VARIOUS advocates of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union have rallied around the pronouncement by retired diplomat Lord Kerr of Kinlochard that the voters’ decision to leave can be reversed.
His lordship’s standing is enhanced in their eyes by having played a role in drafting Article 50 during his five years as Britain’s permanent representative at the EU.
Lord Kerr is nothing if not consistent. He opposed the Leave campaign and was among 60 signatories in July to an open letter published in a Scottish newspaper demanding that voters’ democratic decision be set aside.
“We call for a national debate on Brexit. We ask our fellow citizens, and our politicians, to think again. It is time to call a halt to Brexit,” the letter read.
This ignores the reality that a national debate took place. Contentious claims were made on all sides, as in every consultation of the electorate, and the Remain side lost.
We don’t have a second go at general elections when this happens and we didn’t replay the first referendum that confirmed Britain’s membership despite the pro-EU side having stressed huge economic benefits in its “jobs for the boys” propaganda while unemployment actually soared and a former positive trade balance with the EU reversed.
Kerr’s intervention is part of the Establishment’s ongoing guerilla campaign to overturn the popular verdict to leave.
He is joined by the usual suspects, with disastrous former Labour leader Gordon Brown to the fore, voicing a hazy prediction of a “crisis point” when Leave voters find they have no “proper control” of borders and are still governed by the European Court of Justice.
“Is there something that we didn’t get right the last time that could persuade millions of Leave voters that it was worth going Remain?” this latter-day Nostradamus asks wistfully.
Like his New Labour partner in crime Tony Blair, who has hinted for a year at a return to front-line politics to rally Britain’s voters behind the EU, Brown cannot accept that people voted out because they wanted out.
Lifelong EU enthusiast Michael Heseltine pretends there might be a situation in which he and other pro-EU Tories would recommend a vote for Labour if Jeremy Corbyn recognises where public opinion is moving and does likewise.
This represents a trap for the Labour leadership despite its clear commitment to respect the referendum result.
As Heseltine himself suggests, the urge to take office even on the basis of an unprincipled rejection of the vote to leave could prove seductive.
Many who hanker for EU membership quote approvingly comments made by EU negotiators or politicians from the remaining 27 EU members, supporting demands for a customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland, an enduring role for the European Court of Justice or ongoing membership of the EU customs union and/or the single market.
None of these commitments is likely to find favour with the 52 per cent majority. Some would be anathema even to voters who backed Remain.
Pressure from media and politicians to edge away from the clear instruction given by the electorate is bound to increase, especially given the weak and confused bargaining stance adopted by the Tories.
Labour must hold firm to the principled position outlined from the outset by Corbyn and make clear that it will not be an EU Trojan horse to allow the City of London and the European Commission to frustrate the people’s will.