Di­vided UK braces for once-in-a-life­time Brexit vote

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

AS BRI­TISH MPs pre­pare for a his­toric vote on the fu­ture of Brexit, the coun­try is back on a cam­paign foot­ing and the bit­ter di­vi­sions of the 2016 ref­er­en­dum have re-sur­faced.

Sec­ond ref­er­en­dum ca mpaign­ers are set­ting up stalls at Christ­mas mar­kets na­tion­wide, whi le ha rd l i ne Brex­i­teers are push­ing their mes­sage of a clean break on tours of Bri­tain.

“It re­ally does feel like 2016 all over again,” said Politico’s Jack Blan­chard, re­act­ing to the daily news diet of dire eco­nomic fore­casts and heated po­lit­i­cal de­bates.

Dif­fer­ent sides in the de­bate are urg­ing peo­ple to put pres­sure on their MPs ahead of the De­cem­ber 11 vote, hop­ing their vi­sion of Bri­tain’s fu­ture will win the day.

Polls in­di­cate that some Bri­tons – a mi­nor­ity – do sup­port Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s com­pro­mise deal with Brus­sels, hop­ing to put an end to a tor­tu­ous de­bate.

But hard­lin­ers in­stead want a cleaner break to es­cape the “ten­ta­cles” of Europe once and for all, while mod­er­ates are cam­paign­ing for a deal that bi nds Br i t a i n c l o s e r t o Europe.

De­spite May’s re­peated de­nials, an­other group of Bri­tons is hop­ing that the con­fu­sion cre­ated if and when MPs re­ject May’s deal will ul­ti­mately lead to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

The im­pres­sion for now is that all op­tions are up for grabs.

“No one’s get­ting more rec­on­ciled,” said Tom Clark­son, re­search di­rec­tor at the con­sul­tancy Bri­tainThinks.

“Brexit is a mas­sive di­vi­sion,” Clark­son said, point­ing out that fo­cus groups had re­vealed fam­ily ar­gu­ments, friend­ship break­downs and “an over­all mood of pes­simism”.

A poll by Sur­va­tion last week of 1,030 peo­ple found that the Brexit deal was less pop­u­lar (37 per cent) than re­main­ing in the EU (46 per cent).

But 41 per cent of the same re­spon­dents said they wanted their MP to vote in favour of the deal com­pared to 38 per cent who sa id t hey shou ld op­pose it.

“There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween what the pub­lic want con­cep­tu­ally and what they think should hap­pen now, rel­a­tive to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion,” said Sur­va­tion CEO Damian Lyons Lowe.

The poll­ster said this con­tra­dic­tion cre­ated “an im­passe that many be­lieve can only be bridged by re­turn­ing to the polls in an­other ref­er­en­dum or elec­tion”.

But even ad­vo­cates of hold­ing an­other vote ad­mit that the re­sult could be sim­i­lar to the 52-48 split in 2016.

Start­ing its case for MPs to ap­prove the deal, the govern­ment has ar­gued that most peo­ple sim­ply want Brexit to hap­pen and for the coun­try to move on.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt used the term “BOBs” to de­scribe con­stituents who are “bored of Brexit”.

“They want us to get on with it and de­liver Brexit,” he said.

The trou­ble is there are still deep rifts over what kind of Brexit there should be or if there should be Brexit at all.

“It beg­gars be­lief that two and a half years af­ter the ref­er­en­dum, and with just months to go be­fore the Ar­ti­cle 50 process comes to an end, we are still no nearer to know­ing what sort of fu­ture we are try­ing to achieve,” wrote Jere­myWarner, a colum­nist for the Daily Tele­graph.

Guardian colum­nist Ma­rina Hyde wrote: “Get ready for Brexit ad­vent, where a new po­lit­i­cal hellscape opens every day”.

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