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Thu, 2 July 2020

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ANALYSIS: Remainer ideologues are just as hardline as Brexiteers

ANALYSIS: Remainer ideologues are just as hardline as Brexiteers
2 min read

Inflexibility in the Brexit debate is by no means the preserve of the hardline Brexiteers, writes Sebastian Whale.


Intransigence has been a theme of the Brexit debate. Rigid red lines have dictated the negotiations. Compromise has become a lost art.

This inflexibility has most commonly been associated with the hardline Brexiteers, who will accept no form of EU exit that is not pure.

Many Leavers have gradually cottoned on to the fact that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement not only offers a route out of the EU, but may be the only viable option available. But the purists still hold out for their desired no-deal Brexit.

But recent events have illustrated that this stubbornness is not the sole preserve of those who want to leave the European Union. The second wave of indicative votes last night showed that those on the Remain side are just as susceptible to this self-defeating narrative.

Thirty-three People’s Vote supporting Labour MPs abstained on the Boles amendment, which would have seen the UK pursue a Norway-style Brexit. The 11 MPs that comprise The Independent Group voted against a Norway-style Brexit and a customs union. Few Tory MPs voted in favour of any of the four options available. I could go on.

I have written before about the internecine war between the People’s Vote campaign and those pushing for a Brexit dubbed Common Market 2.0. Ultimately, these MPs have a shared ambition – to prevent a no deal exit they believe would be damaging to the UK. But their actions – borne out of seeking to become the pathway of choice for pro-Remain colleagues –make a no-deal exit more likely.

So much energy has been wasted by those just as ideological and puritanical in their beliefs as those they so disparage on the opposing side of the argument. To be issued with such a charge will irritate them greatly. But it’s about time those who believe themselves to be free of any culpability for this impasse wake up and smell the coffee.

Britain is due to leave the European Union in 10 days’ time. That is the legal default. People can cry foul at the prospect of no-deal all they like. At some point, they are going to have to front up to the reality of the situation.

Civil war on both sides of the debate is manifestly detrimental; not just to their own arguments but to politics in general. Compromise has always been a necessity throughout this process, and very few people have shown they are capable of it.

Read the most recent article written by Sebastian Whale - The unusual channels: how to whip MPs in the age of coronavirus

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