The ‘Remainers’ have a spring in their step today
Despite talks between UK officials and the bloc being well underway in Brussels, scheming europhiles are piling increasing amounts of pressure on Theresa May.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has waded in with the suggestion of the UK becoming part of a ‘reformed European Union’, with newly-crowned Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable “beginning to think Brexit may never happen.”
European Council president Donald Tusk was one of the first to express his hopes Brexit could be blocked.
Hard Brexiteers were dealt a blow when director of Leave campaign Dominic Cummings said there are “possible branches of the future” in which “leaving will be an error”.
With Remainers increasingly scarce in Westminster, Politico spoke to some who think Brexit could be stopped.
So how could Britain remain in the EU following the historic referendum which saw 52 per cent vote for Brexit?
Brexit talks are underway in Brussels
1. Change of public opinion
Desperate Remainers have seized on polls suggesting an increase in support for staying in the bloc.
One poll by Survation found 54 per cent of Brits surveyed would prefer to stay in the EU.
Heartened by polls Remainers have argued Theresa May’s Government would struggle to push through a hard Brexit if the majority of voters are against the idea.
But Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov, says any shift is currently too small to indicate a change of opinion.
YouGov continues to monitor public opinion in the wake of the referendum.
Mr Twyman told Politico, Britain is still divided down the middle, much as it was in the referendum vote itself, which saw 52 per cent vote leave and 48 per cent vote remain.
He said: “It is almost certain that as things do actually start to occur then there could be a movement in one way or another.
“People could say ‘this is working out really well, yay us.’ And so support for Brexit rises significantly.
“The opposite could be true if things go wrong.”
New Lib Dem leader Vince Cable doesn’t think Brexit will go ahead
2. Article 50 reversed
Despite Remainers attaching themselves to favourable polls, earlier this month European Commission officials issued a factsheet insisting Article 50 once triggered could not be “unilaterally reversed.”
Article 50 could provide some hope to staunch europhiles with diplomats saying Britain could stay in the EU through an extension of the official two-year negotiation period outlined in the document.
Lord Kerr said if more time is granted, the British public can be further consulted.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said: “The political imperative of keeping the Brits in the club would override any legal concerns.”
But senior diplomats in Brussels have poured cold water on the idea claiming it is unlikely the bloc will agree to extending the negotiation phase amid fears of “adding more uncertainty”.
Theresa May triggered Article 50 to kick off Brexit proceedings
3. Another election
If another general election was triggered Lord Kerr claims the resulting upheaval could lead the EU to grant an extension of the Article 50 deadline.
Lord Kerr told Politico: “I think [public opinion] will turn as the economic arguments kick in.
“I would expect that by this time next year, the government will be coming back from Brussels with the outline of a rather bad deal, against a background of a public opinion that now thinks this isn’t necessarily a very good idea.
“I would expect that deal not to carry in the House of Commons and there then [would have] to be an election.”
The diplomat predicted if Brits were forced to go to the polls again it would be “perfectly possible” for another referendum on EU membership in 2019.
But former Brexit minister David Jones says the scenario is unlikely.
He said: “That would mean that you’d have to have a majority of two-thirds in the Commons in favor of an election.
“You’d have to persuade a lot of Conservative MPs that it was in their political interest and in the country’s national interest to have that election.
“And the country would have to change its mind, and frankly all the polls one sees, if anything show there is a strengthening position of those who just want us to get on with Brexit.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested a ‘reformed European Union’ instead of Brexit
4. Remainers fight back
Arch-remainer Gina Miller, who led the High Court fight for the PM to get parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50, said has called for a full debate and declared the will of the people must change to force politicians to perform a u-turn.
She said: “The politicians are in a cowardly environment where there is this vacuous populist will of the people that has been constructed. “Unless the will of the people changes, I don’t think the politicians will have the courage to stand up and fight for our country, and that is a dismal state of affairs for the politics of our country to be in.”
Labour backbencher Ben Bradshaw has thrown his weight behind the country shifting its views.
He said: “I’ve always thought there was a good chance Brexit wouldn’t happen once the British people were faced with a terrible negotiation and an even worse deal. But the general election and its aftermath have brought that moment forward.
“Only now are we having the debate about what Brexit actually means and the different types of Brexit that we didn’t during the referendum campaign.”
5. The EU carries out major reforms
Tony Blair’s suggestion that Britain could stay in a reformed EU left some diplomats in Brussels scratching their heads.
One EU diplomat told Politico any reforms would actually alienate the British public.
The diplomat said: “The future Europe will pull away from what the British people were looking for.
“The reforms will go in the opposite direction, and we are not going to limit the scope of freedoms in the EU.”
6. Labour promises to keep Britain in the EU
The Labour Party could hold the power to block Brexit, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, has argued.
He said Labour would have to commit to keeping Britain in the EU to stop Brexit but leader Jeremy Corbyn has shown little appetite for it.
Brexiteer and former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell claims Mr Corbyn is actually on Leave’s side.
He said: “I probably knew [Corbyn] better than most Labour MPs when I was a Tory backbencher because every time we organised a Tory rebellion on Europe he joined us in the lobbies.
“His instincts are to see Brussels for what it is — a scam against working people.”
But diplomats claim pressure from the unions and a major shift in public opinion could change Mr Corbyn’s mind.
7. Rise of the Lib Dems
The resurgence of the europhile Lib Dems could be a last chance saloon for Remainers.
During the General Election the Lib Dems aimed to lure disgruntled Remain voters with promises of a second referendum.
They failed but new leader Sir Vince Cable looks set to keep the party line.
Lib Dem spokesman Tom Brake said the party continues to believe “no deal will be better than what we currently enjoy as members of the EU.”
He promised the Lib Dems would “carry on fighting to give the British people the final say on the deal, with the option to reject the deal on offer and remain in the EU.”
8. Tory civil war
Theresa May’s party has been plagued by infighting in recent weeks amid a cabinet split over a soft Brexit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is said to be leading the charge for a soft Brexit.
Scheming Tories have thrown their weight behind Mr Hammond with David Davis leading the calls for a hard Brexit.
Earlier this month EU Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt seized on the civil war warning it has thrown negotiations into chaos.
But ardent Remainers in the Tory Party now admit Brexit will happen.
Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the treasury select committee, said: “Come 2019 we will not be members of the EU.”
She said only a “seismic world event” could stop Brexit.
9. Leave and rejoin at a later date
If all fails, and the Remainers remain dissatisfied with the outcome on March 2019, they hold onto the fact that rejoining is always an option.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said: “Once it has left, it could reapply to join like any other non-EU country in Europe. The negotiations would take several years and the U.K. would probably not be able to regain the special position it currently enjoys — with a rebate on its budget contribution and opt-outs from many policies.”
But a senior EU diplomat told Politico Brexit cannot be undone.
The diplomat said: “Once they’re gone, they’re gone. If they want to join again, they will join as another country would. There won’t be any rebates, or opt-outs.”