It does very much look as though the Remainers have got their strategies badly wrong concerning Brexit.
During the referendum campaign, the Remainers focused very little on the merits of remaining part of the EU, instead choosing to denigrate Brexiteers, and to try to instil a sense of fear about leaving the EU. That might well have worked in continental Europe, but the British people tend to be resistant to that sort of pressure. And so the Remainers lost.
As we head towards the Brexit date in March 2019, the Remainers are now focused on trying to make the Brexit process as difficult as possible, continuing to denigrate the Brexiteers and effectively saying that if you voted for Brexit, you are stupid. Again, the British people tend to dislike that sort of patronising treatment.
Again, I think this is likely to backfire. The more troubled the Remainers make the process of leaving, the more likely the British people are to think, “Sod it! Let’s just leave without any sort of deal with the EU!”. This is not, of course, entirely the fault of the Remainers in the UK; the more unpleasantly the EU behaves in the negotiations, the clearer it is that they were never truly our friends.
Strictly speaking, of course, the notion of “no deal” is somewhat misleading, because if no Brexit arrangements are made between the UK and the EU, there will nevertheless be the deal which is embedded in the WTO rules. And that is the result that is looking increasingly likely.
The Remainers have cried “wolf” too many times. Repeatedly, their predictions about disaster lying ahead on the Brexit Road have proved to be false alarms. Slogans about “crashing out” of Europe are sounding rather tired now; instead, the notion of a “clean break” looks increasingly attractive.
Mistakes have, of course, been made on both sides. It was a bad mistake for the EU to send David Cameron away with a flea in his ear before the referendum took place. And it was a bad mistake for the May government to dance to the EU’s tune in the earlier stages of the negotiations. It would have been far better for the UK government to have taken a much tougher line in the first place. If negotiations had broken down a year ago, that would have allowed time for righteous indignation in the corridors of Brussels to die down, and for the inexorable power of realpolitik to cut in by March 2019. In the medium and long-term, of course, it is very much in the interests of producers in the EU to have the smallest possible impediments to trade between the EU and the UK in the post-Brexit world, and very probably, that is what is going to happen. However, by allowing the negotiations to drift on with concession after concession (but always with the “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” caveat) there may well be a few bumpy months ahead in 2019.