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Brexit divisions are getting bigger not smaller (Rachel Sylvester, The Times)

Hadrian's Wall
With irreconcilable differences in the beliefs of young and old and men and women, the only solution is a people’s vote.

The Brexit vote was like a bolt of lightning that illuminated the divisions in the country and momentarily jolted the political class out of its torpor. More than two years on, the storm is still raging, the thunder rumbles, but the flood defences have been abandoned and the politicians have gone back to self-indulgent squabbling.

The country is as polarised as ever — if not more so — but the party leaders have turned complacently inwards. Theresa May sees everything through the prism of the Tory Eurosceptics who are the greatest threat to her fragile position in No 10.

Jeremy Corbyn judges Labour’s internal Europe debate in terms of loyalty to his leadership. Boris Johnson cares only about himself, whipping up discontent for the sake of personal ambition.

With only weeks to go before a deal must be agreed with the EU, Britain is facing its greatest political crisis in living memory but there is nobody who seems capable of responding to the scale of the challenge.

Although attention will focus on the parliamentary rows, as MPs return to Westminster after the summer break, what matters most is the complete failure to bridge the social and cultural divides exposed by the EU referendum. There have been multiple economic impact assessments, constitutional settlements and no-deal planning documents but the underlying causes of Brexit have been ignored. New gulfs have emerged that should worry the prime minister more than the tensions between the warring Tory factions.

For the first time a significant gender gap has opened up over Brexit. According to YouGov polling for the People’s Vote campaign, women now back remaining in the EU by a margin of 12 points (56 per cent want to stay in compared with 44 per cent who want to leave) while men are still almost evenly divided (51 to 49 per cent). Although two years ago both men and women backed Brexit by a broadly similar margin, the swing to Remain has been almost twice as great among female voters as male ones.

More than 80 per cent of women believe the whole process of leaving the EU has been a mess, 73 per cent fear that the promises made by politicians on Brexit will be broken, while only 13 per cent think it is likely that Britain will get a good deal. Interestingly for Labour, the shift has been greatest among working-class women under 45. Almost two thirds of this critical group of voters now want to stay in the EU, compared with just over half at the time of the referendum.

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