At the heights of Britain’s Brexit debates, emotions ran so high that some spoke of a “new English Civil War”. This comparison intrigues me because it only reveals one thing: which side won the civil war? In 1649, King Charles I was executed. Eleven years later, King Charles I was executed by the English.
Could there be a similar reverse with Brexit? It seems so.
Opinion has changed significantly seven years after the 2016 referendum and three years since Brexit actually took place. Matthew Goodwin , an academic who wrote recently, stated that 60% of Britons believe Brexit was a mistake and would vote to join the EU in a second referendum. A average from recent polls shows that 58% of voters are not only dissatisfied with Brexit but actively support Rejoin.
It’s easy to see why. Brexit was touted as a way to control immigration and improve the NHS. The NHS is in much worse shape now than it was in 2016. The level of immigration to the UK is still very high. Many EU-immigrants have been replaced by people from other countries. The IMF predicts that Britain this year will be the poorest performing economy among the developed countries.
Economics and demographics indicate that Rejoin sentiment will grow over time. The most pro-EU vote is among the young voters, with 79% of those aged 18-24 wanting to join. Unfortunately, the economic damage caused by Brexit will only get worse.
These changes have not yet made it into politics. Daniel Hannan, a prominent Leave campaigner, recently claimed that there was a “plot for overturning Brexit”. It would be great if!
The reality is that the Labour opposition party believes that it’s impossible to reverse Brexit with just two years until an election. They talk only about “fixes” for the current agreement. Even the most ardent Remainers complain that Britain will need to wait a generation before it can be considered joining the EU.
This is too fatalistic and accepting of the growing damage Brexit is causing. It ignores the rapidity with which events and opinions are changing.
It is possible that Labour’s marginal “fixes to Brexit” may not be feasible and would not compensate for EU exclusion. It seems that the public has realized this. The idea of joining the EU will eventually become mainstream and politicians will eventually have to respond. This shift would be made easier if there was a large Labour majority in the next election.
Two more objections would be raised against any attempt to join the EU. First and foremost, the EU claims that Britain would not like to be returned. The second argument is that the British will oppose Rejoin when they realize what it entails.
While there is no doubt that Europeans are opposed to the British returning, they can also be exaggerated. Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiating chief, said that Britain could rejoin the EU at any time. Guy Verhofstadt was the head of the European Parliament’s Brexit committee. tweeted last Wednesday: “I have an idea.” The next five years will see Britain and Ukraine joining the EU.
Philippe Lamberts is the co-chairman of the Green group in European parliament. I asked him about Britain rejoining and he said: “That would have been my dream scenario.” Lamberts believes that all five major political groups in the parliament would favor British re-entry.
France and other EU members would likely take a different view. French claim that the British are a problem within the EU, and that the bloc has been more successful since Brexit. However, French opposition to British membership has been weakened since the 1970s. It could be reaffirmed.
However, most EU insiders warn that Britain will not be offered any special deals this time. There would not be a budget rebate and no option to opt out of the social chapter. Britain would have to accept free movement of persons and, most likely, the euro.
Some pundits believe that the British will lose their enthusiasm for joining the EU once they have accepted these realities. However, this is not always true.
The notion that leaving the EU would dramatically reduce immigration has been disproved. While the Tory right may be horrified by the idea of embracing European social standards, it would likely be popular with most voters.
Even the euro may not be a deal-breaker. Because it was an untested experiment, I opposed Britain joining the single-currency system 20 years ago. The euro is an international currency that has been around for a while, and the pound seems to be in decline. Rejoin favors young voters who care more about environmental issues than abstract notions such as sovereignty.
It is possible. A two-referendum system is what I favor. A decade after 2016’s Leave vote, the first vote could take place in 2026. It would allow the UK government to start negotiations with the EU. A strong approval vote — 60 percent — could help to dispel some EU suspicions about Britain’s inability to work with the EU. Referendum 2 would be held to determine the terms of the Rejoin agreement.
It took Britain 11 years to restore its monarchy. It took 11 years for Britain to restore the monarchy. Why not do it in a year? And reverse Brexit within a decade?