Current political events are looking “very promising from the point of view of anyone who wants to stop Brexit”, says Professor AC Grayling, who chairs a co-ordinating group for leading Remain organisations in the UK.
The author and philosopher spoke to Connexion in the run-up to the 30th Dinard Film Festival, in Brittany.
He and British Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder were set to attend a screening of the pro-Remain documentary Postcards from the 48% on Saturday September 28 at 12.30, along with its director, David Wilkinson.
Mr Wilkinson told Connexion he travelled all over the UK to speak to remainers to make the film after realising most of his continental European friends thought “the British all voted against us”.
The film tells their stories of shock at the result and why they believe Brexit would be bad for the UK.
Prof Grayling and Ms Bearder, who feature in it, were to join Mr Wilkinson for an hour’s question-and-answer session after the screening at the festival.
Prof Grayling said: “It captures something of the pro-EU sentiment in the UK, which of course has grown since then. At the Q&A we will bring everything up to date and talk about events now – which are very promising from the point of view of anyone who wants to stop Brexit.
“We have cause for optimism.
“It’s important to get the message over to our fellow EU citizens to bear with us, because we’re fighting to stay in.
“We don’t want President Macron vetoing an extension or anything, so it’s a good opportunity to get that across.”
Prof Grayling said if there is no vote by British MPs to accept a deal or in favour of a no-deal by October 19, and if the prime minister then refuses to ask the EU for an extension – as a new law requires – the options would be to revoke Brexit or a vote of no confidence, in which Parliament would then look for a new prime minister.
He said: “Demographics alone have changed the picture since 2016 [with some older Leave voters dying and younger voters becoming adults] but also loads of people have changed their minds and moved on.
“A lot who were undecided or didn’t vote last time have become alert to the fact that our EU membership is tremendously important to us and that is why we have seen a persistent and growing Remain majority and that is very fertile ground if there is another referendum.
“If there is one, what we have to campaign for is a referendum to clear up the Brexit issue. A general election doesn’t do that, and if the Remain vote is divided you could see the Tories getting back in on 35% and dragging us out. It’s much better to have a referendum first, then an election.
“However, if there is an election instead, there is a good chance of a hung parliament and the brokers of power – who would be the Remain parties – would demand a referendum as a condition of some support.
“So there will be a referendum at some point and the rational thing is to have it sooner not later – and Remain will win.”
Prof Grayling said he has no doubt the EU would be “very happy” to allow an extension for this to happen.
“They have said so before and we know they would prefer the UK to stay in.”
He said that in his case, after initially being “plunged in a pit of despair” by the referendum, he got involved in trying to stop Brexit after concluding that the result was fraudulent.
“Only 37% of the overall electorate voted to leave, and on no rational grounds can you treat that as enough for major constitutional change. Secondly, there was electoral crime [Vote Leave was found guilty of breaking electoral law by overspending].” Mr Wilkinson said he expected a “very heated Q&A” session.
“In the UK some cinemas tried to ban my film and I got verbal attacks from people outside screenings. They said the Leave vote was democratic – but democracy is not fixed at one moment in time.
“If democracy meant something was written in stone, we wouldn’t hold new elections every five years.”
Mr Wilkinson said Leave supporters had come to every screening in the UK and some had changed their minds.
“In Lincolnshire, a strong Leave voting county, there was an older man whose daughter had brought him despite him being an ardent Brexiteer – she told him he had to go or she’d never cook him Sunday lunch again.
“He stayed for the Q&A and then he rushed out and signed a petition for a People’s Vote. His daughter doesn’t think he’s changed his mind, but he feels that lies were told and it should all be run again, based on what is now known.”
Mr Wilkinson said he has moved on to other projects but still supports Remain.
“People swear at me and say 17 million voted to leave, but that’s not the majority in a country of 65million. The trouble is that we have a hard core of Leavers who don’t want to admit they are wrong.
“So many haven’t thought of their children and grandchildren, but voted from a selfish point of view.”
- Postcards from the 48% is at 12.30 on Saturday September 28, at La Salle Balneum at le Palais des Arts et du Festival, 2 Blvd Wilson, Dinard. The film lasts 1hr50, followed by an hour of questions. It is also showing on September 29 at 13.00. The festival also features screenings of Wait and Sea, about the impact of Brexit on fishing in the Channel, with a chance to debate with fishermen (see dinardfilmfestival.fr).