Reading about Brexit recently I encountered one leave supporter describing the current group of remainers and politicians who are campaigning for remain or a blockade for a no deal Brexit as an ‘undemocratic rebellion’. At first, it might seem obvious — the results of the referendum of 2016 have to be honoured: everyone was given an equal chance and right to vote about whether or not we should stay in the EU.
Well, although it is true that based on the vote we should have left the EU, the fact is that I’m not sure that many people — remainers or leavers — knew at that time what leaving the EU was about, or do now in fact! The government had originally called the referendum as an election tactic to try to sway voters leaning towards less mainstream parties, such as UKIP, back to the conservatives. They never believed that it could ever come to anything. The vote was held in the same patronising way that a parent might tell their 10-year-old child that they can live on their own.
The problem is, that if that child actually became serious about leaving the house, the parent would then at least try to question the child’s motives and its means of supporting itself once it has left the house: “How are you going to mortgage that flat in Scotland without a job?”.
The government at the time gone went through with its patronising stance and afforded the voters the same courtesy: a postcard telling them why we’re better off in the EU. They were arrogantly complacent enough to think that a letter through everyone’s door would suffice to quell the discontent that was bubbling across the country at the time.
Unfortunately, we all know the outcome of this complacency, and you might say that the government got what it deserved. But that is not right — why should the majority (the people) be punished for the actions of the minority (the government that failed to run the country sensibly and treated its voters like children). This includes both leave and remain voters, who were given the opportunity to vote without reasons being given for the vote happening in the first place, apart from the conservative government’s need to maintain its vote-grabbing election promises.
Now we are seeing a turn of the tides in the form of anger amongst the remainers who rightly feel cheated by the outcome. They want their say again on whether Britain should remain in the EU.
These people aren’t “salty” or “remoaners”, they are people who, since the referendum, have come to the realisation that we are leaving a community we have been a part of for over 40 years, that forms a major part of the laws and trade of this country and they are rightly worried about the collective future of the people who inhabit it. The leave campaign was run from a similar standpoint in 2015. There were some questionable motivations, but the need to protect democracy and kick out the people running our country for us from the remote distance of Brussels can be understood. Perhaps this is why the repulsion to anything that smells the slightest bit undemocratic is so hated by those who voted leave.
But we cannot simply carry this result through. We need to realise that the entire fiasco that has been the country since article 50 was triggered has been fuelled not by science, but by opinion. Neither side fully understands the implications of Brexit. The leave campaigners are thrilled, but the truth is that the necessary due diligence has not been carried out — the government has not done what should be its primary job, which is to ensure that the country is safely and fairly run. Now that we are on track to leave the EU by default, people are waking up to that fact and trying to have a proper debate. But it has come too late and it is understandably fuelled by panic.
If the country was a university and Brexit was an exam, people would be furious! The government sprang a test on us at the start of term, then started teaching us the syllabus after everyone had had their grade for the year. Upon finding out that the campaign had been fuelled both by illegal funds and by misinformation about the effects of leaving the EU, people rightly feel cheated. If Brexit were an exam, then it should have been run again to give everyone a fair chance. To be democratic about things, we need an informed debate and then a second referendum.
We need to stop Brexit in its tracks: not permanently, but to carefully consider whether or not we actually want to leave based on real evidence and informed debate, rather than passion. The only way that can happen is by having comprehensive discussions on the subject, framed not as an analysis of what is going to inevitably happen (as government-commissionedf reports have been up until now), but as an analysis of whether or not we should be in the EU from the standpoint of a choice being had afterwards. The people deserve the right to have time to think and to make an informed choice. That choice has not been given to them yet and we need it to happen. If such a debate were to happen and it turned out that on balance we would be better off out, then so be it. But we need to have that debate, rather than a decision fuelled by mixed and sporadic analysis funnelled through the media, supporting either leave or remain. We need a balanced and sane discussion about the topic and then a second referendum. We need the government to make up for past errors and do its job. We need to finally be treated as adults who are deciding on their futures, rather than children having fantasies about leaving home.
Originally published at lifephysics.blogspot.com on January 13, 2019.