A few days ago, I published a blog called ‘Let Brexit happen’, arguing that those of us who voted to remain in the EU in June should respect the outcome of the referendum. My point was not simply about accepting a vote. It was that reversing it could create a British Trump, whereas experiencing the consequences would make people understand the benefits of EU membership and pave the way for re-joining. I got a lot of support but also a lot of pushback from people who want to block Britain leaving the EU, despite the referendum result. Here, in case people are interested, I respond to some of the points people made.
Any teenage kids who may want to go to mainland Europe unis? If so, I’ll re-read your article. Otherwise you are wrong.
Yes, and I want them to grow up as European and UK citizens. I would like them to enjoy the Erasmus+ programme and study abroad if they want to. But it’s not all about Brexit, or my family or what we can get out of the EU personally. There’s much more at stake for our kids’ future, as I try to explain below. The entire western world is facing a political crisis and if totalitarianism takes over, the whole of our way of life will be washed away, not just an education programme. There is now a bigger battle to fight.
Brexit is insane and has to be stopped. It really is that simple. Never give in. Not leaving the EU!! Never, ever!
If we all tried to stop things we thought were insane or felt strongly about there would be anarchy. Here is how simple it is. We took a vote. We lost. That’s democracy. Churchill said ‘Never give in’ – but that was to fascism. He accepted a democratic decision in 1945. Let’s be real. The Supreme Court isn’t going to block Brexit. It’s only ruling on whether there should be a vote in Parliament. MPs aren’t going to block Brexit. The Government won’t block Brexit. The EU won’t block Brexit. The only upside is that the damage will expose 40 years of lies. Meanwhile, the forces of nationalism are strong and well-funded, with domestic politics in their sights. Liberals and progressive politicians need to regroup, recruit, build capacity and focus on the fight to keep a democratic Britain.
But many leave voters were misled.
I agree that voters were misled – for example over the £350m a week for the NHS – but they are misled in every election. They were misled over Iraq. They have been misled by the media for decades over Europe, immigration, benefits and so on. It was up to the Remain side to expose the lies and win the vote. I spent hours talking to people on the streets. Some were convinced. Others didn’t want to listen. Overall, we failed to demonstrate the truth to enough people. I think the reality will do better.
It was an advisory referendum.
True. But the government of the day committed to abide by it. MPs voted for it to happen by 544 to 53 – with no mention of a second referendum on the deal. And the advice was to leave. I don’t think Parliament should block article 50 but it should have a vote and a say over the negotiation. This is not an extreme position. It’s that of Labour and indeed it is that of Gina Miller, who launched the current legal action. She has repeatedly said .she does not want to block Brexit – in her words “we should accept that we are leaving the EU”. Her point is to uphold Parliamentary sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. I agree 100% with her.
Only a minority voted for Brexit. And what about the other 50+m in Britain who would also have to go through the same painful lesson??
Again, it’s the rules of the game. No UK Prime Minister has had 50% of the vote since 1945. It’s annoying but as with everything in politics, you can’t change it by complaining. You get out and win next time.
We won’t leave – let’s see the result from the court.
The court case isn’t about Brexit but about whether Parliament has a say and a vote. Only a small number of MPs have said they’ll vote down the result of the referendum so it’s a question of principle that won’t prevent Brexit. I cannot see a majority for a second referendum either. If there was one, I’d vote remain, of course. But I think there is a real danger of losing again, given the power of the press and the anger in the electorate. The progressive side is not match-fit.
There’s NO going back. I doubt the EU would take us back.
You can go back. Article 49 provides for applying to join the EU. The UK could apply at any point after leaving. I believe a fresh referendum would be needed and there would be debate about reinstating Britain’s rebate and opt-outs from the euro and other measures. I have no crystal ball, but I think the EU members would welcome us back because they will need the widest coalition to combat and economic decline and political totalitarianism.
What would you quantify as “a few years” to get back in? It’s taken 40-odd years for the leavers to potentially “get us out” after joining?
That’s because for most of the 40 years there was a solid political consensus for EU membership. Politics moved slowly. Now, it’s moving at breakneck speed. I would hope that the reality would sink in by 2020 – to affect the election – and Britain look to re-join the EU within a decade.
You don’t know what the EU will look like in a few years’ time.
No I don’t. France and Italy may both have totalitarian governments and have left by then, God forbid. That will be tragic – but us staying in won’t stop it happening. It might even hasten it. If Article 50 is not triggered in March, as May wants, it will be a gift to Le Pen for the French election in April. She’ll say “Look at the UK – don’t let the elites defy the people here as well”.
Would you have done the same in 1932 in Germany? We are about at the same stage. Then, when the whole experiment fails you can say that you were only obeying orders… This sounds like just a cop out for doing nothing.
Anything but. People who believe in liberal ideals and democratic politics should be fighting like hell to protect them. Don’t mistake Brexit for the larger conflict it is part of. We are in a political war between democracy and totalitarianism. We are not in 1932 Germany – yet. By mid-1932 the Nazis had 230 Parliamentary seats. We are in the stage before that – a struggling economy, growing inequality, lower skill jobs, run-down communities, increasing hate crime, more racial attacks – a enfeebled left and a growing far-right, supported by a sinister and powerful media machine. The Mail Online is the most visited news site on the planet. This is fertile ground for extremists. If you think that’s scaremongering, ask yourself how likely you thought it was a few years back that the US would elect a demagogue. Russia has a brutal ruler. France and Italy may go next. The man who bankrolled the Leave campaign, fresh from visiting Trump, plans a new movement next year to “drain the swamp”. I saw the hate in people’s eyes in June. If Brexit is frustrated, I believe it will drive many people into the hands of Britain’s Trump, whoever that is. That would be 1932. We need a much stronger progressive force to fight this. Meanwhile, there are local elections next year. Get out on the street. Knock on doors. Talk to people. Fight for democracy.
Problem with this is that we will all suffer the consequences, especially the young and the most vulnerable. We are talking about people’s livelihoods, jobs, ability to feed their families; quite important things.
Yes, but the economic issue, like the political one, is much bigger than Brexit. Brexit will undoubtedly cause pain. But livelihoods, jobs and families are not only affected by Brexit. The economy is already in painful decline. In the short term, government and banking failure has exacerbated debt, low productivity and lack of investment. Long-term, voters in the established economies have been misled for years over the reasons for the problems. Politicians have blamed each other for the plight of Detroit or Doncaster when the simple fact is that they do things cheaper and better elsewhere. Britain’s once-great industries – steel-making, shipbuilding, textiles etc – have migrated to China and India, while European neighbours have proved to be better at cars and chemicals. This is globalisation – and its impact is much bigger than Brexit. Britain is hanging on through financial and other services, IT, some high-end manufacturing, creative industries and a low tax, low pay economy which attracts inward investors. By failing to explain or admit the impact of globalisation, we have failed Britain and its people. As a result, too many of them have gone to the dark side of politics. Brexit might finally be a wake-up call to invest in the right things at the right level.
Whatever hardships are to come, they won’t be attributed to Brexit.
If Brexit approaches and happens, it will be much easier to demonstrate the truth. If big investors leave the UK and say that Brexit made them do it, that is hard to twist. If prices of EU imports rise because of tariffs, that is a stone-cold, incontrovertible fact. There will be other knocks that aren’t Brexit-related but I think one of the characteristics of Brexit is that the consequences will be clear. I would add that ‘Truth media’ such as fullfact.org needs to get a lot louder. We need to nail every lie and reach Mail and Sun readers directly to help them escape the cult.
I genuinely detest these people. Watching them screw themselves is really very tempting.
Don’t add to the hate. I went eye-to-eye with hundreds of leavers in the referendum campaign. Some are irreconcilable racists. Some are simply haters of everything. Ignore them. But find the decent people who have been brainwashed for 30 years and honestly believe they voted to avoid a federal super-state. I found plenty. We can win back enough of the 52% to win the war for democracy.
It was thought people would learn after the French revolution, the “war to end all wars,” the second world war. The American revolution.
Fair point. Britain turned its back on the Attlee government that gave us the NHS and ‘homes for heroes’. But the Germans learned. They built a political system where extremism cannot take hold and an economic powerhouse. In the Reichstag, the European flag stands next to the German one. It can happen.
I would suggest a middle way here; don’t oppose A50 notification. Our best chance of getting this whole thing stopped is late 2018 when enough people are noticing the economy is in trouble and it’s become clear that there is not going to be a ‘cake & eat it’ deal on offer.
That would be great. If we don’t need to leave to learn the lesson, that’s fine. Happy to be proved wrong. But you need ‘enough people’ to be affected by the approach to Brexit to gain popular support for a fresh referendum.
I have kids who want to build lives and families, they don’t need the poverty and misery this would cause just to teach 26% of the population a lesson! No. We will fight thanks.
I hope that what I have written above shows that – in my opinion – and I may be wrong – our kids’ futures, and this whole debate, are about a lot more than Brexit. There is a political war going on between the forces of light and darkness. We need to build the right world for our kids. Are they going to live in a dictatorship? Or if it doesn’t come to that, in a nice people’s ghetto, surrounded by razor wire and hate? Or will they live in a society that is healing because the forces of darkness were overcome. I’ve seen this division build over 30 years – and I saw a chasm open in June. Britain has been deeply polarised by this event. As Gina Miller says, it has emboldened people to think offensive behaviour is acceptable. Certainly, we should all fight – but the right battle. No matter how much we believe in our view, we don’t have a right to sweep away a democratic decision. That’s what dictators do. Start with the local elections next year. Then the general election. Then the fight to re-join the EU. Fight for candidates who oppose hate. Fight to change our society back to what it should be. Fight for democracy – and do it democratically. We have a hell of a mountain to climb – including sorting out Britain’s left-of-centre politics – another story. But it can be done.