It was established last year that people who really want to remain in the EU are a minority in the UK. Trying to spin the figures otherwise (“Ah but not everyone turned out”; “Young people wanted to stay in”; “People were fooled”) is a natural part of the grief process, but it does not remove that simple fact. Those who did not turn out clearly were not all that bothered; young people were even more inclined not to turn out than most; and suggesting the people were “fooled” is no way to win friends and influence people. That is to leave aside the many people who voted “Remain” for a quiet life rather than out of any great love for the EU. Blaming the electorate never helps.
Of course, the people were fooled – just not in the way too many Remainers are presenting it. They were fooled in this way: many people who voted Leave did so in the genuine and understandable belief that the government – or, at the very least, the Conservative Party – had a back-up plan for doing just that. Otherwise, why would a referendum with that choice have been put before them?
It is a constant factor of humanity that we believe, amid the chaos of our daily lives, that there is some great power out there directing it all. This is, after all, what underlies all great conspiracy theories. It gives us all comfort that we have a “Government” to keep things under control.
It is, therefore, scarcely believable that such a Government would put a choice of two options before the people with absolutely no plan whatsoever for what should happen in the event of one of those two options being chosen. Most people, regardless of how or if they voted last June, still struggle to believe that.
Yet that is what happened.
There was, and over a third of the way into the process still is, no plan for leaving the EU. As is revealed weekly, the Government has absolutely no idea of the scale of the undertaking, the implications of it, or of how to manage it. And all the time the clock is ticking – any good negotiator knows if you have already shown your cards and you are the only one with a timetable, you are finished.
It is no good Leavers coming out and demanding answers from Remainers. Remainers did not vote for this mess. On the other hand, nor is it any good for Remainers to sit back and let this happen – the consequences of doing that are terrifying. Instead we have to recognise two things: a) the people of the UK would rather not be in the EU; but b) leaving it without a plan is calamitous – and that is exactly what is being pursued.
So, once again, I propose this as a sensible compromise starting point.