Over the last few months, I’ve discussed a number of ideas and issues but I’ve not done much more than talk and float a few ideas. Talking with some friends, though, I’ve been reflecting on some underlying themes exposed in previous articles and what they mean for the future.
The article on Bregret noted that people are very uncertain what the future holds and what might be the actual truth of Brexit.
The Caesar Trap discussed the lack of understanding on both sides
Heresy talked about the fact that too many times some of the issues that people had genuine concerns about were being dismissed by people “who knew better”
Being Right showed how we can all be right but looking at something from different perspectives.
To me, all of these have shown that there is still a gulf of understanding between both sides from the referendum and yet most of us have the same goals. Some of the abuse that’s been hurled – including at me – just polarises the country and makes us retreat to our team. We shouldn’t. We need to reach out and understand.
What is the mandate?
The future is very uncertain. Yes, the country narrowly voted Leave; but no one is able to even say what that will mean yet. Many are claiming a mandate and claiming that everyone understood one thing; though if you talk to more than a few people you realise that it was all a lot more complicated than that.
It is arrogance of the highest order to claim you know exactly why anyone else voted the way they did – let alone almost 34 million people! I don’t pretend to know; but I acknowledge a fact that is obvious to anyone who doesn’t willfully refuse to see: there were many different reasons (on both sides)
More importantly – since we are going to have to live with this new relationship with the EU for a good few years – can we be sure which of those people will be happy with the agreement that defines that relationship? Already there will be Leavers (and some Remainers) saying we can. But we cannot; for the very simple reason that we don’t know what that relationship will be!
You cannot ask someone if they are going to be happy about something that hasn’t happened! You can ask them what they want, yes; but none of us get what we want. If we get half of what we wanted and have to pay a steep cost, are you still happy? Might be. I don’t know. And no one else can too.
Therefore, anyone claiming a mandate for anything other than starting the process and for negotiations to leave is simply wrong.
So what do we do?
I propose revisiting one of my earlier posts on Negotiating Brexit. This boils down to one simple idea: we should keep our options open.
People voted to Leave. Ultimately, we have to respect that even if you disagree. Therefore the government should notify Article 50 and discuss a deal for the future relationship with the EU. But – and it’s a big but – only the electorate can say if that deal is acceptable. No one else.
In that article I proposed notifying by Act of Parliament so that it becomes part of our Constitution and thus part of our constitutional procedures as defined in Article 50. Now, since then, we’ve had the high court hearing arguing that it has to be notified by an act of Parliament. The final ruling on that is not expected yet; but both sides agree that such an Act would become part of our constitution.
If such an Act had a clause that said: “if the agreement negotiated under this Notification is not approved by referendum then this notification is revoked in entirety one day before the second anniversary of the date that the notification was given.”
Then we can notify, negotiate and reserve the right to change our mind if the deal is terrible. Thus we keep control and make the government fully accountable for what it does.
I’ve heard leavers try and discredit this idea as undemocratic as it does not respect the mandate to Leave. This is nonsense. It does respect the vote and notification to Leave is issued. But it keeps open the question of the terms. When you say you’ll buy a car, you state your intent and then go with the salesman to do the paperwork. If when you are doing that paperwork, you discover the cost of the loan interest is 1000% per year, then you don’t sign and don’t finalise the deal. The salesman might have persuaded you – but the details of the agreement (the legal thing you have to live with) – aren’t as good as promised. So you call it off. We’d all do that. So we should reserve the right to do the same with something far more significant than a car deal.
Equally importantly, how can it be undemocratic? Does it ignore the vote? No. Does it ignore the specific mandate for the type of Brexit? No; because there wasn’t one! What it does do is bring back that vital fifth element that societies need to be democratic. Those five pillars of a democracy are:
- Freedom of Speech
- A Free Press
- The Rule of Law
You can promise and persuade the voters as much as you want, You can say there will be free jam tomorrow and dismiss those who say there can’t be as naysayers; and you can expect those who lose to respect the vote. But on top of all that, you have to be accountable for what you have promised and, if it doesn’t appear, the people must have the opportunity to judge you.
If all the promises of Brexit are fulfilled, it will be immensely popular and we would expect Leave to once again win the vote. And this time, voting as it would be on a clear specific deal, it will be unequivocally clear. No longer a muddled vote for this or that; but a clear vote on a single arrangement for our future.
Of course, if none of these predictions are fulfilled – well, it might be a different story.
I am therefore supporting the campaign group Represent Us. They are calling for Conditional Notification via Act of Parliament to be the only way Article 50 notification is given. They are contacting MPs to ask them to support this proposal. This way they will respect the vote but keep our options open with the final decision on the real Leave being where it should always be – with the voters.
So please join this campaign. The Represent Us website has a suggested template to use but write in whatever way you prefer. However you do it, though, join us to send the simple message to Mrs May that there is no blank cheque in these negotiations and whatever she does, she is answerable to us.
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