Brexit has turned the UK into an international laughing stock. At least this is one thing that both Brexiteers and Remainers can agree on. We approach the 29th March no nearer a solution to our membership of the EU than we were on the morning of 24th June 2016. We have never been more needing of strong and principled leadership and yet been so lacking in it than we are today. We have a Prime Minister who seems to take a masochistic pleasure in being the one dimensional Duracell bunny “champion of the people” parroting “Brexit means Brexit” and a leader of the opposition who is nothing more than a vacuous and petulant child without an interesting idea of his own.
Despite what 17 plus million people who voted leave (and I was one of them) in 2016 believe, the type of exit wasn’t actually on the ballot paper and this is why we are in the mess we are in. I truly believe that no-one with real authority at the time believed the country would vote for Brexit and so designed the question with such little thought of the consequences that the simple remain/leave option would have and which has given ammunition to both sides and has divided us as a society and driven us to the precipice that awaits us next week (or in April…. Or in May…. Or in????)
Compromise appears a dirty word on both sides of the argument, so let me try. I voted leave on 23rd June. I haven’t changed my mind. In fact I’ve become more convinced I made the right decision as time has progressed. Maybe it’s the bloody minded Yorkshireman inside of me or maybe it is a realisation that this country can go it alone without the EU and become an intellectual and economic powerhouse on its own again?
I have always been an opponent of a Peoples Vote. There is nothing democratic about what those marching in London today are calling for. They are calling for a binary choice re-run of the referendum where the options are Remain or the Hotel California option agreed between or own strong and stable automaton and the EU. Everyone knows (especially those marching for the vote and those in Brussels) that given those two choices, the country would probably, on a much reduced turn out, vote to remain in the EU. The EU will then have done what it has done countless times, made a country who has voted for something it dislikes vote again until it agrees with the ‘correct’ choice. A peoples vote with these two options is anti-democratic and will cause a festering infection in our society that will last for generations.
I have an alternative that I believe could win round most people and maybe, just maybe, avoid terminal damage to our democracy.
- Revoke article 50. Before you shout at me “remainer traitor” hear me out. We can revoke article 50 on our own. We do not need to go to Brussels with the begging bowl asking permission to do this. This gives us time and space to do what else I propose in our time not the EU’s time. Yes we will have to take part in the EU elections but maybe that will give us a chance to highlight the divisions in our society and make those in the Westminster bubble shudder think again with a General Election looming.
- Call a real peoples vote. This referendum should have 3 options on the ballot paper – Remain in the EU, Vote for Mrs May’s deal or Leave the EU with no deal. As far as I can see, these are the only three options available to us. Our politicians can’t agree which one to take so let us take it out of their hands once and for all. It would be a preferential voting system where if none of the three options got 50% of first preferences, the least popular option would be rejected and its second preferences would be re-allocated giving a majority in the country for one of the three outcomes. Surely whether you are an ardent remainer or Brexiter, with these options on the ballot paper you can’t argue?
- If either leave option wins we can then re-trigger article 50 and there is nothing to argue about in parliament – we have up to 2 years to get our economy ready to leave and we leave. If Remain wins, we stay. As Mrs May says… simples!
Our MPs can’t decide, so we will have to do their job for them, but only if we are given these definitive routes. I truly have never been so demoralised by the lack of political statesmanship and leadership in this country – maybe it is time for a new breed of politicians.