By now – seven years after the Brexit referendum that took us out of the EU – those of us who rue the day we ever left, and who would have us rejoin in a heartbeat, are used to having our hopes dashed.
No doubt the turnout will be a bit of a disappointment.
And, no doubt, the huddled crowds gathering at Marble Arch – from midday, setting off from 1pm – will be a mere shadow of the hundreds of thousands who, twice marched for a second vote.
But we Rejoiners have to start somewhere.
It was not so long ago, after all, that it was the Brexiteers who were near-universally viewed as a tiny clique of nostalgic imperialists and Marxists, misfits and eccentrics – Bill Cash and Tony Benn among them. Few of us expected that the Conservative Party, who had struggled so long to get us into the EEC against (hard) left and (hard) right opposition, would be the ones to march us out again.
Yet today, with Professor Sir John Curtice’s latest poll of polls showing 59 per cent in favour of rejoining the EU (with just 41 per cent against), not one of the major political parties is planning to put that to the electorate at an election, possibly less than a year away.
It took 40 years for the Brexiteers to win through, and they did so with dogged grit against all odds. We should learn from them. If we are not prepared to take an afternoon trudge in the rain up Piccadilly and down Whitehall, maybe we deserve our sorry lot.
The latest shift in public opinion isn’t hard to explain. For decades, the UK had been the destination of choice for foreign investors, easily outpacing Germany and France. Today, business investment has only just risen above its spring 2016 level. Meanwhile, exports of goods and services are down 11 per cent in the second quarter of this year, as measured against the last quarter of 2019, just before Brexit proper.
The Office for Budget Responsibility believes that getting Brexit done will cut UK productivity by 4 per cent in the long term, while LSE economists calculate that 8 percentage points of the 25 per cent rise in food prices since December 2019 can be attributed to leaving the EU.
So much for the Pollyanna-ish promises of the Rees-Moggs and Hannans of a glorious sunlit upland of cheap food and energy – a mirage, along with the promise of free trade agreements around the world.
Indeed, our only substantive post-Brexit trade deal – with Australia and New Zealand, negotiated with triumphant aplomb by Liz Truss – is widely expected by many farmers to wipe out what remains of our beef and lamb production when tariff-free imports begin.
Meanwhile, the City of London – our one golden goose – is increasingly starved of business, and our stocks undervalued as the IPOs of our scarce tech unicorns like Arm Holdings migrate to New York’s exchange.
Our newly-won freedoms now also appear a little hollow. The bonfire of the regulations that, we were promised, would carry us – in Cinderella’s crystal coach! – on a journey to Singapore-on-Thames, evaporated on its first contact with the real world.
Why would even the most patriotic manufacturer of anything from a car to a lightbulb want to conform to a new set of UK rules that precluded any sales to the market of 450 million people on our own doorstep?
But in 2016, it was not the economic argument that won the day. It was emotion.
In an ever darker, more threatening world, it is understandable that many felt pulling up the drawbridge (or, perhaps, the blankets over our heads) was an option to explore: the Blitz spirit, and David Low’s famous “Very Well, Alone” cartoon from 1940, depicting a lone British Tommy railing against the Luftwaffe.
Today, we are very much alone, and it’s cold outside. The fantasyland of sovereignty in an interdependent world has left us much diminished on the world stage – no longer a player on the pitch, but an angry dad on the touchline shouting at the ref.
Brexit has seen our institutions subverted by a political clique ready to arm-twist the monarch to prorogue Parliament to get its way, egged on by a rabid faction of the press ready to call out our judiciary as “enemies of the people”.
Our kingdom has never been so disunited, while the real issues of the day – climate change, species extinction, mass migration, the Ukraine war – all call for collective actions by like-minded nations.
But, as Nigel Farage told Newsnight last May, “Brexit has failed”. Yet such is the weirdness of our political machinery, few others – Keir Starmer and Ed Davey shamefully included – have the courage to declare that the emperor has no clothes.
We are all tired now. But surely we must tap once again into our depleted reserves of Remoaner fury.
Remember the slogan on the bus. Remember the threatened “Turkish hordes”. Remember that you, your children and your grandchildren can’t live or study or work on the continent any more.
Oh yes, and remember the endless lies that began in earnest when an ambitious and unprincipled young journalist went to Brussels, determined to make a reputation for himself… and ended up prime minister.
For that reason alone, it is time for us to fetch our raincoats and shuffle off under lowering skies to Marble Arch to begin the long march back to sanity. After all, we have to start somewhere.