The New European - - Expertise - Mitch Benn

It can be tricky some­times, when try­ing to spur one’s con­tem­po­raries into ac­tion (which ap­pears to be pretty much my full-time job th­ese days) to strike the proper bal­ance be­tween ur­gency and de­spair. Be­tween em­pha­sis­ing the im­por­tance of giv­ing it your best shot, and ac­ci­den­tally im­ply­ing that if it doesn’t work, then that’s it, give up

Read­ers will be well aware of this week­end’s Peo­ple’s Vote march and by the time they reach this ar­ti­cle will have al­ready en­coun­tered ex­hor­ta­tions to take part. I’m not go­ing to add too many of my col­umn inches to this ef­fort, ex­cept to say that if you’re able to turn up on Satur­day but still in two minds about whether or not to turn up, TURN UP.

It mat­ters. One might even say that it works.

For all that (as I noted at the time) the Brex­iters and the pro-brexit press tried to dis­miss the march that took place in June as some sort of mid­dle class jolly (a bizarre ar­gu­ment even if it were true, which it wasn’t; a point is ei­ther valid or it isn’t, ir­re­spec­tive of the per­ceived so­cio-eco­nomic bracket in which those mak­ing the point be­long) its im­pact has been un­de­ni­able.

As I pointed out last week, be­fore the June march, the idea of a vote on the fi­nal Brexit deal was all but un­men­tioned; in less than four months it’s gone from be­ing an im­pos­si­bil­ity to a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity, with all the ma­jor par­ties save UKIP and the “big two” now on board, as well as many of the big­gest trade unions and pretty much the en­tire busi­ness lobby. The sheer scale of the sum­mer protest took the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment by sur­prise; on Satur­day it’s time for some se­ri­ous shock and awe.

Oh and while we’re here, yes, ‘the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment’. Can we please start knock­ing back against this idea that or­gan­ised Re­mainer­ism is some sort of at­tempt by the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment to sub­vert and thwart the plucky grass­roots upris­ing that is Brexit?

Boris John­son and Ja­cob Rees-mogg aren’t just pil­lars of the es­tab­lish­ment, they’re lead-bear­ing pil­lars of the es­tab­lish­ment. They couldn’t be more em­blem­atic of the so­cial sta­tus quo if they had ravens liv­ing in their heads, which may ac­tu­ally be true in Boris’s case. And as for the pri­vately ed­u­cated banker Nigel Farage, he couldn’t be more en­trenched in the so­cial and eco­nomic élite if you dug a trench straight through the so­cial and eco­nomic élite and buried him in it, which if noth­ing else is a hugely pleas­ing im­age.

You don’t get to dis­miss your op­po­nents as ‘the es­tab­lish­ment’ and por­tray your own lot as the rebel un­der­dogs when the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion are on your side. And if you’re still so sure that ‘the will of the peo­ple’ is with you, you shouldn’t be afraid to check and find out...

So yes, if you can get there on

Satur­day, do. It’s lit­er­ally a num­bers game at this point. The fact that some­where be­tween 100,000 and 150,000 peo­ple turned out in June when no more than 50,000 had been ex­pected did not go un­no­ticed, and the Brexit ‘Over­ton Win­dow’ has been shift­ing ever since. Let’s give it an­other shove in the di­rec­tion of san­ity.

But... If you just can’t make it, for rea­sons of com­mit­ments or ge­og­ra­phy or other such con­sid­er­a­tions, don’t beat your­self up about it.

There will be other bat­tles.

This is what I was al­lud­ing to in the first para­graph; on the one hand, while Satur­day’s march is our big chance to per­suade the pub­lic and per­haps even the govern­ment of the ne­ces­sity of a Fi­nal deal vote, it isn’t and won’t be our last chance to de­feat Brexit. Be­cause there isn’t go­ing to be a last chance.

As it stands we have just over five months to save the coun­try. Ar­ti­cle 50 comes into ef­fect on March 29, 2019, and all our treaties and ar­range­ments with the EU will ex­pire at once, whether or not any­thing has been set up to re­place them (it won’t have been). Ar­ti­cle 50 can of course be uni­lat­er­ally re­voked at any time up un­til that mo­ment, as the EU has been at pains to point out for the last 18 months.

There is, of course, at least an evens chance that it won’t be re­voked; that we will, in the im­me­di­ate term, fail. But that won’t mean it’s over.

This whole lu­di­crous episode was only foisted upon us be­cause the eu­ro­pho­bic rump of the Con­ser­va­tive Party spent over 40 years re­fus­ing to ac­cept the out­come of the last ref­er­en­dum on Europe. And of course had the 2016 ref­er­en­dum gone the other way, the Brex­i­teers had al­ready pledged to go on fight­ing for their cause. So there’s ab­so­lutely no rea­son for us to give up ei­ther.

If Brexit goes ahead, the last day of the cam­paign to avert it will be the first day of the cam­paign to undo it. In the mean­time, get on the damn bus (se­ri­ously; there are free buses be­ing laid on to get peo­ple to Lon­don on Satur­day; have a Google and see if there’s one you can catch). I’ve even looked at the fore­cast for Satur­day in Lon­don; 17 de­grees with sunny in­ter­vals, so per­fect march­ing weather.

Time to put our money where our col­lec­tive mouth is. Re­sist. .

Photo: Getty Im­ages

TAKE AC­TION: March­ing for a Peo­ple’s Vote is more im­por­tant than ever now

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