By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)
This has been more than two years and three months since the United Kingdom held a referendum on June 23, 2016 for leaving the European Union or remaining in the EU, which resulted in the form of Brexit. However, no significant progress has been made yet while trying to reach an agreement between the EU and the UK, as it emerged from the BBC News on Sunday, 14 October, 2018, that ‘Talks between the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, and the EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, have failed to resolve the key issues, including the Irish border question.’ The BBC News further confirms that there is a Brexit deadlock during the negotiation process between the two parties. It means that there is still no imminent, certain and visible progress over the settlement of Brexit between the two sides, as deadlock is a situation, typically one involving opposing parties, in which no progress can be made.
As a result of the stalemate, impasse, stand-off or dead end in resolving the Brexit issue, there is uncertainty, doubt, confusion and ambivalence in the minds of the majority of the people of the UK. Such a situation has made the people fed up with the ongoing scenario of dealing with the Brexit negotiation and split them once more going into two completely opposite directions of handling the matter, in regards to Brexit.
As it is already obvious from the results of the Brexit referendum of June 23, 2016, that 48.10% of the ballot or 16.1 million voters had voted for remaining in the European Union, known as the Remain Campaign or Remainers, nevertheless, the current Brexit negotiation process resulted in a growing number of people asking for a second vote or referendum for breaking the Brexit deadlock and reaching a final decision, in order to resolve the issue.
Referendum versus Neverendum and Preferendum:
A Referendum: It is a general vote by the electorate (all the people in a country or area who are entitled to vote in an election) on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision. This is a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question. A referendum is also called a public vote, popular vote, ballot or poll in some way.
A Neverendum: A neverendum is a blend, mixture or combination of a never-ending and referendum, coined by a Canadian writer, director and actor, Josh Freed, in connection with the repeated referenda or referendums on the secession of Quebec (a province in eastern Canada/the French Canadian Province of Quebec). It means a series of referendums or referenda on the same issue, held in an attempt to achieve an unpopular result.
A Preferendum: A preferendum is a way of voting, but instead of having just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ options, people can be able to vote on three or more possibilities. This is what has been referred to by the former Tory Education Secretary, Justine Greening (who is serving as an MP for Putney since the 2005 general election and was the Secretary of State for Education from 2016 to 2018), in which voters will have to go for one of the three choices or options in order of preference: ‘Theresa May’s Deal’, ‘No Deal’ or ‘Remain’, as reported by Jessica Elgot (The Guardian’s political correspondent), on Sunday, 19 August, 2018 in The Guardian.
As reported by Karl McDonald on Monday, July 16, 2018, at https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/justine-greening-brexit-list-mps-second-referendum, captioned ‘Justine Greening joins the list of around 100 MPs now, publicly backing a second Brexit referendum’. ‘One of the most prominent Conservative Party British politicians has declared the Chequers deal of Theresa May a “fudge” and called for a second referendum on Brexit.’
Being listed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 in 2013, the support of Justine Greening for another referendum over Brexit is a great boost for the Remainers or those who oppose Brexit and want to remain in the EU. Not only this, but she is joined by about 100 more Members of Parliament who are of the same opinion as Justine Greening to demand for and back a second referendum on Brexit, as it is mentioned in the report.
There are, according to the same report, some 42 Labour MPs, 35 Members of Parliament of SNP, 12 MPs of Liberal Democrats, 4 MPs of Plaid Cymru (a social-democratic political party in Wales advocating Welsh independence from the United Kingdom within the European Union), 3 Tory MPs and 1 MP of the Green Party of England and Wales who have publicly expressed their opinions and feelings to back a second Brexit referendum by giving the people of the UK the right for participating in the final decision of dealing with the Brexit issue, while branding such a campaign as a ‘People’s Vote.’
These are just those Members of Parliament who support, back and advocate for a ‘Second Referendum on Brexit’ in public. This shows that there are a growing number of British politicians (who have not yet disclosed their feelings, opinions and willingness in favour of the second Brexit referendum publicly for some reasons) but they still want either to have the best deal with the EU for the British people or to keep the UK membership of the European Union intact.
The notion or idea of voting on the terms of the Brexit deal, with an option to remain in the EU, has attracted various high-profile political figures, as its supporters, received celebrity endorsements and donations from business people.
Those who are in favour of a second referendum on Brexit, include such well-known personalities, as Justine Greening, along with other influential Tory leaders, members and supporters; some pro-EU Labour politicians to back a second referendum, like Tony Blair (the Former British Premier/Prime Minister), Chuka Umunna (a British Labour politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Streatham since 2010 and was a Shadow Business Secretary from 2011 to 2015, David Miliband (a British Labour Party politician, charity chief executive and public policy analyst who was the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010 and Member of Parliament for South Shields from 2001 to 2013); The Green Party; The Liberal Democrats; The SNP, etc.
Similarly, celebrities campaigning for a second referendum over Brexit include such famous figures, as Gary Lineker (an English former professional footballer and current sports broadcaster), Gabby Logan/Gabrielle Nicole (a British presenter and a former Welsh international gymnast and best known for her presenting roles with BBC Sport and ITV), Sir Patrick Stewart (a Star Trek star who was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace).
A £1m donation has been made to the ‘People’s Vote Campaign’ by a British businessman and the Super-dry co-founder (Julian Dunkerton), while George Soros (the billionaire philanthropist) is another famous figure who has given £500,000 to the pro-EU group (Best for Britain), as reported by Jessica Elgot in The Guardian on Sunday, August 19, 2018.
Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Brexit, this has recently been claimed by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, that a second vote was also a possible option for the party. As published by Toby Helm and Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardian on Saturday, 22 September, 2018, Tom Watson told Jeremy Corbyn that it was essential for the Labour Party leadership to support and back members of the party on a new Brexit vote, as a poll showed that 86% of the Labour Party members wanted a second referendum.
While looking for a smooth trade, with no border checks, as being a single market member in the EU, the Labour Party wants the United Kingdom to benefit from the free trade agreement that the European Union has with other countries of the world. Jeremy Corbyn, while giving his Party Conference speech during the Labour Party Conference, 2018, at Liverpool, offered his conditional support to the Conservative Government of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, over Brexit, however, the Labour Party did not rule out the likelihood of a ‘Second Referendum’ on Brexit, as an alternative option for sorting out the Brexit issue, faced by the nation, at the moment. Thus, the Party made it clear that Labour could not ignore the significance of the severity and sensitivity of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and that there was an option of a second vote over Brexit on the negotiating table for the Party, too.
As reported in The Guardian, by Dan Roberts (Brexit Policy Editor) on Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, Sir John Major, the Former British Prime Minister, has attacked and rejected the Brexit strategy, adopted by the Tory government and urged for a Commons vote or free vote in parliament on the issue whether to hold a second EU referendum. While considering the potential job losses and business damage and destruction, higher prices and poorer public services, as a result of Brexit, the ex-Conservative Premier of the UK blamed the Conservative Party for ignoring the concerns of business, as the party did care for the businesses in the past, while Brexit taking the Tory party away from its pro-business roots. He expressed his worries about the outcome of Brexit and the role of the Conservative Party, in connection with this matter, in such words, as “Over many years, the Conservative Party has understood the concerns of business. Not over Brexit, it seems, this is not only grand folly. It is also bad politics.”
Similarly, the same Former Conservative British Prime Minister (Sir John Major) has been reported by Chris Green at https://inews.co.uk on Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, to back a second EU vote, while saying that a ‘no deal Brexit’ would be ‘catastrophic’ for the UK. As justifying a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, he made it clear that such an action was morally justified (to have a second vote on Brexit), as the promises made by the Leave Campaign looked not possible to be kept.
A report in the Sky News by David Mercer (news reporter) on Saturday, 29 September, 2018, captioned ‘David Miliband and Sir John Major join forces to call for second Brexit referendum’ claimed that the Former Labour Foreign Secretary and ex-Tory Prime Minister said Britons voted on a “fantasy” Brexit proposal in 2016. David Miliband further said that ‘Brexit fantasy’ proposed at the 2016 referendum was no longer on offer and any exit deal agreed with the European Union should be put to the British people, as the UK was facing a ‘national crisis’ over Brexit.
People’s Vote: Launched in April, 2018, at an event at which various representatives of civil society, the actor Patrick Stewart and four Members of Parliament (MPs) spoke, People’s Vote is a term adopted by the British Campaign Group, demanding and urging for a public vote on the eventual or final Brexit deal between the EU and the United Kingdom. This is, as reported by Katy Balls in The Spectator on 1 September, 2018, basically the creation of the official Remain Campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, that changed smoothly into Open Britain.
Led by Chuka Harrison Umunna (a British Labour politician and MP for Streatham since 2010), the campaigners of People’s Vote seem to be stronger and hopeful of achieving positive results for launching their campaign.
An image by www.gettyimages.co.uk on 23 June, 2018, shows that tens of thousands pro-EU demonstrators marched towards Whitehall, London, during their ‘March for a People’s Vote’, heading the short distance from Pall Mall to Parliament Square, organised by those who want the people of the UK to have a final say in the eventual Brexit deal of the country. Attended by an estimated 100,000 people, the march organized by People’s Vote showed the strength of the campaigners for holding a second referendum on the issue of Brexit. The various renowned and celebrated figures, who delivered their speeches on the occasion, included David Lammy (Labour), Sir Vince Cable/Sir John Vincent Cable (Liberal Democrats Leader and Member of Parliament for Twickenham since 2017), Gina Miller (a reputed business owner), Tony Robinson (a famous actor), Caroline Lucas (Green Party co-Leader), and Anna Soubry (a well-known Conservative MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire).
As amid the news by the BBC on October 18, 2018, of having ‘no sign of major Brexit breakthrough’ during the EU Summit of October, 2018, between the UK and the European Union, there is a thorough preparation for arranging a mass march through London on Saturday, 20 October, 2018, for a People’s Vote on Brexit, organized jointly by the People’s Vote Campaign and The Independent, as part of its final say campaign, as reported by Joe Watts (Political Editor), on Thursday, 18 October, 2018, in The Independent.
The comedian Steve Coogan (the TV Star) is one of the main organisers of the march, who called on the people to join the mass march through London that demands a People’s Vote referendum on the issue of Brexit. While describing the Brexit deal being delivered by Theresa May’s government as a “looming disaster for our country”, the actor called on the government to give the public a final say on whether to accept the Brexit deal or not. He is so passionate about organising the march that he has paid for coaches to bring people from across the UK to London in what could be the biggest march in a generation, that could prove the democratic will (that is, the public demand) could not simply be written off or ignored, as he was quoted and referred to in The Independent. He went on saying that over 100,000 members of the public had marched through London in June, 2018, demanding for a People’s Vote, and even more than that number (of people) were expected to attend during October, 2018 march on Saturday (20 October). The organisers of the march also claimed that the march would be attended by high profile Members of Parliament (including the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan), who would address crowds in Trafalgar Square on the issue of Brexit deal.
One of the staunch supporters of the People’s Vote Campaign and a key organiser of the People’ Vote march on Saturday, the 20th of October, 2018, Steve Coogan, proved to be right when he claimed that there would be more to attend the People’s Vote march on London streets on October 20, 2018, than the march for a second referendum on Brexit, held in June, 2018 and attended by more than 100,000 people. A report in The Guardian by Mattha Busby (the freelance journalist and reporter at The Guardian) on Saturday, 20 October, 2018, captioned ‘People’s Vote march: ‘700,000’ rally for new Brexit referendum – as it happened’, is an important signal of the fact that now more people are in favour of a second referendum on the Brexit deal, while supporting the People’s Vote campaign in representing them in their final say on the relationship of the UK with the European Union.
The report classifies the People’s Vote march of Saturday, October 20, 2018, in central London as the ‘second most attended demonstration of this century in the UK history, as organisers believe that hundreds of thousands turned out for the march to refuse the current Brexit deal. Even the organisers of today’s march (People’s Vote UK) now claim that about three-quarters of a million or, almost, 750,000 people have attended the march. This means that it would be the second largest protest for a hundred years in the UK after the ‘Stop the War’ demonstration in 2003.
The protest was attended by well-known people and celebrities, like Armando Iannucci (a Scottish satirist, director, writer and radio producer), TV chef and television presenter (Delia Smith), Deborah Meaden (an English businesswoman) and the actor Andy Serkis, while prominent and main advocates and supporters of the Remain, like Sadiq Khan (the Mayor of London), Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry and Caroline Lucas, delivered their speeches and addressed the crowds in Parliament Square.
Above all, the People’s Vote received huge backing from Scotland, as Nicola Sturgeon (the SNP leader) offered unconditional support to the campaign on behalf of her Party and the MPs of SNP, as she appeared via video link on the occasion.
The pro-EU campaign also got support in Northern Ireland, as a pro-Remain rally was held on Saturday in Belfast while carrying anti-DUP placards and waving EU flags outside Belfast city hall. The cross-community Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long, appreciated EU for the longest period of stability and peace on the continent of Europe in history, and a Queen’s University Professor (John Barry) criticised the Brexiteers. The pro-Brexit campaign was also attacked and slammed (criticized severely) by Michelle O’Neill, the vice-president of Sinn Fein, for the careless disregard of the Brexiteers for the people of Northern Ireland.
However, it is also reported that a ‘Leave Means Leave’ rally was held in Harrogate (a town in North Yorkshire, England) that some 1,200 pro-Brexit people attended where Nigel Farage (the ex-UKIP leader) addressed the crowd and supported Brexit, as well.