As those of us who desperately wanted Britain to remain in the European Union lick our wounds, now is not the time to give up. The Brexiteers, ungracious in victory, may be attempting to silence opposition to the coming divorce, but we must not let that happen.
Opposition to our impending departure from the EU cannot just take the form of angry marches and flag waving, however. That will make absolutely no difference, not least because mass rallies objecting to a mass vote – which we lost – look quite ridiculous. No; we must accept where we are, and we must dig in.
There are still millions of Britons that would like to see the UK remain as a fully signed-up member of the EU, but none of them can stop the Article 50 process now that it has begun. They must, instead, accept that any campaign about Britain and its EU membership will now be about rejoining the union in the future. This is the time to take stock, to plan, and to recommit to the cause.
There is a precedent for such an approach giving birth to unimaginable success. That precedent was here in the UK, and it shows what can be achieved with a never-say-die approach, a willingness to be mocked, and a commitment to the political long-game.
I speak – fully aware of the irony – of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.
For many, many years the idea of Little Old Blighty walking away from Brussels was considered easily as lunatic as a campaign for us to rejoin might seem in 2017. It was a fringe view; it was eccentric.
To realise how far the Brexit rump has come, take a moment to remember Jimmy Goldsmith's Referendum Party, which stood for election in 1997. They were so mad you half expected Louis Theroux to pop up and make a documentary about them. But who’s laughing now?
The first clue, of three, in how to rebuild the pro-EU movement lies exactly with the Referendum Party and its bastard child, Ukip. These were one-issue obsessives who could muster committed campaigners, keep the dream alive and ultimately shift the terms of political debate and of public perception of what was possible. The more you repeat something, the more people get used to the idea.
Ukip acted as the provisional wing of the Eurosceptics. They made the Tory Brexiteers seem relatively sensible by comparison.
When it came to the crunch in 2016, where was the provisional wing of the Remain campaign, the equivalent of Leave.EU? Possibly somewhere among the federalists of the Liberal Democrats, but it was silent. Where it did emerge, it seemed embarrassed by its own opinions; possibly because of the success of Ukip in moving the conversation, it became a case of courting ridicule to state an emotional case for enthusiastic membership of the EU.
Second, the Brexiteers had vision. It might not seem like it to the ears of a Europhile, but the Eurosceptics presented an idea of a new, refreshed Britain, while the Remainers stuck endlessly to George Osborne’s tired script about economic risk. You, the Independent reader, might not like the idea of return to Little England, but for many this was an idea worth voting for – as were “taking back control”, the Commonwealth free trade zone and an extra £350m a week for the NHS.
What would be vision for a Britain fully engaged in the EU look like? Nobody has even contemplated making that case since Tony Blair and Pater Mandelson tried to sell “café culture” to the country in the aftermath of their early landslides.
But neither of those points is as significant as the last lesson from the Brexiteers, and that's patience: the willingness to play the long game.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
There are Ukip activists and Conservatives who have been campaigning pretty much full time for Brexit since before the Maastricht rebellions of 1992. The likes of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan appeared not to mind being seen as a bonkers ideologist at the outset, such was their confidence that this moment would finally arrive. He was almost blindly confident that his time, and the time of his fellow travellers, would come. When nobody believed him, he strode on with absolute confidence. Nigel Farage, John Redwood and the rest were exactly the same.
And then, in 2016, it finally happened. A Tory-led coalition staring over its shoulder at surging Ukip, a horrific civil war in Syria driving vast waves of immigration across Europe, the bite of globalisation's nastier side effects and another euro crisis all combined into a perfect storm. All Hannan's ships had come in at once – and he and his colleagues were ready to take full advantage.
When the Europhile's perfect storm will arrive is hard to predict, but it will come. We must be ready in 2020, or 2050. We must be patient. We must be organised. We must set up a provisional wing of the argument. And we must be willing to be ridiculed.
We might even ask Louis Theroux to pop by to follow us around with his film crew.
John Jenkinson a journalist in his late thirties living and working in LondonReuse content