The distinguished economist Simon Wren-Lewis asks why the 2016 referendum result is regarded so highly now, in view of the obvious deficiencies and deceptions which have come to light in the 30 months since: https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-2016-referendum-was-badly-designed.html.
The answer, of course, is that the upper-class public school-educated leaders of the Brexit movement, aided by the majority ‘popular’ press – in reality a right-wing propaganda machine – have elevated an ‘advisory’ vote into a binding one, smeared any dissidents as anti-democratic and unpatriotic traitors, no less, and encouraged ‘the mob’ (as it used to be called) to directly intimidate anyone, but especially MPs, who dares to go against what they (the Brexiters) read as the ‘will of the people’ on that distant, June 2016 day. With people so dissatisfied with so many things in Britain today, untrusting of politicians and of ‘experts’, unable to analyse their situations rationally (not their fault: the press again), and ready to seize on any convenient scapegoat to vent their anger against, it will take more than the revelation of Boris’s lies and the machinations of Cambridge Analytica to distract them from the prey that they now have their teeth into. Indeed, there’s a strong feeling that if they are persuaded to turn away from the European fox, it will only be to sink their claws into the liberal protesters who have been trying to protect him (to stretch the metaphor somewhat), leading to open violence, such as has killed one Labour MP to date, and even serious civil unrest. Theresa May has already put the Army on standby. She may need it.
It’s this very real fear that is deterring some otherwise principled ‘Remainers’ to soften their approach, and to go for something less than Remain – like the Norway option – that wouldn’t be perfect for them, but which they might be able to present as conforming to the ‘will of the people’ enough to keep the hounds off them. Of course the extreme ‘stab in the back’ Brexiteers (the reference of course is to German malcontents after WorldWar I) would remain, but hopefully would be marginalised – as they should be, socially: what do the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg know of ‘ordinary people’? – while the real problems facing those ordinary people could be addressed. That would be the task of an incoming Labour government, which is why Corbyn is so right to insist on an election instead of, or at least prior to, a second referendum. Released from austerity, gross inequality and all the rest, people could take their eyes off Europe; and we might even creep back into the EU again. Brexitism will have lost its sting. Any settlement that keeps the Tories in power couldn’t do that.
If that happens, it might cheer me up.