Brexit stand-off, election disasters and a weak prime minister – where does the blame lie?

PUBLISHED: 15:20 16 May 2019

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire.

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire.


In his latest column, East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire digs through a new partisanship in politics

"Poor local election results for both Conservatives and Labour, the rise of Farage's Brexit Party, new Remain parties forming in Parliament, the EU refusing to grant a standard exit clause from the backstop creating a two-way-standoff, a weak Prime Minister with a divided cabinet... but where exactly does the blame really lie?

"The truth is the British public is just as badly split as MPs over the best kind of Brexit or whether it should happen at all. Opinion polls consistently show that the public blame politicians for the impasse but research shows that the public closely mirrors the way MPs voted during the indicative vote process, which was designed to break the Brexit impasse in March. What is clear is that inside and out of Parliament there is no silent majority for a compromise and that a so called 'soft Brexit is hardly anyone's first choice.

"I would also defend Parliament at this juncture. In many ways it is doing what it is meant to do - to argue and probe on every point in order to try to reach a consensus. Democracy in action.

"It is clear that the public are emotionally connected with either Leave or Remain much as they did with political parties 50 years ago. It has become almost tribal. Half the public are not inclined to change their minds and evidence is interpreted and reinterpreted through the partisan lens. An example would be that Remain voters see the difficulties of Brexit as evidence Britain should not be leaving. Conversely, Leave voters see this level of integration that needs to be unpicked as evidence of why it is so important to leave. It illustrates why finding a way through this is so hard.

"What now? I wish I could tell you. My personal view as a Remain voter is that we have to fulfil the result of the referendum because it would be undemocratic not to do so. In Parliament I will therefore be voting for anything that respects that result."

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