And an initial negotiating mandate which he (or the next sucker on the conveyor belt) could rightly say in negotiations was what the UK voted for, and Parliament would find it very difficult to vote against.

      Obviously though it would have involved him finding out in advance the stuff that most of the country has spent the last two years finding out, so it was never going to work.

    4. Adam1

      I’m not even British, but that video must have been compiled by someone who lives in an elite bubble. Here are the 2 things I’d suspect most working class leave voters heard even though not explicitly said. From within their bubble they didn’t even recognize that they were telling workers why they should vote leave!
      “…we need Europe…” translation, we don’t need or care about British workers
      “…to be stronger I need European business…” translation, for fat cat British elite to get fatter and richer they need Europe (who cares about those British workers).

      I’d also say at the 30,000 foot level your thought experiment Clive applies to the US.

      1. marku52

        “your thought experiment Clive applies to the US.”

        Absolutely, The cluelessness of the current democrat (mis) leadership is very much of this sort. It pretty much boils down to “If you don’t vote for us you are either stupid or a racist”

        Stunningly, this fails as a persuasive argument. Over and over again. But no, never look at your actual policies and the effects they have had. Or god forbid, propose something new….

    5. Temporarily Sane

      (I wrote a longer blurb that disappeared after I hit Post Comment. Here is a much shorter version.)

      Remain was never going to win over the right-wing swivel-eyed loon faction in Leave. There was no point in trying.

      Interesting.

      Let’s swap out a few words:

      Hillary was never going to win over the irredeemable basket of deplorables. There was no point in trying.

      And you wonder why the working class is defecting to the right?

      Honest question: If you can’t accept people who are a bit rough around the edges and don’t have a university education, why did you join a party that represents the working class?

      I’m beginning to think identity politics really is a sign that western civilization has entered the collapse phase. It is tearing our society apart and driving people into the arms of the fascists.

      And if you think a majority of working class women and “people of color” (what a horribly patronizing and, sorry, white term) are on side with this insanity you are dead wrong.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Agreed that the Remain campaign has been beyond awful, but it is always much easier to campaign ‘against’ something large and amorphous like the EU than to be in favour of the status quo. This has long been a feature in Irish referendums on the EU, where far more people tended to vote against whatever treaty was up for discussion than polling would suggest. People would say “Oh, I support the EU, but I’ve heard this Treaty will do X, and I’m not in favour of that, so I’m voting ‘no'”. Brexiteers only had to pick and choose whatever message would resonate with a particular audience to get what they wanted.

    I suspect its a lost cause, but I think the article is on the right track in terms of how the damage could be mitigated. I think if Labour was serious about trying to stay in the EU (I’m not sure Corbyn and his direct followers are), I think the only realistic strategy is to deny May any Parliamentary support for any agreement, and hope that a panic stricken government will then accept the backstop, which would give a year for further negotiations, with an endpoint a referendum in 2020 giving people a clear menu of choices – say ‘Remain’, ‘EFTA/EEA membership’ ‘Canada Plus’ or ‘none of the above’. That doesn’t of course solve anything, as the EU/EFTA might simply not accept the option chosen, but it does give an opportunity for either a face-saving withdrawal of A.50, or at least a clear direction in its future direction. I suspect that if Corbyn made a clear statement that this was his strategy, he could get quite broad support, maybe even from some Tories.

    1. vlade

      Your last para assumes the EU would play along. Which is the massively faulty assumption, in the face of all facts and EU pronouncements that the UK politicians were making since 2016. They were all – and I mean all, Tories, Labour, LibDem, even UKIP – acting as if the UK decided, and the EU followed.

      I’m NOT advocating voting for May’s deal (since it’s not really a deal regardless. It’s just a time-wasting device at the very best, as it in all cases turns into the four options you named). But it also needs to be recognised that not voting for it is a high-risk strategy that can spectacularly backfire w/o the EU playing along, and even that may not be enough.

      If Labour votes no on the deal, and the strategy backfires – i.e. no extension of A50, and no-deal Brexit next March, then Tories will happily blame Labour for it. They would likely replace May (who after all failed in the negotiations) with someone who’s now in the cabinet but is not an ultra, and happily say they will negotiate a deal with the EU – that Labour scuppered.

      In other words, it’s not just Tories, it’s all parties who are playing with the UK as kids who got a new toy, and don’t mind if they break it.

      It’s beyond sad when the only person approaching adult in the room in Westminster is Ken Clarke.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, there are lots of big ‘ifs’ involved, although I do think the EU would be willing to play along if there was a chance of getting the UK back in – they must now be getting worried at the potential economic blowback of a joint Brexit/Italian bank crisis next year.

        I’m not sure that the Tories could blame Labour for the mess, especially if Labour at least made an attempt to offer a route out. But its certainly true that Corbyn has failed badly to make the Tories own Brexit so far. There is every chance that in the next election people will take ‘a pox on both your houses’ approach and punish all sitting politicians equally.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The only circumstances Barnier has ever said would get the UK an extension of the Brexit date is a general election or a referendum, and that would obviously have to happen before March 29. And then it would have to be a referendum on Brexit, not some of these variants that are merely a vote on whatever May comes up with, assuming she actually does come to terms with the EU.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I’m assuming (sorry if I’m getting this wrong, reading too many Brexit articles are messing up my brain), that any agreement on a referendum now would be on the assumption that the backstop and 18 month extension were in place. In other words, the referendum committment would be an additional commitment made by the government to the British people, independent of the backstop and 18 month extension, but on the understanding that it could lead to the UK, on foot of a new referendum, asking the EU to pretty please, forget we ever started this whole thing.

            1. Marlin

              There is no extension of EU membership foreseen. As well if the backstop is signed, the UK leaves the EU on March 29th. It just remains in the Customs Union and the Single Market for the transition period. Therefore “Remain”, as you say in the opening, is not an option afterwards.

    2. JW

      a referendum in 2020 giving people a clear menu of choices – say ‘Remain’, ‘EFTA/EEA membership’ ‘Canada Plus’ or ‘none of the above’

      I’ve been involved with referendum campaigns in my state in the US and at least here, they can only be worded for a yes or no answer. No four options. Does the UK not have similar limitations?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I could stand corrected on this, but from what I’m aware of there are zero limitations in the UK on what a referendum can ask. Its entirely within the gift of Parliament to decide, although there are a number of statutary stages that have to be carried out in order for it to be legal..

        1. Clive

          Yes, the Electoral Commission would have to give an opinion on the minutiae of the question, but the broad scope is completely within Parliamentary discretions.

          Personally, I’d simply have two options “Crash Out” and “Please That Nice Mr. Barnier, Can We Just All Pretend None Of This Evah Happened.”

          Simple, accurate and covers all realistically available options.

  3. vlade

    While I agree with some points (like the original Remain campaing being horrible, and the current one not much better), the author is waaay too protective of Corbyn. Corbyn didn’t take reins or Remain campaign because he was being assassinated – first and foremost, he didn’t take it because he couldn’t give a toss either way. To him, it was simply not an issue, as evidenced by him being the ONLY politician to call for immediate A50 trigger, which would have been even more idiotic than May doing so in March the next year. And a lot of behaviour afterwards.

    Similarly, it’s not what Labour did on the Brexit which riles a lot of Remainers, but what it did NOT do. I.e. hold the government to plan BEFORE triggering A50 (coz it doesn’t matter, right?), even trying to get a plan, offering a sensible alternative (which COULD be done while honoring the referendum). Labour’s plan is as cherry picking as Tories is, if not more, as politicians across all spectrum seem to fail to understand that there are only four options on the table – no deal, standard FTA deal (Canada equivalent, no es), EEA or remain. Only two last of those solve Irish problem. NOTHING else is really on the table. There is NO negotiation, it’s a pick-one-choice.

    And the straw-man towards the end? Saying that Corbyn won’t call for Labour MPs to vote with Tories. Of course he won’t – he wants a GE (even though the current polling evidence is he would lose it again, but then I doubt he believes it after the last one, which in all but one case got it wrong. Except in this case, IIRC even that one is saying a hung parliament, and realistically, w/o recapturing a lot of Scottish seats, Labour has only very small chance of success IMO). But then he happily conflates “Liberals” with “Remainers”. And I’d point out that defeating May’s deal far from guarantees either GE or second referendum. All it guarantees is a no-deal Brexit by next March short of EU being very very forgiving. Which is not in Saint Jeremy’s gift. How good are the UK politicians in pretending that the world will wait on them.

    And for f-king sake, STOP the nonsense about “people spoke” and ‘honouring the referendum”. On this “logic”, there should not have been any referendum, as people spoke in 70s when they voted in! On this logic, we should not have any further general elections (or any elections for the matter, you know), because people spoke after all. People can speak as many times as they want to. The only “we can’t have overturning people’s will” implicitly admit that it’s losing by a new “people’s will” they fear, not the lack of democracy.

      1. Synoia

        That was a Joke from the ’60s.

        One Person, One Vote, One time.

        I believe the context was post independence votes in the newly independent British Colonies of Africa, and referred to the seeming practice of the first prime minister of the independent country morphing into a Dictator.

    1. PKMKII

      I suspect Corbyn was/is playing the accelerationist game with Brexit. Once the Tories agreed to swallow the poison pill of Brexit, Corbyn tried to get them to swallow it as soon as possible and hold their mouth shut to keep it down. The best path for Corbyn and Labour going forward is to have Brexit go into effect sooner rather than later, particularly before an election that turns over control of parliament to Labour. That way he can eat his cake and have it too, spin it such that he neither has to take a remain stance but also absolves him of any responsibility for the fallout. Then rides the whole mess to 10 Downing Street.

      1. vlade

        I believe you’re making too many assumptions. I do not believe Corbyn (or anyone senior in Labour) understands what Brexit entails. I believe that for him it was a distraction from his real agenda, which is why he wanted to have it out of the way as fast as possible. If Corbyn really tried them to swallow the pill, he would have been much more vocal on the downsides, and the incompetency of the government.

        I believe, and exit polls confirm that, that a number of people who voted Labour in 2017 elections were ex LibDem voters, who were hoping for Labour to soften Brexit. These people are now definitely not going to vote Labour – again, polls show Labour neck to neck with Tories, and LibDem gaining.

        I do not believe Labour will be able to avoid the fallout, there’s too much evidence against them (voting for A50 w/o plan, actively opposing EEA option etc..). Of course, that won’t sway the tribalists, but the elections are decided on margins. Without the marginal votes, no party can get majority, so the only question is what coalition, if any, would be possible.

  4. William Bowles

    Corbyn on pretty much everything: Pathetic! He is a creature of the Labour Party. His first objective? Preserving the Labour Party, at any cost. He has capitulated on pretty much every ‘principle’ he has (compare his original Manifesto with the one adopted by his neoliberal ‘comrades’). 45 years sitting on his arse in Parliament and what does have to show for it? I despair. A token socialist.

    Momentum? Run by a Zionist!

    Instead of mobilising from below, he pins his hope on our antidiluvian and utterly undemocratic Parliament.

    What a sick joke on the British public! Worst of all, when the people who pinned their hopes on Corbyn realise that they’ve been conned (again), another generation will be lost to the ’cause’.

    Does any serious (are there any?) lefty really expect change to come through Parliament and for Corbyn to be leading the charge?

    Yes, he articulated the demands of the 1/3rd royally super-screwed by capitalism by so-called Austerity, but this just makes his treacherous actions even reprehensible.

    Yes, he’s been demonised by the Zionists and their supporters but even here he turned the other cheek.

    Yes, he’s not a bad person, I’m sure he cares but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  5. Pavel

    Choosing to front your eve-of-march message with Messrs Blair, Clegg and Heseltine? Enough said.

    If Blair — one of the most destructive, greedy, dishonest politicians in my lifetime — is in favour of something I am almost instinctively against it. And Clegg — what a joke!

    Separately, there was an amusing moment on one of the interview shows with Remainer Alistair Campbell, who pointed out the 700,000 people on the march. The interviewer pointed out that a million marched against his and Blair’s Iraq war, but they ignored them!

    The EU have screwed up for years with anti-democratic methods and ignoring the people, and the UK has been run by a series of corrupt and incompetent politicians for decades. We are witnessing the result of a generation of ineptitude, greed, and deceit.

    1. Synoia

      We are witnessing the result of a generation of ineptitude, greed, and deceit.

      I believe your timeline a bit short. Correct, but short.

    2. JBird4049

      The EU have screwed up for years with anti-democratic methods and ignoring the people, and the UK has been run by a series of corrupt and incompetent politicians for decades. We are witnessing the result of a generation of ineptitude, greed, and deceit.

      Leave or stay, Republican or Democrat, who cares? It looks to me that the general public on both sides of the Atlantic have been systematically made poor by the ruling elites, who think their way is the best way, and if you do not like, look at what we did to Greece. Take your beatings and say thank you!

      With that being the case, complaining about what the average ever poorer voter be it the Deplorables, Brexiters, or the Greeks, votes on is just silly; until the leftists, consevervatives liberals, or heck, the actual conservatives truly respond to the growing crisis as something other than as disaster capitalists, this is just arguing over the Titantic’s deck chairs. Whatever the votes, if any, the situation is only going to get worse, unless the grifters stop grifting and and are the chances of that happening?

      1. Pavel

        I’m very tempted to say: I. Don’t. Care.

        Let it all burn down. And we’ll start all over again.

        Though if that were to happen, my heart would go out to those who would suffer — and it wouldn’t be Blair, Heseltine, Clegg, and their pals — alas!

  6. JW

    If you can only get 700 000 people for a march regarding something so vital in a metro area of over 10 000 000, that march was a bust. Shocking that this was the best they could do.

  7. fajensen

    I voted ‘Remain’. But sheer bloody uselessness of both the original campaign and now the doomed ‘People’s Vote’ / second referendum, needs accounting for, and then some.

    I think that: At this point, their game is all about getting out in front of the crash out with virtue signalling, mainly to keep ones personal stock/brand from declining: “Listen V.I.P.-people, see? We tried as hard as humanly possible, but, we just couldn’t swing it. So please keep supporting us and pad those well remunerated committees and think tanks with us good-people”.

    Although –

    Trotting out Tony Blair and Nicholas Clegg in some kind of “diversity parade” at least hints at deliberate planning a failing campaign. How can anyone involved with politics since, oh, year 2000 not know that whatever it is those two jokers are selling, people are not buying because they are the ones selling it?!


    Michael Heseltine is IMO “neutral” as the Token Tory; the signal is that they obviously had to go quite a while back in past performances to find someone Tory that is not a) a loon, b) generally hated like Tony Blair is.

    1. Pavel

      Ha ha, good point about Michael “Tarzan” Heseltine from the jurassic-era Thatcher days. I’m not quite his age but am old enough to remember when he tried to depose Maggie. There are indeed slim pickings for respected Tories. And BTW anyone seen Dave Cameron in the last two years?

  8. Matthew G. Saroff

    Anyone think that the UK will end up crawling back to the EU, and be forced to take the Euro as its currency?

    1. Tim Smyth

      I do think that either joining Schengen, the Euro, or both is going to have to be on the table definitely in terms of both EU politics but also UK domestic politics. In particular on the UK side the Remain crowd seems to be arguing for a status quo “Remain” not a so called “hard” Remain which would see the UK joining Schengen and EMU. My personal view is a status quo Remain led by old grandee politicians like Major, Blair, and Clegg however well meaning will never generate the necessary base enthusiasm to overturn the referendum result.

    2. Gordon

      Someone – a French minister or commentator IIRC – said recently something along the lines of “Britain leaving will be a disaster, rejoining would be a catastrophe”

      Nothing should be taken for granted at this point and, as others have said, it’s high time UK politicians stopped assuming it was up to them to invent options and then chose their preferred one.

      1. Pavel

        I spoke to various French friends last month of varying class levels (a top level banker, café workers, a market stall worker, and a real estate agent) about Brexit and their attitude was pretty much “who cares about the Brits” at this stage… they have already mentally moved on. No doubt there will be a lot of pain all around (esp. e.g. Calais) but there will be some benefits to France (e.g. bankers moving to Paris) and the benefits to the UK will be few and very far between.

    3. vlade

      We’ve been through this few times – the EU can tell the UK it needs to adopt the EUR, but in practice there’s no mechanism for it to ever happen.

      Out of V4 states only Slovakia joined EUR, and it was really more of a poke-in-the-eye to Czechs than because they really needed/wanted to (although for them it actually makes economic sense, as Slovakia is more or less the German car manufacturers factory floor. I expect that a number of car-related businesses that will leave the UK will relocate there).

      The other three are fairly vocal in their views of not joining EUR anytime in the next decade at least.

      1. Tim Smyth

        Agreed, although the EU CAN force the UK to join Schengen with the cavaet that Ireland has it’s own opt out from Schengen. The EU can definitely force the UK into the same position as Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria et. all which are not yet part of Schengen as a day to day practical matter but apply the same visa policy as the rest of Schengen and participate in Frontex.

        **I believe one of Cameron’s ministers actually proposed going into the Schengen “waiting room” in order to make it easier for Chinese visitors with Schengen visa’s to come to the UK(as they can do to Romania, Bulgaria etc). This idea was met with horror by Theresa May and the Home Office.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Ah yes, we often forget Schengen. This was always a bugbear for the UK because of immigration.

          But its almost certain now that Ireland will join Schengen post Brexit, there is no reason not to. The reason Ireland stayed out was actually the Good Friday Agreement. The UK made it very clear it would not allow an open border in Ireland if Ireland joined Schengen as it would be an obvious backdoor route to Britain (London doesn’t give a toss about immigration to Northern Ireland).

          While there is no formal agreement, in reality the UK and Ireland share a travel area – Irish immigration officers liaise all the time with UK officers to ensure they are maintaining a similar regime. This was effectively imposed on Ireland by the UK as the price of the open border.

          The problem for the UK of course is that any deal on Brexit that includes an Irish border will be complicated if Ireland joins Schengen (which so far as I know hasn’t had a single mention in the discussions so far). In reality, what will happen is a continuation of the existing situation – the ‘real’ immigration border for the UK is not along its Irish border, its along the Irish Sea. Belfast to London flights or ferries will be subject to constant checks. This is, for all the guff spouted by London about the integrity of the UK, the existing situation, as any non-white person who has ever taken a plane or ferry from NI to Britain will tell you.

    4. Anonymous2

      I would not say crawling but the younger Britons are very pro-EU, so it is probably only a matter of time, as the anti-EU old die off, that pressure will build inside the UK to rejoin.

      1. JBird4049

        Really? I am an American so I don’t deeply understand the whole Brexit situation but I cannot see the “We must stay in the EU or else Bad Things will Happen! argument as very persuasive. It is probably true but at best it would be the lesser evil and not the greater good. Is Greece better off for staying in the EU?

        With the understanding that that trying to directly compare the political economy of two different countries is maybe foolish…

        The socialist neoliberal Labor Party to this American seems to be very like the ostensibly center left neoliberal Democratic Party, which is more like the center of the mid 20th century Republican Party only, and has abandoned any active, forget about effective, support for any class below the upper middle class as well as unions, social welfare even for children, the elderly and ill. Even the socially conservative, as in those who follow the moribund liberal churches, which like the unions used to be a bedrock have no support.

        The entire controlling political class all seem to be conservative economically and only speak pleasing, smooth lies when talking about the little people, the 80-90% whose lives have been getting steadily worse since the 1970s or 80s.

        Perhaps like the American Whigs who couldn’t deal with the slavery issue or the British Liberal Party the current political parties on all sides should just go away into the history books.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I hate to tell you, but Greece is better off for staying in the EU. Even Varoufakis wrote at length as to why before he became Finance Minister based on the macroeconomics. We explained at length why Greece trying to set up its own currency would take a bare minimum of three years, and in the meantime, you’d see a collapse of its banks due to everyone who had spare cash moving it into non-Greek banks to escape forced denomination into a lesser-valued currency. Or else you’d have banks unable to process anything in the new currency. You got a mild version of what it was like to have a non-functioning banking system when the ECB lowered the boom on Greece in July 2015. It drove the already-weak economy to its knees. Businesses failed, fish were rotting at the docks due to petrol shortages (Greece imports petrol and with its banks effectively shut, there was not way to buy it save taking cash across the border) and food shortages were starting. Tell me how Greece gets through even three months of that.

          Oh, and if Greece left the EU, its debt burden would rise in real terms because the overwhelming majority of its debt is English law debt, not Greek law, so the Greek government can’t force it to be redenominated in a new currency.

          People don’t like hearing that their choices are between bad or worse. Staying in the EU is bad, but leaving it is worse.

          1. JBird4049

            As I see it, the EU is using the banking system to beat the Greeks into perpetual poverty and enriching the banks by threatening to actually economically murder Greece. Perpetual abuse or financial death. It looks like Greece has chosen the slow death in hopes of its eventual recovery which is not likely to happen as the country is being used as an example of the cost of being disobedient. Great choices. In a way the British public is being offered the same choice of the devil or the deep blue sea.

            Either way the majority of the people are suffering and will continue to suffer. I ask you what is likely to happen? Rejoin and slowly suffocate or stay out and hang, either way there just might be something like the Golden Dawn will bonus violent.

            It’s an apocalyptic take, but seeing the Democratic Party double down on doing the same stuff that got us President Trump and with parts of the Republican Party embracing its inner alt-right, I do not see us reformist our politics economy peacefully, and that’s not adding climate change.

    5. PlutoniumKun

      Once out, I would think its almost impossible for the UK to re-join officially. It is just too toxic in British politics , so the Remainers (who, lets remember, are most of the business and administrative establishment) will instead just accept that the best that could be achieved is BINO (Brexit in name only), in other words, a step by step closet rejoining in all but name. This would suit the EU as it would have the UK within the market system, without having to bother having them at the table in any serious discussions.

      There is also the reality that the EU will not want the UK back. The reality is that the UK was a disruptive force within Europe. It was like having a football team with a key player who everyone knows really wishes he’d joined their main city rivals and may even possibly be betting on his team losing. There is no way the French in particular would accept a UK that was not 100% on board the EU project, and that would never happen.

      In the long term, I think the likeliest scenario is that once the dust has settled and it becomes apparent that the Singapore on the Atlantic project beloved by Brexit libertarians won’t work, there will be a gradual schism in the UK. Scotland will go its own way, probably seek to join the EU and Euro, NI will one way or another become detached, while England will become a little like a poorer Switzerland in relation to the EU – converging in all but name, but never at the table. Even Wales may one day wake up to its status and decide it wants something better.

      This is of course to assume the EU will survive the next decade or more, which is another question entirely. At some stage the contradictions in the Euro are going to blow up, and then all bets are off.

      1. Mark Pontin

        Scotland will … probably seek to join the EU and Euro,

        Really? How do they do that? Sure, the Scots might like to join the EU and all power to them if that’s what they want to do, given that the English think it’s fine to Brexit from the EU. But in the real world the Scots have a couple of problems –

        [1] Scotland’s deficit spending, which supports their commendable social services, relies on money from Westminster.

        In fact, Scotland’s level of deficit spending is about double the percentage of GDP that in the case of Italy and its new budget has put that latter country on a collision course with Brussels and the EU.

        How do the Scots have a hope of keeping their current deficit spending levels, and social set-up, and being acceptable under German-dominated EU financial rules? I don’t think they do.

        [2] Additionally, Scotland uses as its currency pound sterling and thus is not sovereign vis a vis London. If you remember, Alex Salmond failed dismally to skirt around this problem during the last independence referendum.

        So in reality Scotland would probably face almost all the same problems of implementation if it wanted to switch over to the euro from sterling, as the Greeks would have faced if they wanted to switch from the euro to a new drachma.

  9. vidimi

    even assuming that the UK can get an extension and also assuming that that would give it enough time to organise another referendum, the remainers would still need a supermajority of 2/3 to annul brexit without creating even more irrepairable damage in the fabric of british society.

    1. NIx

      I am not sure that there is any more fabric available for tearing. Brexit has created (or rather exposed) a massive rift in British society, and it will remain there whatever now happens.

  10. PKMKII

    Remain fought with one hand behind its back for the same reason that we have so much denial of what the fallout of Brexit will be, the economic hubris of the British public. Yes, disillusionment and dislocation from decades of neoliberal economics was one side of the Brexit coin, but the other was the assumption that the British economy general, and the finance sector in the City of London specifically, was so mighty that Britain could get anything it wanted out of the EU in negotiations. Leave voters understood what they were voting for, they just overestimated the British economy’s ability to weather the transition and to get what it wants out of trade deals.

    So Remain trotted out the weak tea of vague notions of what the fallout would be, along with a healthy dose of patronizing, because the alternative would have been to acknowledge that the global position of the British economy is not as grand as the public believes it to be.I don’t know if they could have run a message on that; the public is not willing to acknowledge that the finance industry can move and that the UK needs the EU more than the EU needs the UK. As with so much in Brexit, what is feasible economically is not feasible politically, and vice versa.

    1. Clive

      I think it is dubious to say even generally, let alone definitively, why 17.4M Leave voters voted Leave and 16.1M Remain voters voted remain. Your explanation, for example, doesn’t come within an interplanetary distance of why I voted Leave and my mother-in-law voted Remain.

      In doing so, however, you neatly encapsulate another factor in why Remain lost: a failure to understand why Leave voters voted Leave and how best to persuade them to vote otherwise — and how to potentially have any second referendum end up with a different result. Which is to understand how in fighting the hearts and minds battle on a strictly economic basis isn’t going to do the trick. Nor is characterising any and every Leave voter as some dumb schmuck who can’t think their way out of a paper bag.

      Even simpler, as some wise soul* said to me the other day, “if you’re the kind of person who won’t listen to what anyone has to say, eventually you’ll find no-one tells you anything worth hearing”. Leavers seemed to stop listening to Remain’ers about two years and haven’t, apparently, unblocked their ears since then. Granted, the exact same appears to be true of Remain’ers, too.

      (* okay, that was in fact something that was probably some sort of consultancy services pseudo-advertising placement that had been bumped up the rankings on LinkedIn, but still…)

      1. PKMKII

        Just to clarify, I wasn’t implying that only the Leave voters are suffering from the economic hubris delusion. That’s across the populace, and many Remainers would fall into that bucket as well. The difference being that the latter have not been disturbed by the neoliberal economic regime, so the hubris does not manifest itself as a desire to tear down existing conditions. And I don’t think it’s stupidity that causes it, it’s part of the national mythos and that is a hard thing to break out of.

        Which, now that I think about, may further explain the Remain movement’s ineffectiveness. If they were incapable of seeing the stark fallout potential, they could only formulate their arguments in “norms and standards” terms, which is a recipe for failure these days.

      2. ChrisPacific

        Re: your final remark, now I am imagining a Fallout-style nascent religion that regards LinkedIn as its holy text, and treats the clickbait articles bubbled to the surface by the algorithm as the words of the prophets.

        For bonus points you could split it into orthodox and reform branches, depending on whether they thought the holy texts were infallible or subject to interpretation.

  11. Oregoncharles

    “Corbyn’s “remain but reform” stance during the referendum campaign was quite right.”
    Huh? It isn’t clear from this what “reform” he had in mind, but attempts to “reform” the EU from the left have so far been utterly futile (see Varoufakis – what’s his group called?). Fundamentally, that approach misses the point, which is that the EU and especially the Euro were inherently neo-liberal, from the foundation. The EU has major good points, like human rights and the precautionary principle, but the underlying impulse is pretty reactionary. If that’s at all clear to ordinary British voters, this slogan of Corbyn’s wouldn’t fly at all. Which might be why he stayed out of it.

  12. Marlin

    Corbyn’s “remain but reform” stance during the referendum campaign was quite right.

    – “Remain & Reform” would have been a catastrophic message, because
    1. Cameron promised to go to the EU with a wishlist and only run the referendum if the EU didn’t budge. He was not happy with what he returned, so which unspecified reforms could the remain campaign promise, which “certainly” would have been accepted by the other members? The lack of reformability of the EU according to the will of the British was exactly the cause for calling the referendum in the first place.
    2. The EU existed for a long time and the direction of reform was rather clear. Something like a specific limit to the number of people, who would be allowed to use the freedom of movement would never have been accepted.
    3. One issue mentioned by Moore – the passionlessness of the campaign – would have been even more extreme, if one would even had to point out the points, which would have to be reformed. A public campaign can’t make too complicated arguments. And it is true, that the campaign made little use of football. But most football players want to stay out of politics for good reasons. Jürgen Klopp publicly spoke for remain, but how helpful it is, to have a German speaking for the UK to remain in the EU is doubtful. The attempt to present itself as as English as possible by the remain camp made on surface sense.

    Labour has made it clear the party will be seeking to overturn May’s deal.

    The only “deal” May can deliver now, is the withdrawal agreement with essentially only the following points:
    – Irish border backstop
    – treatment of resident citizens in the other’s jurisdiction
    – compensation payment for existing liabilities based on earlier commitments;
    if labour votes against the “deal”, the result is no-deal crash-out Brexit and is rightly blamed for it.

    Instead they invest every effort in portraying an ever more extreme version of the socio-economic wasteland of Britain after Brexit. Scare tactics, combined with an idealisation of the EU, has been their retreat from politics: blaming their allies for the actions of their enemies, their blundersome tactic.

    Most of the direct benefits of the EU are towards richer and younger people. The author complains, that the campaign focused not on labour voters. But the point, as made by other commenters here is, that the reasons for voting leave were very heterogeneous. A content-based campaign could never address everybody. Even if in the end the execution was not very well, to focus on turning out young middle- and upper-class people, was reasonable. Actually, had the turnout of that demographic been higher, remain probably would have won.

    The author dismisses the presentation of indirect effects of EU membership, that will be more relevant for working-class people as “Project Fear”. But rather than

    scare tactics

    the this is actually the stuff, that would affect labour voters. As other commenters mentioned, the problem is, the overestimation of British might. Otherwise “Project Reality” would have convinced more people. Only 2% more people would have had to be convinced!

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