We need another public vote, in my view, on the terms of exit from the EU. Not because I want to set aside the result of the first one ( however wrong I think it is ), nor because I think people who disagree with me are, necessarily, stupid/racist/backward looking, though some of them may be, but because
- the citizens of the UK voted to leave the EU, not necessarily leave the EEA, or the customs union, or any other body which exists alongside the EU ( including those which regulate shipping, nuclear safety etc. etc. ) and
- they didn’t get a chance to vote for any of these other things because the ‘Leave’ position was not clearly defined ( or defined at all in a consistent way ). So they should have the opportunity to accept or reject what is actually on offer when we leave.
This isn’t being anti-democratic nor is it sour grapes because I voted Remain, it’s being actively democratic.
In a general election the parties standing set out proposed policies in their manifestos ( or in the case of the Tory party earlier this year, don’t bother to do so and pay a price for it ). Local elections see candidates setting out their stalls and being quizzed over what they believe and what they will support or otherwise.
The Referendum in June 2016 was essentially a vote between ‘stay with what we’ve got’ ( plus some tinkering round the edges agreed by David Cameron ) or ‘vote for something different’. What, exactly, that something different is was not defined at the time and has not been defined since ( though there are many individuals and organisations who are seeking to define it as they wish it to be defined and try to say it was defined thus during the referendum campaign, it wasn’t ).
This week the government published position papers, on leaving Euratom, on the ongoing legal system post-CJEU, on Privileges and Immunities ( in regard to properties, assets, funds etc. of EU agencies ) and on leaving the Customs Union. I read them.
They include high level statements and no detail. They are a wish list. So, we’re going to leave the Customs Union, but we want all the benefits of being in the Customs Union, i.e. free movement of goods, but we also want to be able to trade elsewhere. This is akin to Boris’s ‘have your cake and eat it’ soundbite. We’re going to leave Euratom and ownership of fissile material ( that’s the glow-in-the-dark kind ) formerly under its care will pass to others. Who, it doesn’t say. How we are to be sure it’s safe? It doesn’t say.
A position paper is something between a Green and a White paper and usually contains policy proposals which are eventually discussed in, and amended by, the House of Commons. Are these going to be?
But why have another vote, why not leave it up to Parliament? Well, I’m happy to do that as long as the alternatives are clear and, right now, they’re not. Just what is it, for example, the Labour Party stands for on EU departure? Jeremy Corbyn aligns himself with leaving the EEA and the Customs Union, Keir Starmer says Labour is for a softer Brexit. The political fudge is nothing new but, in this instance, it works against the interests of the country. It may also work against Labour – all those new, young supporters aren’t Leavers.
If we just drift towards the cliff edge the worst of all worlds will pertain, as only those who stand to benefit from disaster will win. The majority of people in the UK certainly won’t. This is why, though it’s expensive in terms of time, money and effort, I think there should be a vote about what is being proposed.
Oh, and don’t just take it from me, Nigel Farage agrees with me, speaking with The Mail he said we should have another vote, given the closeness of the result “In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.” See here
If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy other articles about political matters like The Weekend After The Demagogue’s Handbook and Dictionary Buy your democracy here or the Democracy series, which followed politics in both Britain ( the EU Referendum ) and Spain (repeat General Elections ).