It’s not the backstop that’s at stake, it’s democracy itself

It’s not the backstop that’s at stake, it’s democracy itself

by Ewen Stewart
article from Tuesday 11, December, 2018

YESTERDAY Theresa May denied Parliament its vote as she knew her Withdrawal Agreement would lose. In the maelstrom of misinformation and the tangled web they weaved, when first they practiced to deceive, let us not forget why we are here and what the duty of our Parliamentarians is and particularly that of the governing party MP’s.

Firstly a very brief history to add some context. After more than 40 years of claiming that EU treaty after EU treaty were mere details, of no real importance and there was no need for a referendum as it was simply just a few technical matters; then claiming that those even sceptical of the EU were ‘swivel eyed,’ or ‘little Englander’s’; then the single currency was ‘as likely to happen as a rain dance,’ as the economy collapsed under the strain of the ERM; then arguing that free movement might lead to 15 or 20,000 migrants from Eastern Europe entering the country, when well over three million did;  then arguing that the EU Constitution was not that as it was now called the Lisbon Treaty and thus there was no need for the promised referendum; and finally only agreeing to the EU referendum because Prime Minister David Cameron never expected to be in a position to offer it – and even if he did have to expected arrogantly to win and thus close the question perhaps for another 40 years – they lost. The people said No. Enough was enough.

The terms were clear. A vote to remain meant just that, in an ever-centralising EU with the full authority of the ECJ and acquis communautaire. If they had won by 50% plus one that would have been it. Democracy old chap, bad luck. The political establishment and media would have killed any thought of a replay, and rightly so, as referenda should only be used very sparingly for the most serious constitutional reasons.   

On the other hand a vote to leave, the Government and Remain campaign argued in the paper sent to every household in the country and on numerous occasions during the referendum, would be to leave the EU, ECJ, Single market, Customs Union – the whole caboodle. The Remain side was not ambiguous at all. It was crystal clear what leave meant.

Now they argue that the 17.4 million leave supporters did not understand what they were voting on or were a bit too stupid, northern, or prejudiced to make a rational choice, the truth is very different. Leave supporters by and large were very well aware of the issues, as were remain supporters, and we are struck how seriously people took what was a momentous decision weighing carefully the arguments. 

If anything, the remain campaign had all the advantage.  Government agency after government agency warned of dire consequences if the people voted leave. 5% off GDP, 500,000 jobs immediately they said. “Back of the queue” for trade negotiations Obama said – although it transpires he was put up to it by our own Government! The Bank of England, CBI, IMF, OECD, Goldman Sachs – too many to mention – issued forecasts of dire destruction. It did not wash and indeed the opposite happened to these dire warnings as the UK economy created more new jobs than ever in its history. The people were not fooled and still said leave!

Given that the British people are not prone to take radical political steps, that was quite something. This country has not had the revolutions, upheavals, extreme government and destruction that many, if not most, of our European neighbours have suffered; despite all the odds stacked against the leave campaign, the vote to leave was all the more extraordinary.  

It was a clear and loud warning shot to our establishment of great unease at the direction of travel. They seem however to be ignoring that warning. Unlike brave Nelson, at the Battle of Copenhagen, who took his telescope to his blind eye and drove home his advantage, many of our MP’s seem blind to the clear instruction of the British people. There was no ambiguity during the referendum the result was an instruction to be carried out by Parliament, not an opportunity for a small group of MP’s to do as they pleased.  They pretend nothing much has happened and that the referendum can either be re-run or minimalised to make it near worthless.

The next few months are a likely watershed moment in the history of this nation. Either Parliament understands the magnitude of what is ahead and the Conservative Party in particular coalesces behind new leadership that is fully prepared, understands and optimistically supports BREXIT and confidently negotiates with the EU for mutual benefit, knowing that if the EU continues to be unreasonable we shall be prepared to walk away with ‘no deal’ – knowing that the dire warnings of the current functionaries in office are, to put it in technical terms, bollocks.  

Or if they backslide into appeasement, passing the buck and the management of decline, they will split this country like never before. The very question of fair play and democracy is at stake and the way the small band of MP’s act over the next few weeks will define their moral character.

This is not a question of thinking it will be all forgotten with a new leader or a second referendum. The rules were clear, remain were very clear as to what leave meant and now the instruction of the British people needs acted on, in full. A second referendum would be inherently dishonest and if the Governing party fails to deliver on its promises it should not be surprised if the people holds them all in contempt. The Government needs to get its act together and speak for this country and people. It might even find such an unfashionable notion might be poplar. This is a literally an once a century opportunity to define this nation.

Remain had its parade for 40-odd years. Now it is our turn to see if we can make a rather better job of running this place than the previous lot did. If we fail, maybe in a generation’s time in can be revisited, but talk of doing so now is an insult to the people. 

Ewen Stewart is Director of Global Britain

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