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BREXIT - the real questions

Posted by Frank Preiss, on 20 December 2018. Comments: 0

This whole debate has been utterly misguided ever since the 2016 Referendum was announced. Instead of the deeply depressing and legalistic squabbling of the past 30 months, we should revisit the first referendum in 1975.

Despite claims to the contrary, the campaign then exposed and debated all the necessary compromises to sovereignty and national control we would have to accept and why. It did not occur to my generation that our decision would be conditional and we might change our minds later. It was a decision for a lifetime and we voted 67/33 to remain.

Since then the EEC has grown from 7 to 28 and a lot else has changed. It might have been reasonable after 40 years to review the 1975 decision if we could have had a serious national debate. But the 2016 referendum was a hideous aberration in which reasons for and against remaining in the EU were hardly discussed at all. Instead it focused on the grievances of various interest groups - fishermen, farmers, hospitality, business, politicians etc - that are mostly incompatible or not the responsibilty of the EU at all. It has divided the UK - nations, regions and families - for all the wrong reasons.

Remainers are partly to blame. We should have made our case, but we didn't. As a result I think the EU has been traduced and ignorantly misunderstood in the last two years of shameful mayhem and wishful thinking. But I also think Leavers, who alone are responsible for this mess, should have given us a much clearer account of their post-Brexit vision. Woolly concepts such as "control of our borders, money and laws" dissolve at every attempt to apply them to our recent history, let alone our possible future role in the world.

The idea that consulting the British people again would be in some way undemocratic is illogical and simply absurd. The best solution now would be for a strong Prime Minister to explain to the nation why Article 50 must be revoked immediately: the first priority must be to halt the truly horrendous damage already being done.

But we don't have a strong PM, nor any prospect of one. So let's consult the people with a new, straightforward repeat of the 1975 In/Out referendum, after enough time to reconsider without pressure the themes and arguments of that campaign. I can't imagine either side would make the mistake again of taking the result for granted. And surely both sides would accept a decisive majority, say not less than 60/40 either way, as reason to close the matter and hopefully heal the wounds?

Alternatively we could accept that referendums are not natural to the British constitution. Joining the EU was really a one-way decision, as important politically in its way as the extension of the franchise, which no one thought of reversing. We have a representative parliamentary democracy. Our MPs have been powerless and irresponsible so far. Let them now debate the real issues, then decide our future, on a free vote, as they decided our entry into the EU at the beginning.

 

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