Why Remainers need to look at their own actions during and after the EU Referendum, where they went wrong and improve.
First published in October 2020.
Before you attack Daniel Keohane for this, as many are, I would suggest reflecting on it. It is not a pleasant thought, however, it is valid.
Before and during the referendum quite a lot of Remainers took it for granted that we would win. That led to a complacency, particularly among key figures – and I am including the likes of David Cameron here – that we didn’t need to focus too much on it.
After we lost there was a mobilisation of people determined to try and get the government to reconsider. This led to a second problem. While many fought based on policies, facts, figures, and evidence, there was an unfortunately large number who used it to pull stunts, insult others, and generally make it harder for people to take Remainers seriously.
I do think they were a minority, yet vocal, particularly on social media, who by their actions made it harder to campaign, because they were held up by Brexiters as “Look at what Remainers are like”.
Coupled with the initial complacency, this fed into the Brexiter narrative that Remainers were “out of touch”, etc.
Even when presented with facts, supported by evidence, for how hard Brexit would be, this impression caused lasting damage, as many of us witness first hand.
Infighting within Remain then further exacerbated the issue. We saw plenty of people calling other Remainers “fake”, “bots” or “Brexiters”, for example, any time they raised concerns about some of the more vocal individuals who were making it harder to push reasonable arguments.
In any campaign it is as important to look at the causes for why one side lost as why one side won. Now, Brexit is done, and feelings are still running high. So long as we, including me here, fail to look at why our messaging didn’t make an impact we won’t learn for future.
A campaign for rejoin is possible in the future, but the starting point for it has to be looking at why Remain didn’t just lose the referendum, but failed to get its message across subsequently, including in two general elections.
It is reasonable to say that there is a significant difference between political will and individual action. But for any future (by which I mean 15/20 years time) campaign to work we need to look at both, and why both failed this time.🔷
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class, by Tim Shipman | William Collins
Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.
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