Thursday, 11 January 2018

Why is Nigel Farage suddenly talking in favour of a second EU referendum?

The former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has propelled himself back into the headlines by announcing that he's coming around to the idea of a second referendum on EU membership.

This is obviously quite a sensational announcement given the absolute bile Brexiters generally fling at people who suggest that perhaps the British people deserve a democratic vote once the terms and conditions of Brexit are actually known.

Most Brexiters strongly resist the idea of a second referendum because they know that the 2016 referendum was a freak result, won with a tiny minority against a backdrop of collapsing public services and stagnating wages caused by ruinous Tory austerity dogma.

Brextremists are understandably afraid that a second vote would result in a reversal of Brexit, especially in light of Theresa May's catastrophic, increasingly unpopular, and profoundly anti-democratic handling of the Brexit process so far.

The fact that Farage is going against the position held by the majority of Brexiters by suggesting a second referendum raises the obvious question of why?

If we take Farage at his word, he's claiming that a cancel-Brexit campaign fronted by the likes of Tony Blair and Nick Clegg would fail spectacularly, and anyone with a grain of political sense must be able to realise that Clegg and Blair are now so politically toxic they would undoubtedly damage any 2nd Remain campaign by association.

However, it's also worth noting that the likely leaders of the 2nd Leave campaign would also be politically toxic too. Only a fool would put their trust in the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove after their "£350 for the NHS" lies, and Theresa May would be at the forefront of the whole 2nd Brexit campaign trying to argue in favour of whatever lamentable deal she's managed to cobble together.

Even taking into account the fact that Blair and Clegg are politically toxic, a second EU referendum campaign looks like an almighty risk for Brexiters, given that their likely figureheads are just as politically toxic as the their opponents.

Aside from saying that he's coming around to the idea of a second referendum, Farage said something else telling. He said that the idea of a multiple choice referendum would confuse the British people.

This is interesting because he's clearly envisioning a binary choice between just two options.

Obviously the hard-right Brextremist mob have jumped on this idea saying that the choice should be a fake Brexit or Brexit choice between whatever hard-right Tory Brexit Theresa May manages to cobble together, and a totally catastrophic "no deal" flounce out of the EU.

But this kind of ridiculous false choice is clearly not what Farage has in mind, because it's impossible that Blair or Clegg would front either of those campaigns.

Farage clearly wants to re-fight the battle all over again and win a decisive Brexit victory against those who wish to remain in the EU.

This is interesting because it indicates that he's willing to shackle himself to whatever deal Theresa May and her three Brexiteer charlatans come up with. This seems like a pretty bold gamble given the chaotic and incompetent shambles the Tories have been making of the Brexit process so far.

Farage also doesn't seem to have considered the fact that that a second Brexit vote could be seen as a way of slapping the government in the face. 

Just as huge numbers of people saw the 2016 Brexit vote as an ideal opportunity to slap David Cameron and George Osborne in the face by voting Brexit, a second referendum could easily be seen as a means of slapping Theresa May in the face, but this time by voting to lob her chaotic Brexit shambles onto the scrapheap.

One of the more compelling explanations behind Farage's U-turn on the idea of a second referendum is pure self-interest.

Ever since Farage felt the euphoria of winning the Brexit vote in June 2016 his star has been fading. He's gone from being a leader of one of the most consequential political rebellions in decades to begging unsuccessfully to be made Donald Trump's butler, backing Marine Le Pen's failed National Front presidential bid in Francespeaking at extreme-right rallies in Germany, and backing an alleged paedophile who actually managed to lose an election for the Republicans in Alabama!

Perhaps Farage wants a second referendum because he wants to be back in the limelight again?

Then there's Farage's financial backer Arron Banks who managed to build up a huge social media propaganda empire through the last EU referendum. Unlike the official Vote Leave campaign that folded up after the 2016 referendum, Banks' Leave.EU operation has continued churning out extreme-right propaganda and links to Banks' own Westmonster propaganda site ever since.

A second referendum campaign would obviously allow Banks to further expand his extreme-right propaganda empire, no matter what the final result.

All in all Farage's confidence that a second referendum would result in a landslide for Brexit seems massively over-optimistic given that such a scenario would offer the British public a chance to step back from the cliff edge, and to give Theresa May a massive slap in the face in the process.

However, whether Farage is motivated by exuberant over-confidence, or by self-interest, or just by a desperation to push himself back into the limelight, one thing is for sure; whether he intended it or not he's done a huge favour to those of us who believe democracy would be better served by a serious and properly informed Brexit referendum once the terms and conditions have been made clear, than by the hastily rushed and profoundly dishonest farce of a debate that happened in 2016.

Like him or not, Farage has completely shattered the Brextremist trope that a second referendum would be anti-democratic and against "the will of the people", because we now have one of the leading Brexiteers arguing that a second referendum would actually be a democratic opportunity to decide the situation once and for all.

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