Tuesday, 31 October 2017

How Brexit should be stopped - by a Leave Voter

There’s much debate amongst those of us who want to stay in the EU about how Brexit can be thwarted.  There are ongoing or planned legal challenges to the legitimacy of the referendum and to the legitimacy of the Article 50 notification. In my opinion these are side-shows and are ultimately won't work. They may create some noise, perhaps some of it even useful but Brexit can’t and shouldn’t be thwarted in court, at least not without splitting the country in two. 

Leave voters feel they won fair and square on 23rd June 2016. The franchise, date and question were agreed by Parliament and the vote count was beyond reproach. Whatever we now think of the franchise, turnout or lack of any super-majority threshold these things are now beyond the point of correction. The referendum was indeed legally advisory as Parliament made no provision for implementing the outcome, but both campaigns and the Govt then proceeded to make it politically binding. Every household in the country received a leaflet committing the Govt to the result. This wasn’t party or campaign literature but a solemn commitment from Her Majesty’s Government to it’s citizens. This is a serious thing.  A Brexit thwarted in court would plant a narrative of betrayal, of a stab in the back and that democracy doesn’t work. We all know this leads to dark places.

This is a bitter pill for Remain voters to swallow. They feel cheated and are being vindicated every day as the Brexit debacle unfolds.  However, trying to deny that Leave won a victory on that day in June 2016 is wasted energy. Both Remain voters and those us who bitterly regret their Leave vote should move on from the referendum focus on the future. 

I’m firmly of the opinion that what’s been done with a referendum can only be undone with one. The focus should be on a second referendum not legal challenges.  If public opinion has changed by the time of our planned exit from the EU then it becomes very difficult to justify leaving based on opinion in June 2016 without a confirmatory Final Say.

Once the terms of exit become apparent the choice will be stark. If no exit terms have been agreed then the choice will be even starker. I’d anticipate that this would be in autumn 2018. The British people need a democratic way out that can’t be characterised as ‘betrayal by shadowy elites’. Faced with the reality of Brexit I believe the UK electorate would step back from the brink.

Its obviously not as simple as that. The unilateral revocability of Article 50 is in question and we may need the goodwill of the EU27 to revoke. I worry that by this time next year relations with the EU27 will have become embittered. Also, the Govt. currently shows no inclination to give the British people a final say. However as the year goes on the Govt themselves may be looking for a way out and a final referendum would be the obvious way. 

In the meantime lets campaign and lobby for a final say. I'd particularly urge Leave voters who would no longer vote Leave to write to their MP explaining their why they can no longer support leaving. 

1 comment:

  1. As a remainer from the outset, I completely agree with you Tim.

    The attempts to overturn the referendum results on legal technicalities are a very bad idea in my opinion. While the arch-leavers massively overstate the level of unrest that would follow a retraction based on a technicality (the cries of civil war are particularly ridiculous), all it would do is cement the feeling of being left behind by many people who voted Leave. While it would stop the immediate danger of leaving the EU, in the long term it would ferment even more political disatisfaction and would give extremist parties ammo to draw more support.

    The way forwards is to have it overturned with a second referendum. The arch leavers will whine and stomp that "we're being told to keep voting until we vote the correct way", but I think most of the population will see that the offer on the table is very different to the one promised by leave campaigners and having a final go/no-go vote is entirely legitimate.

    Like you I'm worried that the tactics of the current negotiators aren't doing us any favours. The issue of revocability will essentially boil down to whether the EU27 feel like letting us revoke it or not at the relevant time. If our relations are that sour then they may well decide that it's not revocable.

    I also just want to say thank you for your thoughts and willingness to share. I feel that even if you still believed in leaving the EU, that your honesty and integrity means that me and you could amicably agree to disagree, unfortunately unlike a lot of leave voters I've tried to converse with.