‘People’s Vote’ March | Its Impact and Meaning
Brexit has been the centre of the political playing field in the United Kingdom since June 23rd 2016, 51.9% of the British electorate voted to leave the European Union. The story is no different today. The story has expanded to include a new chapter, a chapter detailing the rise of the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ and growing calls for a second referendum on membership of the EU. Various political parties in the UK are beginning to choose sides once again. The Conservatives and Labour remain divided on Brexit; nonetheless the official party line(s) is still supportive of Brexit – but, make no mistake: there is huge division in both parties. Smaller parties like UKIP, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats tend to make it clear where they stand. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP even came out recently to reiterate that her party MPs will support a people’s vote.
A people’s vote march in London a week ago attracted 700,000 people, demanding a second referendum and a final say on which path the British nation will take, after two years of posturing and negotiations that have not resulted in much. It harks back to 2003, where war with Iraq was imminent, but received a mixed reception. The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ went on a march against this conflict; with reports suggesting as many as two million joining the protest, though reports conflict according to the source. But what exactly has been the impact of this march, if anything?
Well, it indicates, first of all, discontent. Many in the country are getting fed up with the way in which Brexit is going. An indicator of this perceived shambles comes from Sky, where a poll recorded in September reported that 52% disapprove of the government’s Brexit strategy. The argument against that point would be – ‘negotiations are never smooth, that’s the point of negotiations: it’s all about compromise’. Well, while that may be true, after two years, surely, you’d expect some comprise to be clear. Now, Theresa May recently came out and said that 95% of the negotiations are complete, except for the Irish border question. Extensions to the Brexit talks have also been considered by the government though are apparently “undesirable”. The point is this – the negotiations are apparently nearing completion, but divisions remain, and we have yet to see substantial progress. And that has translated into growing upheaval, not least within political circles in Westminster and beyond, but also amongst the people, even those who initially voted Leave.
But on the other hand, many believe ‘The people’s march’ symbolises next to nothing. After all, while 700,000 people protested, over 17 million people voted Leave back in 2016. Is it fair to claim that the referendum result is redundant, based on a few hundred thousand marching, or based on a select number of politicians backing Remain? In a broader point, is it fair to ask for a second referendum at all, regardless of the result that could be produced from it?
Regardless, the march symbolises that many are beginning to get tired of Brexit. Even if the dream remains clear, the process to which that dream can be attained, has been shambolic. The referendum, of course, showed that more voted for Brexit, but after two years and numerous shortfalls and controversies, including illegalities with spending within the Leave camp as well as key resignations within the government, another referendum is vital in establishing precisely what needs to be done from here. Divisions continue to deepen within not just a black and white ‘Remain or Leave’ scenario, but in a more nuanced form as well. What sort of Brexit do we want? The Chequers deal hasn’t received many positive reviews within Parliament, including from ex-ministers such as Boris Johnson. There needs to be a clear vision, and thus far the approach taken has not worked very well. A fresh outlook on the issue is necessary, and a second referendum is an ideal opportunity for that.