Brexit: The momentum is now with Remain and a People’s Vote – Christine Jardine

What people want is consensus, clarity and change and an end to the chaos over Brexit that has dominated the past three years, writes Christine Jardine.

The EU elections saw Remain-supporting politicians defeat the Brexit Party, even though it was the biggest single party (Picture: Alastair Grant/AP)

I’ve never been a fan of opinion polls. Until this past week.

I’m still not entirely convinced of their accuracy, even though they do seem to have called the European elections right. Real votes in real ballot boxes are the only measure of opinion that actually counts.

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But right now there is a fascinating and, if you’re Liberally minded, pro-EU and pro-UK, exciting story unfolding with every fresh sample of public voting intentions.

To be fair, it is no surprise to those of us who have had a close-up view of the divisions tearing both of the two main parties apart that the discord is now being reflected in public opinion.

And the message we should all take from it seems clear. The two main parties have both failed and the people want something different.

But what will that be? And how do those of us who have worked for change in our system make sure that we do not waste this opportunity.

Let’s rewind a fraction first. It’s now almost exactly three years since that EU referendum results which plunged the body politic into the chaos from which it has yet to recover.

In the immediate aftermath, so the popular narrative went, the main victims would be the liberal centre.

Pro-EU politicians had had their day and Brexit would, as Mrs May later put it, “mean Brexit”. And how out of touch did then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron seem in the immediate aftermath of the result, calling for any deal to go back to the people for the final say?

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The picture looks a whole lot different now. The momentum is all towards Remain and that final say, or People’s Vote, looks like the only reasonable path away from the cliff-edge.

Putting an end to the division that has torn not just the Conservative and Labour parties, but the whole country apart.

We’ve all been trapped by the stultifying uncertainty, when we should be concentrating on issues like climate change, poverty and harnessing new technology.

But just when we thought we were perhaps heading towards surer, more economically and socially sound ground that might heal those wounds that the public are so tired of, the spectre of another rift has re-emerged. Independence.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the nationalists are using this moment of national crisis as a lever for their ultimate goal.

But then surely the lessons of the past three years should have persuaded them against it.

I remember at the time of the 2014 referendum, the former First Minister claimed that independence would be done and dusted in 18 months. We even had a hypothetical independence day to put in our diaries.

I thought it sounded ridiculous then and I think we have the evidence to back up those doubts now.

After three years of negotiations and debate, it has proved all but impossible to find a way of dissolving a 40-year-old union without massive economic dislocation and public unhappiness and division.

How then could it be possible to undo ties which are not just 300 years old but involve generations of family and community connections without damaging us all?

And what is it that those opinion polls really are telling us? Two things. The old order of Labour v Conservative tribal politics has failed.

It’s brought division, uncertainty and a national picture dominated by internal party rifts.

While the political landscape is certainly changing, it is not shifting in favour of the nationalist right-wing surge that we were warned could be sweeping across Europe.

Instead what we are seeing is a reaction to it. What people want is consensus, clarity and change. More than anything else, they want an end to the chaos that has dominated the past three years.

There will be those reading this who say: “But the Brexit Party won.” No. They were the biggest single party.

But every calculation since has put the majority of votes and seats with those parties, and individual politicians, championing Remain.

The ball is now firmly back in the court of Westminster when it returns to business this week.

While we may have to wait for a new Prime Minister, the rest of us should focus on navigating our way out of the mess that the new incumbent will inherit.

The people made it clear last week that is exactly what they not only want, but expect.