So, eleven months after the June 2016 referendum and we’ve got a divided party in government with a tiny majority, led by an unelected leader who doesn’t consult with her own cabinet and who is also the country’s unelected Prime Minister.
The country voted only marginally to leave the EU . In real terms it was just 37.5% in favour of leaving (26% adjusted to include whole population).
Any reasonable person can see that this no mandate for change, let alone a constitutional change on such an unprecedented scale.
It’s impossible to overlook the fact that the referendum was badly conceived, the question on the ballot paper too simplistic, and the Leave campaign too dishonest.
There was no room for the electorate to express an opinion on how hard or soft we wanted Brexit to be. We were assured that our place in the single-market was secure. We were told that businesses the world over were just waiting with bated breath for us to shake off the shackles of EU so they could make us richer and bigger and better,
Those of us who doubted that outside the EU we had that much influence were told we were unpatriotic.
It was stated many times that our trade agreements. once renegotiated, would be as good as, if not better, than they currently are, and that the rest of the world, including USA were queueing up to do business with us.
Warnings from banks and corporations about the likely impact of Brexit were downplayed, with the electorate being told to ignore such negativity. Michael Gove said that Britain had ‘had enough’ of experts. People who raised concerns were told to stop talking the country down.
And so we got Brexit – or at least 37.5% of the adult population got Brexit for the rest of us. That means that 62.5% did NOT say yes. Add to that the younger members of society who were too young to vote but who will spend their working lives paying for this, and you’ve got even less of a mandate.
For an excellent analysis of the result see the LSE blog
Surely no fair-minded person could expect this result to be acted upon.
But that was shock number two – a referendum that in legal terms was just an advisory mechanism was suddenly claimed by Brexiteers as a legally binding result. All normal debate was shut down, those appealing for caution and calm consideration were shouted down, doubters were mocked relentlessly. Theresa May, unelected PM, then made a series of announcements about Brexit, choosing to lead the country down a hard Brexit route, for which she had no mandate at all. We were informed we were leaving the single market, leaving the customs union, maybe stopping exchange of terrorism information, may become a tax-haven, no deal a possibility.
So what now? Well, not much real trade has materialised and US has said it will negotiate with EU first and UK second. We are leaving not just the single market but also the customs union, making trading with us more complex and expensive. Banks, businesses, money are being moved away out of UK and our country has a diminishing profile in world events. Migrants settled in this country are beginning to leave in order to protect their own futures, leaving us with a skill shortage that will take at least one school generation to make up. Our economic outlook is unknown, and our global influence reduced.
Brexit politicians have strutted and postured and threatened as if we still had an Empire, and so far it has been met with intransigence, frustration, derision, and scorn. And the negotiations haven’t even started! In fact, we haven’t even started negotiations about the negotiations!
Nearly a year after the referendum and with less than two years to go before we leave, our lead negotiator, David Davies, admits UK has not assessed impact of Brexit without Brussels deal.
But by far the biggest problem with leaving the EU is the long term damage it has already done to our relationships with our closest neighbours and allies.
Constitutional change generally results in something that affects this country alone ie: we can always revert if we change our minds. If we effect a constitutional change that turns out to be unwise or not fit for purpose we simply have to make another constitutional change to restore the status quo. Inconvenient but not disastrous.
However, in the case of Brexit we are dragging along our allies and legal partners into the mess, and any rethink will require their co-operation.
Politicians keep likening it to a divorce or legal separation. To continue that analogy I think we need to think of the normal constitutional change that affects only our country as similar to redecorating the family home or changing the furniture – if it doesn’t work we can redo it all. Inconvenient but not disastrous.
But if we start sending out divorce papers to our partner and negotiating terms of separartion and division of assets etc., we need the co-operation of the partner we’ve just ditched in order to negotiate a settlement, and frankly, they may not want to co-operate. They are unlikely to willingly give us what we want in financial negotiations, and should we then change our minds and want to reunite and save the partnership, they are unlikely to agree to that either.
Translate that to our EU negotiations and all our pleadings and threats and cajolings are likely to be in vain. The remaining EU countries are simply not going to give us anything like the benefits we had as a member state,: it woudn’t be in their own interests for one thing, and the bottom line is – why on earth would they? Despite the Brexit campaigners assurances to the contrary, the EU simply does not need us as much as we need them.
Indeed, there are already signs that EU is giving up on us -these remarks by Angela Merkel have been reported world-wide:
Is this really the reputation we want for our country?
The whole Leave campaigns (both of them) were based on lies, manipulations, and fear-mongering. Politicians who should have known better cynically went out of their way to lure and manipulate and the Brexit vote was in response to being fed a pack of lies by the Brexit campaigners.
We have a situation where the country is facing ruin on the whim of some very misguided people.
This unelected PM then tried everything she could to avoid giving the elected Parliament a voice in the decisions, backing down only when ordered to do so by the High Court. These independent judges were than villified in the press for simply doing their jobs in upholding the constitutional rule of law in the public’s interests.
And the ultimate irony? Brxit was supposed to be about regaining ‘sovereignty’.
In order to achieve this the British government is high-handedly bypassing the sovereignty of Parliament and taking the country down a perilous path without their knowledge or consent. There’s a word for that.