British politics right now, at the expense of the NHS, security or inequality, is totally dominated by one thing: Brexit.
And the Tory government is still struggling to come up with a suitable plan for how the UK is going to leave the European Union even though time is ticking on. We’re scheduled to split at exactly at 11pm on Friday 29 March, 2019. That’s less than a year.
And yet we still don’t know what our trading relationship will be like with the EU, what’s going to happen at the Irish border or whether we’ll need visas to travel to the continent.
Now, a new campaign is preparing to launch within days that’s hoping to bring about a second Brexit referendum, and it’s backed by billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros.
In a speech on Tuesday at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Soros said: “Brexit is an immensely damaging process, harmful to both sides … Divorce will be a long process, probably taking more than five years. Five years is an eternity in politics, especially in revolutionary times like the present.”
Soros, who has reportedly donated £500,000 to anti-Brexit pressure group Best for Britain, added: “Ultimately, it’s up to the British people to decide what they want to do. It would be better however if they came to a decision sooner rather than later. That’s the goal of an initiative called the Best for Britain, which I support.
“Best for Britain fought for, and helped to win, a meaningful parliamentary vote which includes the option of not leaving at all. This would be good for Britain but would also render Europe a great service by rescinding Brexit and not creating a hard-to-fill hole in the European budget.
“But the British public must express its support by a convincing margin in order to be taken seriously by Europe. That’s what Best for Britain is aiming for by engaging the electorate. It will publish its manifesto in the next few days.”
So how likely is this to succeed?
Well, when you look at the mood of the country, there appears to be a slight swing towards the Remain side, according to national polling.
The BBC’s election guru Professor John Curtice said recently: “The four most recent readings - taken by BMG Research and Survation between November and January - have, on average, put Remain on 52% and Leave on 48%.”
But to turn this change of opinion into reality, even after a second referendum result, we’d probably need two things to happen:
1. Change of government
Only Parliament can officially reverse Brexit and the current Tory party is unlikely to change their official policy. And even if Theresa May steps down, the chances are that she’ll be replaced with an even more pro-Leave politician like Michael Gove or Boris Johnson.
So we’d have to hope for another snap election and a Labour victory.
2. Change of Labour policy
Even if Labour won, the party’s current position under Jeremy Corbyn seems to be committed to carrying out the referendum result. This means either Corbyn would have to be replaced with one of the many pro-Remain Labour MPs or he’d have to change his mind. This could come from pressure within the Labour party or from voters across the country. It’s not impossible but, to be honest, it looks unlikely.
Ultimately, it’s probably the goal of Soros and Best for Britain to secure as soft a deal as possible – and win things like visa-free travel and easy trade access. Just like any negotiation, you ask for the earth (stopping Brexit) but then settle on something in the middle.