Trust UKIP to get us out of the EU, Labour wants to keep you in, a poster reads on the streets of Stoke on Trent in preparation for today’s crucial by-election. Despite UKIP been entangled in a Paul Nuttall fiasco and Labour imposing a three-line whip on their MPs to vote in favour of the Brexit bill it’s clear the issue at the heart of the Brexit capital remains Europe and Britain’s exit thereof. If buyers regret seems prevalent in some parts of the country, it certainly isn’t here.
Since the vote to leave the EU in June there has been a barrage of revelations which, had we known them at the time, would surely have impacted the vote. Had we known that a large chunk of Leave campaign was based on lies and fabrications it would have significantly lessened its appeal. Had we known the cost of leaving, the consequences on the economy and the impact it would have on our Toblerones and loo roll I’m certain we would have called foul. In all, had we known what Brexit actually meant, would we have backed it as a nation?
It’s a question that I have been dabbling with for months as revelation after revelation comes to light underlining the idiocy behind the vote to exit. Based on what I’ve seen my instinct tells me that we would surely overturn our decision, yet I would have bet my house on us remaining in the European Union in the run-up to the referendum, so would most people I know too, so has anything changed since?
On the face of it, the answer is no – I still talk to the same people, still live in the same metropolitan city that voted overwhelmingly to remain and still read the same newspapers that present the same editorial line that I consumed pre-referendum. Most of my interpretation comes from my immediate surrounding, which is why in hindsight I was so far off the mark in June.
Since then I like have reacted like most other Remainers. Rather than accept the vote and move on I’ve looked to pigeon hole a demographic in order to attack a perceived culprit – old, white babyboomers – I have laboured on every trinket of news that would indicate Brexit buyers remorse in order to feel smug and most notably spent a great deal of time arguing that given a second vote results would surely swing the other way.
Which is why events in the Brexit capital are so important. If Nuttall wins, he will show that UKIP is no longer a single-issue party, it is a UK-wide mentality and a sign that Britain is ready to embrace the populist ideals that people like he and Farage champion. It will show that in many parts not only does Brexit buyers remorse not exist, but most people are ready to hit the establishment where it hurts by campaigning for a hard exit. As I wrote here, the biggest threat to Labour isn’t Corbyn, but UKIP, and as Mr Nuttall told the Financial Times a victory in Stoke could trigger a domino effect that legitimises the party and what it stands for and takes more seats on the back of it.
If that happens then we will know for sure that regardless of what the polls say, a referendum on leaving Europe tomorrow would result in the same outcome: Exit.