Brexit could have been Stopped 5 times
And now, Strike Six!
Brexit, we all lived through it and some of us took part, but regardless of whether you voted Remain or Leave, only by reading the official Brexit Chronicles serialisation can you understand why we are where we are today. There are no less than 6 missed opportunities when Brexit could have been stopped. Paul McQueen explains blow by blow when and how joining all the dots of the Brexit story.
At the end of January 2013, David Cameron gives his ‘Britain and Europe‘ speech at Bloomberg’s London headquarters. After months of refusing to even consider a referendum and saying Britain needs a better relationship with the EU, it’s the moment that changes the relationship with Europe forever. Cameron announces that he wants to negotiate the UK‘s relationship with the EU and then give people the ‘simple choice’ between staying in under those new terms or leaving the EU.
The May 2014 UK European Parliament election is a significant moment to stop Brexit, to show solidarity for the EU as it is the first vote following Cameron’s speech when the possibility of Leave/Remain was the topic of conversation and on the table for the first time. In the run-up to the European Parliamentary elections, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage go head to head in two TV debates to make sense of the biggest question the UK faces this century.
There are 73 seats up for grabs in the European Parliament for the lucky MEPs who can persuade the public to actually go out and vote. The turnout is only 35.6%, even after the four main parties have spent nearly £8.5 million on campaigning. UKIP and their Leave campaign are, without doubt, the big winners gaining 11 seats to take 24 seats in total with 27% of the popular vote. Labour win 20 seats and the Conservatives 19. The Liberal Democrats, who spent £1.5 million on campaigning, win only one seat.
This is a defining moment when the whole Brexit debacle could be put to rest once and for all. A meagre 35.6% turnout, of which 27% vote UKIP. … Strike One!
A year later the Conservatives win a general election. Cameron can lose the shackles of the coalition with the Lib-Dems that had stopped him pursuing an in-out referendum. The referendum was a key issue in the Conservative election campaign. Here is another missed opportunity to avoid Brexit. … Strike Two!
Thursday 23 June 2016 – Britain votes to decide in or out of the EU. It’s only the third referendum in British history. An unusually high turnout of 72.2% says a public engagement was high. The Country decides to leave the EU by a majority of 3.78%
… Strike Three!
Prime Minister Theresa May is faced with a Parliament and a House of Lords that threaten to sabotage every effort she makes toward Brexit. They vow to fight her every step of the way, which creates a deadlock. Riding high in the poles she attempts to ‘strengthen her hand’ and ‘secure a Brexit mandate’ by calling a snap election June 2017. The plan backfires and results in a hung parliament. The Conservatives are just nine seats short of the 326 required to form a majority. Having lost 13 seats, Prime Minister May forms a coalition Government with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Arlene Foster, who support a ‘hard’ Brexit.
Has this election solved the basic problem Theresa May pointed out when she announced the election? That Parliament is fighting against leaving the EU at all costs.
… Strike Four!
The May 2019 European Parliamentary election is the election that was not supposed to happen as Britain should already be out of the EU. There’s a turnout of only 37% and Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party sweeps up, taking 29 of the 73 seats. The Brexit Party gets 5,248,533 votes against the number two contender, the Lib-Dems, with 3,367,284 votes. A difference of 1,881,249.
It bears asking the question, why haven’t Remainers got out to vote for their MEP?
… Strike Five!
When you look back on the five occasions when Brexit could have been stopped It’s clear that when it comes to a vote, the numbers in support of the EU are simply not there.
Not the Time for Complacency
Every vote counts. Often people will not bother voting believing that their candidate has it in the bag. During the 2016 referendum, although there was a 72% turnout nearly 13,000,000 people who could have voted decided not to.
With four main national contenders, it could have easily watered down the vote resulting in a hung parliament, so tactical voting was the buzz word on this occasion.
It seems that Remainers didn’t have enough faith in the Liberal Democrats. The only party with a solid policy of stopping Brexit at all costs by simply withdrawing Article 50 if they could. They lost 10 seats in the 2019 election.
If you were in the Leave camp, then it was a little more complicated. To vote tactically you had to consider who your current MP was. If you had a Labour or Lib-Dem MP, then casting a vote for the Brexit party might have served you better. The Brexit party with only 273 candidates running got 2% of the votes but no seats. If your current MP was a Conservative, then supporting them was more likely to achieve the result you’re looking for.
The result? … Strike Six!