Naked Politics Co-Editor
On the eve of Parliament’s ‘Meaningful Vote’ on the EU Withdrawal Agreement, the question of whether our expressed will is to be implemented or ignored is unclear.
When 544 MPs (84%) passed the referendum bill, we were told that our votes would count for something. A written commitment to “implement what you decide” in this a “once in a generation decision” was established, then crystallised with verbal repetitions across all media channels.
Neither were conditional upon a withdrawal agreement meeting with their approval. Had such a caveat existed, as revisionist Remainers now deceptively claim, both sides would inevitably contrive to fail, rendering the referendum pointless.
In 2017, 589 MPs (91%) were elected on manifestos vowing to honour our democratic verdict and 494 (76%) passed the legislation required to do so.
Many of those MPs are both refusing to support the deal and demanding that leaving without one is taken off the table. They are unquestionably betraying their previous commitments.
The manifestos of a small minority (9%) did declare their opposition to Brexit, so continuing to oppose our verdict is not inconsistent. Another 183 (28%) represent Remain-backing constituencies and feel justified in abandoning past pledges to honour the result.
Around 117 (18%) Conservative MPs will feel justified in blocking the deal after voting against Theresa May in the recent no-confidence vote. They do so on the grounds that the much-maligned ‘backstop’ will burden UK citizens with costly import tariffs that could otherwise be removed, which represents a failure to “take back control” of our trade policy, as repeatedly promised both before the referendum and since.
The deal would still be passed if the remaining 361 MPs (56%) back it, but 100-150 (15-23%) of them are Europhile extremists that never accepted the result and
They know that a plebiscite including the previously-rejected Remain option would be undemocratic – hence the risible and nauseating ‘People’s Vote’ terminology.
So, they hide their lack of integrity behind three thought-terminating clichés: The “more votes must be more democratic” schtick, the “people are entitled to change their minds” trope, and the “Brexiteers lied and cheated” sophistry.
More Votes Must Be More Democratic
…is a Socratic fallacy. Just because the statement may be valid with one definition of “more” the logic doesn’t follow in this context.
The power (Kratos) of the people (demos) can undoubtedly be enhanced by expanding the range of subjects on which our input is sought. In that sense, more opportunities to vote can strengthen democratic legitimacy. But refusing to implement a democratic verdict until the vote is repeated, despite the same rule not applying to the alternative outcome, patently achieves the opposite.
The claim is especially bogus given that, prior to the vote, both sides were unequivocal when confirming that there would only be one referendum.
It’s worth remembering that it took four Eurosceptic majorities to get to this point: One to elect enough pro-Brexit MEPs to pressure the Tories into including a referendum in their manifesto (2014), another to elect them on the basis of that promising (2015), one more to win the referendum itself (2016), and yet another to provide a mandate to see it through (2017).
The notion that overturning those votes with one to the contrary would settle the question once and for all is ridiculous. Even if you ignore the elections that were required to get to this point, if the 2016 result is to be dismissed prior to its implementation, why should a 2019 result be accepted by those that disagree?
Bias in favour of pro-EU mandates is, of course, nothing new. Multiple democratic verdicts across several member states have demonstrated a clear public aversion to the surrender of national sovereignty. But because the EU federalisation project is popular with establishment figures across the continent, the consistent response is to make the people vote again.
Naively, perhaps, we trust that we can expect better from the “mother of parliaments”.
People Are Entitled to Change Their Minds
… is both a vacuous truth and a straw man.
Nobody is claiming otherwise. Of course, people can and do change their minds. But that’s nothing like the same as having the right to overturn a yet-to-be-implemented vote.
A standard pattern in political polling, for example, is for opposition parties’ popularity to surge. Not so much while Jeremy Corbyn leads that party, but still. Should we swap governments with every headline-driven shift? The short-termism of such a Hokey-Cokey approach would surely destroy a functioning democracy.
Apprehension was always going to mount as we approach the moment of truth. After three years of politically-motivated naysaying based on dubious assumptions rather than known facts, if there was ever going to be a dip in confidence, this was going to be it. But the claim that we now know exactly what we’d be voting for is nonsense. Negotiations around our future relationship haven’t even started!
Ultimately, the principle reasons to leave remain unchanged. The objection to our absorption into a European Super-State still applies. With the excessively managerial Eurozone on the brink of recession, so too does the motivation to escape from their broken economic model. And, the fact that the EU budget from 2021 has increased significantly despite losing their second biggest contributor is evidence that the cost of membership continues to escalate.
Brexiteers Lied and Cheated
…is based on a false assumption.
Social media activity over the last few years has proven that we can argue until we’re blue in the face about lies, damned lies and statistics. But these desperate attempts to
The condescending view of Leave voters, as malleable unthinking drones, is a cynical
Ironically though, the 2016 referendum was driven by the demonstrable deception of the previous vote.
In 1975, membership of the EEC was touted as the remedy for our ailing ‘sick man of Europe’ economy. The Brexiteers of the day protested that sacrificing our democracy would be too high a price to pay. The Remain establishment countered with the explicit commitment that there would be “no threat to our national sovereignty” and the British public took them at their word. This has obviously been comprehensively disproven as successive treaties have surrendered more sovereignty. The carrot was dangled without revealing the stick; a classic bait and switch.
So, Bollocks to Politics!
If/when the “Bollocks to Brexit” brigade get their way, the silent majority will revert to their long-held belief that politics is imposed upon them rather than inviting participation.
I am among that group.
We live in electoral deserts in which general election votes are irrelevant because we can be certain of who our MP will be before the votes are even cast without ever having a say in who that candidate might be – stick a red/blue rosette on a donkey, as the saying goes.
As such, our lesser-of-two-evils electoral system enables the major parties to ignore us without fear of electoral consequence.
Like millions of others, I’ve only had one vote in my life that has ever counted for anything. It looks like that vote is about to be thrown back in our faces. So, I have one request from the soon-to-be-gloating EU fans; please spare us the indignation if our response doesn’t meet with your approval.
You can bollocks!