1 March 2016

Sensible Leave and Remain people will have to switch sides if they lose the EU vote


This time I mean it. I really am going on leave for a few days, but I keep getting drawn back into the EU referendum. It is, as the youngsters say, “so not boring”. It is very exciting, and already turning nasty with silly claims galore‎. Friendships are being tested. The governing party is badly divided. This is, short of the horrors of war, as big as it gets in a country’s history. If what is being decided on June 23rd doesn’t get you going, have someone check you for a pulse.

One observation has been bothering me, however. There are sensible, patriotic ‎people on both sides of this argument. However the vote goes, they will have to get on with it afterwards, surely? You would hope so.

It ‎hit me on hearing the Dark Lord (Mandelson, who is such a star) mock the lack of trade talks negotiating firepower on the Leave side. Here he has missed the point, spectacularly. In the event of the UK leaving, we should all, apart from the extreme wing of a badly split UKIP, accept the result. We will all be on the same side and have to make the best of it. One would expect the UK government to ask for assistance and get it from any Remainers with experience of trade talks, negotiations, defence and security, the US and emerging markets . Or would they rather sit tutting on the sidelines?

This applies too in the event of the other outcome, a vote to Remain. There is some talk of fighting on post-referendum and trying for another go. The public will, I suspect, not wear it. Voters are likely to ‎tell anyone post-Remain still banging on about the EU to shut it. Out has one shot at it. This is it.

Post-defeat grumbling will be pointless, other than if you are Nigel Farage trying to stay relevant. Sensible Outers should in that scenario accept that the UK is in and commit to playing a positive role, by trying to get the EU to reform. That means even more active diplomatic eng‎agement in Brussels. Really, and I say that as someone who leans Out.

I make this point because in the dark days of the Scottish referendum, a leading pro-Union campaigner admitted the reality to me in a private conversation. If, he said, his fellow Scots voted to end the UK, then he and many like him would change sides. ‎It would be their patriotic duty to help Scotland negotiate a decent deal and construct a seperate state. He’s right. That is what would have happened, and anyone with ministerial economic experience at Westminster would have been in demand in Edinburgh as the oil price tanked post-independence. It is a shame the SNP didn’t accept its defeat in the same spirit as that Unionist and many like him would have done.

After the EU referendum, let’s not repeat the SNP mistake. If they lose, Remainers should not go on strike, wishing ill on the UK. Equally, Leavers should accept the country wanted something else if they lose. After either outcome it should be all hands to the pump.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX