As she announced her ill-fated decision to call a General Election in April 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May said she believed that in contrast to Westminster, the country was “coming together” over Brexit. The claim was dubious at the time but 18 months later, two very different events - each involving hundreds of people from Yorkshire - have highlighted just how far away from reality the idea of such unity now is.
On Saturday, at the same time that prominent Brexiteers Nigel Farage, Owen Paterson and Kate Hoey were addressing a packed Leave Means Leave rally in Harrogate to call for a more decisive break with the European Union’s rules and regulations, coachloads of Remain supporters from Yorkshire were joining almost 700,000 fellow protesters in London to demand another referendum in what was the largest demonstration in this country since the 2003 march against the Iraq war.
The sense of division illustrated by the two contrasting events is backed up by recent aggregated polling which suggests while Remain is now consistently ahead of Leave when voters are asked to state their preferences, it is only by a four-point margin, a reversal of the gap in 2016.
Theresa May is undoubtedly in an invidious position in trying to secure a Brexit deal for the country that will satisfy everyone. But with claims she is “drinking in the last chance saloon” with Conservative MPs who are considering a leadership challenge, it is clear she has as yet been unable to persuade both her fellow politicians and the general public to unite as the clock ticks towards Britain’s departure from the EU.