Social media is awash with it. In a certain kind of company, conversation inevitably turns to it. Now, even senior broadcast journalists hint that it might be possible, triggering great surges of online excitement. Barely a year after the EU referendum and only three months since the Daily Mail’s triumphal “Crush the saboteurs” front page, you can almost smell it: a rising expectation that the nightmare of leaving the EU might somehow be averted, allowing the country to return to some kind of normal.
“Brexit may never happen,” says Vince Cable.
“I know in my heart that Brexit can be stopped,” offers Alastair Campbell.
“We’ll stop Brexit,” insists the venerable AC Grayling, who seems to break off from chewing over the great mysteries of existence to tweet such things several times a day.
On Tuesday Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and an enthusiastic supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, wrote an eloquent article for the LabourList website encouraging the party to bow to the supposedly inevitable. “The folly of the Brexit vote is becoming clearer and its economic consequences look dire,” he said. “Staying put won’t even cost us a penny.”
Fair play to these people: with ministers evidently making it up as they go along, dire economic forecasts, and big EU figures warning that negotiations might quickly break down, there is clearly a prima facie case for what they suggest. And calling time on Brexit fits the guarded optimism embraced by thousands of people since the start of June. A combination of Labour’s election surge, Theresa May’s crumpling, and the joys of a half-decent summer seem to have embedded one belief above all others: that if enough of us make sufficient noise, we can somehow pretend 23 June 2016 never happened.