2019: The Year We Finally Bury Brexit
I’ve always enjoyed celebrating the New Year – a time to reflect on the previous 12 months, good and bad, and to look forward to a new beginning, a fresh start. A time for optimism and hope, both ingredients that have been difficult to find on the Brexit menu, especially for us Brits living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.
Over the last year, so much has changed, with unpredictable events and surprising twists and turns along the way. Deadlines and Cabinet ministers came and went, but despite everything, Prime Minister Theresa May did have one major success. She actually managed to get everyone to agree on something – everyone hates her ‘deal’.
After many months of wrangling, May came back with the best deal possible from the European Union, bearing in mind her self-imposed red lines. Thanks to May’s ridiculous insistence on restricting freedom of movement, she had left no room for manoeuvre. The EU, naturally, stuck together to protect all their members and the integrity of the single market.
Throughout the entire negotiation period, the Conservative party, and the Brexiteers in particular, clung to their fantasy that the UK would be treated exactly the same as we are now. Even the production of the government’s own assessment papers, revealing the damage that even the softest Brexit would cause, barely altered the rhetoric. Britain would be ‘Great’ again, Britain would strike up new trade deals around the world, Britain could stand alone!
2018 also produced a collection of vacuous soundbites, mostly spouted by May. We all remember ‘strong and stable’, the meaningless ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and the blatant lie that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, but the one phrase that really grated was ‘the will of the people’. Is May really so deluded as to believe that she has a mandate from the people for Brexit? Even if that were true on 23rd June 2016 – which itself is extremely unlikely bearing in mind the lies and illegal actions of the Leave campaign during the referendum – it is most certainly not true now. The country has woken up.
Whatever May says, the wind has changed direction, and the Brexit that was promised has finally been exposed as a fantasy. A significant portion of the public have recognised the truth, and it would appear that politicians are now paying attention.
Referendum, becoming a reality?
At Bremain in Spain, we always believed that stopping Brexit was possible, and that another referendum was the most democratic and likely route to that end. This time last year, our hopes of staying in the EU were considered by many as improbable, if not impossible. A #PeoplesVote referendum – an opportunity for the public to have a final say on the deal before signing on the dotted line – was not on the cards.
Yet here we are, a year on, and nobody is laughing at the idea of putting the question back to the public. Now it has the support of more than half the population, if the polls are to be believed, and is supported by those on both sides of the Remain/Leave debate, and across all parties in parliament.
Politicians, celebrities and business leaders are all standing up and being counted, and the movement is increasing by the day – the pro-EU rally in October alone attracted 700,000 protestors. It is now widely recognised that May’s damaging deal would cause untold harm to the UK’s economy, reputation and citizens, and that a ‘no deal’ option would be even worse. The call for an alternative way out of the Brexit nightmare is getting louder and stronger.
Over the last 3 months, finalising the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union was postponed again and again. Finally, May returned from Brussels with her tail between her legs and the final version on paper. Despite warnings from all sides that her deal was never going to achieve a majority in parliament, May ploughed on regardless.
The 5 day parliamentary debate began, but was cut short and the vote kicked down the road into 2019. It seems May finally accepted what everyone had been saying all along – that her deal would never gain the support of the House. May survived a vote of no confidence, but it seems her deal would not, so the preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit were stepped up, to the tune of £4billion of tax-payers money – a cynical tactic designed only to persuade parliament and the public that her deal was/is the only option.
What follows now?
So, what do we have to look forward to in 2019? Plenty actually! Firstly, May’s deal is no more likely to gain parliamentary support in 2019 that it would have in 2018. Perhaps with all her ‘no deal’ threats and suggestions on contingency planning she might have scared a few timid horses, but not enough to make a difference. Secondly, another referendum is not only possible now, it’s practically inevitable – it’s the only democratic solution, and even May’s own Cabinet are talking about the very real possibility. When May’s deal fails, parliament will want to ensure at all costs that ‘no deal’ is not the automatic default option. They will need an alternative. What better option than to ask the people? It’s May’s ‘get-out-of jail-free’ card – washing her hands of all responsibility and blame, unless, of course, the Labour Party grasp the nettle first!
Finally, Article 50 will have to be extended to allow time for another referendum. The EU have already stated, on numerous occasions, their willingness to extend Article 50 in the event of a referendum or general election, to allow the proper democratic process to take place. Once Brexit is postponed, then truly anything is possible.
The New Year is a time for optimism, hope and renewed energy. I have always believed we would win this fight and retain our EU membership and citizenship. I’m very fortunate to feel confident about that. Bremain in Spain members, and other British citizens living, working, studying and retiring in the EU do not all share that confidence. They have been left in limbo for 2 and ½ years – fearful, anxious, unsettled and ignored. It has to stop. There are wonderful groups out there that dedicate their energies to protecting our rights, and those of EU citizens in the UK, in the event of Brexit. We are grateful for everything they are doing, but there is only one way to guarantee the protection of all of our rights and freedoms – to stay in the EU.
It’s a new year, and it’s the year we are going to do just that.
We are not leaving the EU on 29th March 2019. Brexit is dead. Long live the EU.