Do Brits really want to rejoin the EU?
After a lot of consideration and agonising, I voted Remain in the EU referendum. If I were sent back to 2016 knowing what I know now, there would be no need for consideration: I would campaign with every particle of effort for Remain.
The three reasons for a Remain vote which I concluded were stronger than the arguments for Leave, which were
1) the extreme likelihood of damaging our relations with our neighbours and allies at a time when we need them to be as strong as possible,
2) the likelihood of putting up trade barriers with our main trading partners which I thought would do - and clearly is doing - damage which would outweigh the genuine economic advantages of not being bound by EU rules, and
3) the impossibility of finding a fully satisfactory solution to the Irish border issue which does not involve barriers either between the two parts of the island of Ireland, or within the UK between the mainland and Northern Ireland
have all clearly been vindicated.
However, this isn't 2016, it is 2022. The people voted for Brexit, and it has happened. The hit to our relations with our allies has already taken place and trying to rejoin the EU won't undo it - if anything it might make matters worse by making Britain look like a country which cannot make its' mind up.
I'm not convinced the EU would want us back - it would only take one EU member to veto our membership and it is extremely likely that someone would. And if the EU was willing to let Britain rejoin, they would never offer the terms we had before - we wouldn't get the budget rebate Mrs Thatcher negotiated, or the opt-out from the Euro John Major negotiated at Maastricht, or any of the other special rules we had gradually obtained in forty years of tough negotiations.
We've made our decision, as a country, and need to move forward and make the best of the situation as it exists today, not based on what might have happened if we had voted differently in 2016. That might well include negotiating better arrangements with the EU from outside but I don't believe rejoining the EU any time in the next twenty years is a realistic option.
And although headline opinion poll figures might suggest that there is support from a majority of the electorate for trying to rejoin the EU, dig into the evidence and it looks like that support melts away when you start to consider the terms. Here is an extract from an editor's letter on the subject in The Independent which makes this argument: