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A second referendum is a bad option for Labour. But it may be the only one left

2 200 0
27.05.2019

To be a Brexit pragmatist has become an increasingly dispiriting and lonely experience. The middle ground on Brexit has been systematically torched from both ends. To desire a compromise was, in the aftermath of the referendum, a position shared by a large majority. During the horror show that was the referendum campaign, the likes of Nigel Farage hyped up Norway – which is a member of the single market – as a shining example of how Britain could thrive outside the EU. Two years ago, polling suggested that a very narrow majority of remain voters believed that “now the British people have voted to leave the government has a duty to carry out their wishes and leave”. There is a historical revisionism fashionable among some which claims that Labour’s 2017 surge was down to remainers lending their votes, rather than the party’s radical prospectus; but as polling found after the election, just 8% of Labour voters named Brexit as the most important issue behind their vote.

In large part because of the Tories’ calamitous handling of Brexit, both leavers and remainers have polarised. No deal – which was never offered as a serious proposition in the referendum campaign – is increasingly held to be the only true Brexit by leave voters. “Stop Brexit or bust” has become the default position among growing numbers of remain voters. A “soft Brexit” is no longer regarded as real Brexit by most leave voters, but is regarded as full-blown Brexit by most remain voters.

Compromise has become toxic: surely the diminishing number of us advocating it are only motivated by partisan loyalty to Labour, rather than genuine conviction, or so the narrative has been spun. So let me make the case for it one last time as its funeral rites are read, with few mourners bowing their head to mark its final passing. “You champion the middle ground here, but attack it elsewhere!”, has been the obvious retort. But we all have our red lines in politics: things we are willing to compromise on, and other things we are not. For a socialist like myself (who also voted remain), replacing a broken economic and social order is a red line in a way that EU membership simply isn’t. Was accepting that we lost a referendum, but that........

© The Guardian