Brexit: Apocalypse now or into Elysium?

As the EU referendum reaches its final throes, our writers take a look at probabilities, possibilities and what comes next

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson's outspoken backing of Brexit has angered Prime Minister David Cameron. Image: Harriet Cheshire

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s outspoken backing of Brexit has angered Prime Minister David Cameron. Image: Harriet Cheshire

What do you mean we left? 

First off, there is the practical side to things; leaving is likely to be a lengthy process which will require a lot of negotiation with the EU – for starters we’d have to fix a date for when we’d actually formally leave the EU as this would likely be in itself a fairly drawn out thing. There’ll be treaties to renegotiate as well as a need to negotiate new trade deals with just about everyone.

a vote to leave would also likely be interpreted as a green light for dismantling of the Human Rights Act

Even the Leave campaign acknowledge that the process of leaving would be damaging economically. Michael Howard has stated that he “cannot offer you any guarantee” that jobs would not be lost if we left the EU. The IMF, Bank of England and the Treasury are all also in agreement that voting to leave would damage the economy, plunging us into recession, with fewer jobs and higher prices. Whilst Boris Johnson has claimed that “it would be like the Nike tick” with a period of downturn followed by a greater upturn, it seems unlikely that this would occur.

Next, immigration. Practically speaking, all EU and Irish citizens currently legally residing in the UK would be given permanent leave to remain. Whilst future immigration would be harder, as the Leave campaigners propose rolling out the points based system we use for external immigration to cover EU migrants, they believe this would make things more fair. However, this “Australian system” prevents immigration by lower income workers, and this could damage public services such as the NHS and also damage access to manual labour and employees for lower income roles. Whilst a fairer immigration policy would be lovely, this would not be likely to produce one, and with the current governments history on this front, we would not be seeing one any time soon.

there is a genuine risk that the In campaign will face defeat at the ballot box

Whilst the In campaign and the Leave campaign are both likely exaggerating and scaremongering when it comes to their critiques of one other, one thing does seem certain currently. If we leave the EU, we would be losing out economically. It would also be a lengthy process filled with negotiations, and the departure from the EU would likely take place in stages. If we choose to leave the EU, negotiations would also have to occur on whether we leave the single market. Whilst we would remain bound to the European Court of Human Rights as it is independent of the EU, a vote to leave would also likely be interpreted as a green light for dismantling of the Human Rights Act, and its replacement with another Bill of Rights, which would in itself spark of further treaty renegotiations.

At the moment, however, leaving is a serious possibility. The pound crashed in value in response to a poll that showed that for the first time ever, the majority of respondents were in favour of voting leave. And, as ever, those with the strongest opinion are more likely to vote. With many of those in favour of staying in the EU lacking the strong convictions of Leave voters, there is a genuine risk that the In campaign will face defeat at the ballot box.

On the plus side, though, the Washington Post has managed to fulfil the duties of the internet, managing to bring a Hitler comparison into play in the EU debate, comparing the UK to Weimar and then Nazi Germany. Fortunately, though, it concluded that those voting to leave were Eurosceptic nationalists and not the fascists of Nazi Germany.

 

We’ve stayed? Oh, so we have

These days everyone is talking about Brexit, but what about its seemingly poorer older brother Bremain? It’s definitely not edgy and could easily be your Nan’s best friend who comes over occasionally to play bridge. The EU has become an integral part of British life.

Simply put it’s not fashionable to say stay. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is any less likely to happen.

Polls are at best confused, at worst misleading. Whilst it may look more scandalous to say Brexit is winning it’s not always true. An average of polls taken in May and collated by Britain Elects suggested that Remain was still in the lead by 2.39 per cent. Definitely not the collapse in support that some would have you believe.

We aren’t really convinced by either side

One factor not often mentioned that could help Bremain win is the good old British value of conservativism (note the small c). We don’t really like change; look at the fuss we kicked up when Kraft changed the recipe for the cream egg. We really dislike the unknown whether that be financially, politically or simply where we are going to go for a booze cruise if we need to get visas to go to Calais. If there’s a chance that something could change we often stay away; think AV for example. Change = bad in the British mentality.

That and of course ambivalence. We aren’t really convinced by either side and then whoops we ended up watching an entire season of Game of Thrones and its past 10pm on polling day. Whilst some may say that this could help Brexit as much as Bremain I’d return to my previous point that together with conservativism the two could spell disaster for those in desire of real change. An important column in the Britain Elects tables is labelled “Don’t Know”; around 13 per cent were still undecided on average last month, these people could easily swing it either way or make it extremely difficult for either side to win convincingly, as they are now.

the real question would be whether another referendum would be called, Scottish Independence style

Additionally turn out in what was supposed to be one of the biggest general elections for decades last year was only 66.1 per cent. The last referendum – AV – brought only 41 per cent of voters to the booths. If people fail to vote or simply stick with what they know then Boris Johnson may not be laughing his way to Downing Street after all.

So what would a Bremain Britain look like? Strained relations with Europe possibly in the short term. Looking into the further future the real question would be whether another referendum would be called, Scottish Independence style. Yes, it seems that such questions will not go away particularly quickly. If real change is achieved in British – EU relations then the nay sayers may be more effectively silenced, otherwise they could kick up a nasty fuss for the PM.

In short Bremain is not dead and could easily still win; it might not be fashionable but it’s what we know.

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