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If it’s Leave, what then?

June 14th, 2016 Posted in EU by

The outcome of the referendum on June 23rd is still uncertain. As it has been throughout. The main difference is that it is now uncertain leaning to Leave, rather than uncertain leaning to Remain. We know this from the polls. From the reported state of the postal votes coming in. And on the ground from relative campaign activity.

If that is the outcome, it is not I think an overstatement, to suggest large parts body politic will be suffering something akin to psychic shock. We can already see evidence of this in the way the Prime Minister’s faction is behaving. They have started fighting the likely post-referendum battles through personal attacks on Boris Johnson. Something largely unhelpful to the Remain cause now. And long-term more dangerous than that.

If Leave win. It is not at all clear what the public has voted for… It is entirely clear what they will have voted against. The EU. But not which of the umpteen possible Brexit scenarios is preferred. Or who they’d prefer to try and achieve them.

In that regard Remainers should perhaps start thinking about which Eurosceptics they want to win the fall out.

The worst option would be to attempt to ignore the vote. This is the ‘Norwegian option’. Where the establishment saddled their public with a bad deal similar to full membership, in the hope of a rethink.

The continuing absence of Norway from the EU following referendums in 1972 and 1994 should tell you just how effective that strategy will be. Not to mention how badly that move will sit with the British public.

I strongly suspect, for example that a large part of the growing Leave vote is one of utter contempt for those that govern us. British and European. The Referendum has created a safe way of expressing that contempt, that doesn’t involve electing Nigel Farage or Caroline Lucas Prime Minister.

If the response of Parliament is contempt in kind. Which along with Norwegian deals, includes any scenario that doesn’t involve the swift resignation of the then self-discredited Prime Minister. That Farage option, or worse, will come back. The inexplicable desire of sane people to vote for hollow populists in the US, France, and other places, will become our problem as well.

Which is why the Cameron’s sanctioned personal attacks on Johnson, and possibly others soon, are so dangerous. Whatever one may think of Johnson’s opportunism. He’s not Donald Trump. And has rather been a fairly reliable tribune of the liberal centre ground tradition in the Conservative Party. He is not a fool. And he would be very unlikely as Prime Minister to saddle the UK with a Cabinet of fools, hell bent on proving the Treasury’s melodramatic forecasters right.

The same is true of Gove, and a number of other Vote Leave luminaries. All those wise enough to keep UKIP in their heritage theme park Britain box. Rather than let Farage use the Referendum as a personal platform.

The most dangerous outcome of the referendum then is if the centre-ground, divided on this one issue, decides to form a circular firing squad. Discrediting one another so bitterly and viciously that the next Prime Minister ends up being someone far less able or palatable. The sort who genuinely believes Mexican walls can be built in the Channel. Or heaven help us Comrade Corbyn, a man who still thinks Venezuela is a progressive paradise.

So like it not, on a Leave vote, the Remainers would be well advised to accept the outcome, and fight for the least unappealing regime change. In order to get the best Brexit possible. Many of the other alternatives are far worse.

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