“SOMEWHERE in the middle of such mad extremes may lie a tiny grain of truth. Finding it is the nightmare.”

So wrote Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger in June 2016, just two weeks before the referendum which saw the UK vote to leave the European Union.

Later in the article, a first-person piece, Mr Liddell-Grainger also hinted at things to come, post-vote…

“We might vote leave on a Thursday but we would still be part of it on Friday, and probably for months thereafter. Maybe several years. The untried process of negotiating our way out is going to take a long time,” he said.

How true.

But one thing Mr Liddell-Grainger’s comments lacked, pre-referendum, was any indication of which way he would vote.

Other Somerset MPs, however, were more willing to nail their colours to mast (flying either a blue and yellow, or red, white and blue flag, one presumes).

James Heappey, MP for Wells – which includes Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge – said that after doing the ‘EU Hokey Cokey’, he had danced to the tune of the Remain campaign.

(The Remain theme was probably more melancholy, like Shakespeare’s Sister’s ‘Stay’ – complete with David Cameron sobbing into a gin and tonic, being consoled by George Osborne - than the party vibe of the Hokey Cokey, if we’re honest).

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BRIGHTER?: David Cameron during the referendum campaign


READ MORE: Wells MP James Heappey backs Remain in EU referendum


“I’ve been dancing the EU Hokey-Cokey. Three years ago, I was out. After the Bloomberg speech, I was in,” he said.

“After the renegotiation was unveiled, I was out. But now, with just over 10 days to go, the music has stopped, and I’m in.”

He was disappointed with both campaigns in the run up the poll, he said, but despite misgivings about the EU, he could not ‘turn a blind eye to the gaping hole in the case for leaving’.

“On June 24, we don’t get to press pause while we design our trade deal and negotiate it with the EU," he said.

“The world will go on around us, the markets will react, international businesses will make decisions about where they’ll invest and none of it will react well to our self-inflicted economic uncertainty.

“To avoid that whopping great leap into the unknown, I’ll be holding my nose and voting to remain.”

You put your left wing in… Your right-wing out… In-out-in out… Hold it and vote.

Meanwhile, Taunton Deane’s MP Rebecca Pow was much more forthright in declaring her loyalties – saying she was firmly in the Remain camp and warning that a having a "small island mentality" could be damaging for younger generations.

Ms Pow was one of the last Conservative MPs to give her view on the referendum but declared that after speaking with key businesses, farmers, elderly residents and environmentalists - as well as having individual meetings with Michael Gove and David Cameron (reports G&Ts were served remain unconfirmed) – she had decided to back Remain.

“Deep down, my gut feeling is that whatever the misgivings of the European Union, and I certainly don’t believe it is perfect, I am convinced that we are better off in Europe,” she said.

“Firstly, we have had 40 years of peace and relative prosperity so why rock the boat and opt for an unpredictable future?”

In her argument, Ms Pow cited benefits of the free market, freedom of movement, impact on the agriculture industry and the environment among her reasons for wanting to remain.

“The European Union was originally set up as a trading bloc and we still benefit enormously from free trade with 500 million people on our doorstep. Indeed Europe is our largest trading partner representing 52 per cent of our trade,” Ms Pow said.

“It could take years to renegotiate trade deals with European countries if we leave. This could have serious consequences for businesses such as the Ministry of Cake in Taunton which exports lorry loads of cake across Europe every week.”


READ MORE: Rebecca Pow will back 'remain' in EU referendum


In an ironic twist – NOT an ironic Hokey Cokey - the Ministry if Cake has since been taken over.

By a French company.

Truly, the icing on the cake for irony in this saga.

And amid promises of the UK ‘having its cake and eating it’ made at the time by some (here’s looking at you, Prime Minister), there are several arguments from Ms Pow that are still unresolved.

She said an EU exit would be catastrophic for the food industry, a key employer in the South West, ‘causing disruption’ to supply chains with the introduction of extra tariffs and import controls.

“This is not to mention the dependence of the food sector on the labour force from Eastern Europe. The UK workforce simply can’t, or doesn’t, fulfil this demand,” she added.

“Remember too, that two thirds of our agricultural exports go to Europe which would also be disadvantaged.

“I am not convinced our own government would prioritise the rural sector as Europe does and this would be highly detrimental especially in areas like Taunton Deane.”

And in the first of a series of pleas from our leaders for voters to consider the younger generation, Ms Pow concluded her statement by asking people to think about the potential impacts on young people of leaving Europe.

“Last but by no means least, let us consider the younger generations who will be stuck with the consequences of our decision should we come out of Europe," she said.

"Do we want to burden them with a small island mentality, where shutters come down, the union possibly disintegrates and potentially 20 years of uncertainty ensues as we try to find a new direction?”

Why they are the last thought is anyone’s guess (you’d think the impact on the next generation would be pretty high on anyone’s agenda, wouldn’t you?).

Yeovil Express:
IN THE DARK: Is anyone thinking of the children?

At the other end of the spectrum - right, right from the off, if you get my drift - was South Somerset MP Marcus Fysh, a leader of Leave, captain of (take back) control, at the helm of the good ship Make Britain Great Again.

He wrote a piece for the Chard and Ilminster News ahead of the 2016 vote.

At the top end of that piece was a nod to a speech he gave in the House of Commons in February 2016.

“I began, ‘I believe in the primacy and sovereignty of this House’.”

As a potential constitutional and political crisis looms over the proposed prorogation of Parliament, there are many who will raise an eyebrow at such a remark now.

The piece continues, a diligent recital of the greatest hits of the Leave campaign...

“This referendum is about the British people taking their one chance to take back control over their own affairs; their laws, taxes and borders,” Mr Fysh wrote.

“Currency and migration crises are causing misery and the need for banking and fiscal union means inevitable moves towards being a country called Europe.”

But a hint of what was to follow did bravely poke its head above the parapet – again invoking the future of our children and grandchildren (there’s that younger generation again) as a tool to encourage us to consider agreeing with *insert politician* and their decision...

“The reality is that there will be challenges whether we remain or leave,” Mr Fysh said.

Hang on there, no downbeat agenda allowed here, thank you…

“But, I would prefer to put my trust in Britain, its people and democratic accountability to effect positive change at home and abroad for our children and grandchildren, and will therefore be voting to leave.”

That’s better.

Yeovil Express:
LEFT THE FLOOR: Theresa May

Anyway, where are we now?

Well, Theresa May has come and gone, forced back into that field of wheat, her withdrawal agreement soundly beaten (three times).

(Perhaps she should have tried the Hokey Cokey instead of those cringey moves at the Tory party conference? Just a thought...) 

But far from that clearing things up, we are still in the thick mud, like that you find off the coast of Dover, beneath the majestic white cliffs...

The country is facing perhaps its biggest political and constitutional crises for decades, possibly hundreds of years; a general election could be around the corner, with the great Brexit debate showing no signs of ending.

The Hokey Cokey is stuck on repeat, it seems.

And what of our MPs?

Have they stayed true to their beliefs?

Well, since the referendum, Remainers James Heappey and Rebecca Pow have dutifully proclaimed their desire to ‘honour the vote of the electorate’ (which has seen them honour their party line too, which is helpful), while Mr Fysh was, of course, on the winning side, and has continued to laud the opportunity afforded by leaving the EU, with the words ‘control’, ‘taking’ and ‘back’ featuring heavily.

As for Mr Liddell-Grainger, he did – at the third time of asking – back Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement, which gave us all a slight hint at what his position actually was.

It still lost.

But he favoured a no-deal Brexit then, so it looks like we are firmly rooted in a ‘leave’ county.

Which, judging by the results in 2016, is exactly what Somerset is.

However, no matter how much our elected representatives (if you still count them as that when Parliament will not be allowed to actually do anything for much of the time between now and October 31) speak about their good intentions, or the value of this deal, that deal, or no deal at all, one line from Mr Liddell-Grainger’s pre-referendum piece sticks in my mind…

“At the moment proper factual answers are in very short supply. And that is the problem.

“Nobody can be absolutely sure what would happen if we voted to leave. Or voted to stay.”

Sounds more like The Clash than the Hokey Cokey, which would have made for a far better metaphor…

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