A second referendum is now firmly on the cards
Analysis: For a long time, talk of a second referendum was hushed but, as Joe Watts explains, with Brexit’s realities increasingly exposed things are starting to look very different
There was a politically confected honeymoon period for Brexit after the 2016 referendum – overnight our departure from Europe became a forgone conclusion; the remain alliance was shattered, its champions cowed.
Only the most ardent bulwarks, those like Ken Clarke who were less fussed about electoral prospects, were prepared to stand up and say the unsayable.
But more than two years later, with Brexit’s embarrassing realities regularly exposed and amid a concerted push from the regrouped voices of liberal Britain, things look very different.
Such is the changed landscape, that the prospect of Brexit not occurring at all is even used as a credible threat by Theresa May’s whips as they seek to persuade rebels into backing her strategy.
Breaking through the inevitability that once armoured Brexit has not been easy. It was a joint enterprise between forceful campaigning and the internal rot inherent in the arguments for Leave.
The seeds of the fightback were laid as early as August 2016, when the Open Britain campaign group was set up pledging to highlight the problems with Brexit, work out why the Leave campaign had won such support and shape the critical parliamentary debate to come.
It determinedly chipped away at the dogma underpinning Brexit, but it was not until Open Britain teamed up with a string of other groups to launch the People’s Vote campaign in April this year, that it became clear there was now a formidable campaign network mobilising.
That was then turbocharged in July when The Independent launched its Final Say campaign, with hundreds of thousands flocking to its petition in days, proving that those wanting a rethink on Brexit had not only found a voice, but were prepared to stand up for the cause en masse – something any elected politician ignores at their peril.
Since then unions, celebrities and political figures have increasingly come out in support of a new referendum. The number of MPs publicly backing the idea exceeds 100, with others doing so privately and even more conceding it may be inevitable regardless of their own personal support.
Labour as a party has been pushed to build the possibility of a new referendum into its overall policy plan, meaning the prospect of it now happening is impossible to ignore.
Meanwhile, the weaknesses of those pushing Brexit forward have been continually exposed, sometime brutally; first by a general election, then by negotiations in Brussels and unceasingly by division at almost every level of the Conservative Party.
The prime minister may yet win a deal in Brussels, but she then faces the prospect of it falling to shreds as she drags it across the splintered backbenches in a bid to gain distant-looking parliamentary approval.
It is not often that an MP comes out and calls his own party a “shit show”, but the contortions of Ms May’s Brexit policy led an angry Johnny Mercer to do just that this week.
On Saturday thousands of people will also make their anger public as they take to the streets of London to demand another referendum, something they believe to be a rare sensible option in the nonsensical era of Brexit politics.
If it comes to pass, they will be able to say they were there on the day that secured Britain its Final Say.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here