Remain campaign needs to continue after the referendum.

Remain campaign needs to continue after the referendum.

The Post-Brexit Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities for UK’s Prime Minister


The looming referendum on June 23rd has the prime minister, David Cameron, on the edge. In the midst of the Brexit debate, the future seems uncertain for him and his party. Rumors of a leadership crisis, even in the event of a Remain vote, are gaining momentum. While some Conservative MPs brazenly express their desire to stab him, others are already plotting ways to challenge his position. So what should Mr. Cameron do to navigate these treacherous waters?

It is anticipated that Downing Street will postpone its planned “reconciliation reshuffle” until after the summer. This strategic move aims to prevent MPs and ministers from immediately launching their attacks on the prime minister. However, the temptation for Mr. Cameron to swing back towards a drastically Eurosceptic position in order to solidify his standing may be strong. Some suggest that he could initiate confrontations at the upcoming European Council summit.

As enticing as this may seem, it is ill-advised. Regardless of the outcome, the question of Europe will not simply vanish. The Leave campaign will likely argue that the public was misled and demand a new referendum. The Conservative Party will continue to be deeply divided on the issue, potentially leading to the election of a pro-Brexit leader as Mr. Cameron’s successor. Therefore, pandering to anti-EU sentiments will only serve to strengthen them, reinforcing the beliefs of Brexit supporters.

On the other hand, if Mr. Cameron emerges victorious in the referendum, regardless of the margin, he will have a clear mandate to work towards a pro-European future. The official anti-Brexit campaign, Stronger In, has advocated not only for Britain to remain in the EU but also to actively seek to improve it. As the leader of the Remain camp, Mr. Cameron will bear the responsibility to fulfill these promises and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

During the lead-up to the referendum, Britain’s voice within the EU may have been weakened, but the renegotiation process has strengthened Mr. Cameron’s personal relationships with fellow European leaders. A Remain victory, especially at a time when the EU is facing multiple challenges, would demonstrate to EU partners that Mr. Cameron is capable of persuasion and delivery. For a brief moment, he will be seen as a winner.

To make the most of this opportunity, fulfill his campaign promises, and quell talk of a second referendum, the prime minister must launch a British initiative to make Europe more dynamic. Pro-Brexit campaigners commonly refer to June 24th as “independence day.” However, in the case of a Remain victory, Mr. Cameron should transform it into “interdependence day” by using the momentum generated by the referendum to promote necessary reforms that would benefit Britain and its European neighbors.

This initiative should begin with Mr. Cameron embarking on a tour of Europe’s capitals, aiming to build a new alliance for reform with Britain at its core. Drawing from existing relationships built during the renegotiation process, he can collaborate with leaders such as Matteo Renzi, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel. Additionally, he should engage with Britain’s traditional allies in the Nordic and Baltic regions. By establishing these alliances, Mr. Cameron can lay the groundwork for a more cooperative and long-term approach to European reform.

Simultaneously, British influence within Brussels needs to be bolstered. Encouraging and supporting more British graduates and top civil servants to apply for positions in EU institutions would raise the standard of British representation. Furthermore, Mr. Cameron could establish an “A-list” of talented Conservatives to enhance the quality of British MEPs, urging the Labour Party to adopt a similar approach. Additionally, Downing Street could establish a dedicated European department to improve the quantity and quality of EU advice available to the prime minister.

However, Mr. Cameron cannot undertake this task alone. The support of a popular initiative is crucial, providing encouragement when he takes the right actions and constructive criticism when he caves to Eurosceptics. Fortunately, such a body already exists: the Remain campaign. With its cross-party, decentralized structure, and commitment to an effective and energetic British role in Europe, the campaign is a ready-made, non-partisan network capable of forcefully advocating for greater British engagement and assertiveness on the continent.

To avoid a hollow victory, it is imperative that the momentum of a Remain win is not squandered. Eurosceptics may spin it as a betrayal, and pro-European alliances could disintegrate if not maintained. Therefore, the Remain campaign must continue its efforts in orchestrating a coordinated response to the challenges that lie ahead.

In the event that Leave does win, the need for unity among opponents of Brexit becomes even more critical. The future of Britain outside the EU is uncertain, with various trade-offs and models being debated. Regardless of the outcome on June 23rd, the Stronger In campaign is uniquely positioned to mobilize and lead the effort to keep Britain relevant and engaged in Europe.

Ultimately, the referendum on June 23rd marks a turning point for the United Kingdom. The road ahead, whether it leads to Brexit or a continued EU membership, is filled with challenges and opportunities. It falls upon David Cameron and those who share his vision of a strong and effective Britain within Europe to seize this moment and shape the future of the nation.