So there we have it, tonight Parliament voted to trigger Article 50. Now whereas the referendum result was advisory, our parliament is sovereign. As such I accept there is now a democratic mandate for Brexit. Despite that I still think it’s a big mistake, and will be really, really bad for our country and good for Trump and Putin.
The Liberal Democrats will in an amendment be hoping to give the people a say on whether or not they want to accept the final deal the Tories negotiate, which would include an option of staying in the EU. Now i’m not keen on referendum, they reduce complex issues to simplistic yes/no binary answers. However seeing as this process has started with one it ought then to have one on the actual facts of the deal, rather than the wild speculation and claims of the referendum in June 2016.
The Liberal idea of having a vote on the deal at the end of the negotiation is not such a strange one. It happens all the time in Trade Union negotiations. People vote not to accept a pay deal, they ask their Union representatives to go and negotiate a better deal, they then get to vote on whether or not to accept the deal they come back with. The same could easily apply to Brexit. It would have the benefit of the government seeking to try and get a deal that was acceptable to as many people as possible.
Now as you might expect there have been a few shrill voices on twitter today suggesting that the Liberal Democrats, and folk like myself should no longer oppose leaving the EU. As if politics is simply one football match and at the end of it we all accept the result and go home for a nice cup of tea having settled everything for ever. Perhaps these people ought to be reminded of history, because there is certainly no record of Euro-sceptics ever having hung up their boots. It is indeed the case that after the referendum on joining the EEC in 1975 Labour carried on campaigning against the EEC. It was in their 1979 manifesto. People surprised at Corbyn’s anti-EU stance should recall the last time the Labour party had such as stance it was equally left wing. Prominent Euro-sceptic Enoch Powell also carried on campaigning against EEC, leaving the Conservative party in the process to advocate a vote for Euro-psceptic Labour.
Then in the 80s Labour and the Conservatives started to shift position. Under Kinnock’s leadership Labour dropped their opposition to the EEC, then Thatcher in her 88 Brugges speech inspired a generation of Tory sceptics by railing against any move towards closer political union. The hokey cokey of British politics continued.
The lesson I think here is this – The political question of Europe was never settled by the 1975 referendum, despite it being very decisive and not at all close. It is unlikely therefore to have been settled by the one we had in June last year….’But wait’ I hear the Euros-ceptics cry, “we voted on the EEC and Europe changed after that”. Well indeed, and I suspect both Europe and Geo-politics will also change from where it was in a snap shot on June 23rd 2016. Who knows where global politics will be in a year, two years, five years or even twenty years. What I do know however is that I shall remain committed to working together peacefully with other nations, and trying to build an enlightened international government founded on the principles of rule of law, universal human rights, democracy and peaceful cohabitation of our plant. I might even imagining there’s no countries, after all it isn’t hard to do. They managed it in Star Trek.