Left Foot Forward speaks to Eloise Todd ahead of what looks likely to be the largest anti-Brexit march the UK has seen so far.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands will join what’s set to be the biggest anti-Brexit march the UK has seen yet.
Arguably the most vocal group behind the coalition for a ‘People’s Vote’ is Best for Britain, led by chief executive Eloise Todd. Official materials say over 100,000 will be there at Saturday’s march in London, amid growing talk of a shift taking place in public opinion.
While Todd won’t put a number on how many she expects to attend, she says it ‘could be quite surprising’. Is the tide turning against Brexit?
For someone who would probably be deemed a ‘traitor’ by the hard-right, Eloise Todd is confident that something fundamental is changing when it comes to public opinion on the EU.
In August, Best for Britain published mass YouGov polling of every constituency, using the same model that correctly predicted a Trump win, and last year’s election result.
It showed 100 formerly Leave-backing constituencies are now in favour of staying in the EU: “This is only moving in one direction…People are changing their minds: it’s pretty bloody clear the public no longer support [leaving],” Todd tells Left Foot Forward.
“What’s exciting for us is that people can now talk more honestly and realistically about what leave means. Anyone arguing for current terms was depicted as mad Europhile.”
“But something astonishing has happened – for a year and a half the people have been against leaving the EU. The last time the people spoke [in the 2017 election], they were already jittery,” Todd says.
The right moment
If public support is moving towards Remain, why not wait for public opinion to shift even further in support of rejoining? There must be a temptation to wait for ‘the shit to hit the fan’? For Todd, that thinking is reckless:
“I don’t think people are worried enough about us going over the line [and leaving] in March, because of the transition. The point is that the pain would come later – it would be a slow bleed.”
For her, the ‘suck it and see’ mentality doesn’t wash: “The damn thing might take seven years to negotiate. We can’t negotiate coming back in while we’re going out. Do you think it’s going to be an easy to ask them to let us in again?… How on earth would we get back in from position of strength?”
She says the damage is already happening now: “We know companies are moving all the time – all done under the radar. They don’t want to scare the markets: talk to city lawyers and they’ll tell you that. For companies worldwide [Brexit] will be fine – for Brits it won’t,” Todd says.
Still, the looming question hangs – with our departure set for March, is there actually time for another vote?
“We turned around a snap election in six weeks – why do people say we need all this time [for a fresh vote]?…
“We should have a few months to look at it, but anything is possible in politics,” she tells LFF.
Aside from the time limit though, extending Article 50 would require unanimous agreement from EU leaders. Todd is confident this isn’t a major risk: “The Europeans have made very clear they’re not going to make us float over an arbitrary deadline. There’s political will on that side – there’s no way they’d say no,” Todd says.
“Let’s have it”
For the Best for Britain chief, the People’s Vote campaign lays down a challenge to the Brexiteers and their ‘will of the people’ rhetoric: “If you really believe in the will of the people, try it. What are they afraid of? Let’s have it, let’s have the debate.”
But with thousands set to march for another say, who’s to say a a fresh referendum would be the ‘last word’ on the issue?
“I believe in the will of the people. If you put this vote to the people and they want to leave…if they honestly want to do that, that is democracy,” Todd says.
The stakes are high, then. With time running out, Best for Britain are stepping their campaign up a gear, working with groups like Hope not Hate to build a new ground campaign and talking to Labour MPs.
The question for Labour
Is the Best for Britain boss confident about Labour backing a people’s vote? Contrary to most commentators, Todd says the party’s new position – preferring a general election but all options being on the table – is ‘pretty clear’:
“It’s a two step approach. The job of any opposition is to want to have an election – that’s to do with being a political party.” But the fact Labour are open to a vote a ‘shown a huge step in Labour thinking on this issue’ she tells LFF.
“The question for Labour is – do they really want to help and assist a very conservative, Tory Brexit through by peeling off and voting with the weakest, most shambolic government in recent history, on an issue that’s likely to do damage to the poorest people in Labour’s heartlands?”
There’ll be a lot of activists across the left marching tomorrow – and asking that very question of the party leadership.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.