Not in my name – European Referendum – whither next?
I am struck with a feeling that, for the record, I need to make it clear to whomsoever reads this that the chaos and dysfunctionality that will surely ensue from the European Referendum result is, to coin a phrase, “NOT IN MY NAME”. The referendum ballot box is, of course, secret, but I am wholly willing to let you into my secret.
I voted for us to REMAIN within the European Union. There, my secret is out!
I most sincerely hope that, for the sake of all the people I know who voted `Leave`, all my current expectations about what will now happen FAIL to come to fruition. I would much rather eat humble pie about getting it all wrong than be in the position of saying “I told you so”.
The thing that sparked this blog post was the news item about the Government website that crashed because over a million people were in the process of signing a petition to retrospectively change the rules for the referendum.
The petitioners want there to be a new ruling that there should be ANOTHER referendum on the basis that the first one ought to have stipulated that the change would only come about if the vote to leave attracted OVER 60% if the turnout was less than 75% of the electorate. As I write this, well over 1.3 million people have already signed this petition and maybe many more will sign it over the next few days.
Indeed, for a few moments I considered signing it myself, but I think that horse has probably already bolted. My ingrained sense of democracy tells me we cannot change the rules after the event if we do not like the result. And it smacks of sour grapes.
But that same sense of democracy makes me cross when I read in the same day`s Guardian that Nigel Farage has dismissed the claim about £350 million per week being paid to Brussels as “a mistake”, rather than a lie. Also, his patronising comment that the victory was “for the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people” suggested that the other half of the population were neither real, nor ordinary, nor decent.
By the way, if you would like to try and hold the Leave politicians to their claims about the £350m you might like to sign the other petition going the rounds which challenges them to divert it to the NHS. Let us see if we can hoist them on their own petards! Go here http://38d.gs/293KNJL to sign the petition.
So – “Where do we go from here?”
Boris and his cronies on the Leave side are also, now, back-pedalling on the speed with which the process of change should take place. Having promised that leaving the European Union would bring all the benefits they claimed, they now wish to slow the process down by waiting a while before they “invoke article 50”. They say that this will establish a period for reflection, but I think it is because they now realise it is actually going to happen and they have not the least idea how to sort it out.
Meanwhile, leaders inside Europe are saying, quite rightly, “OK, if you don`t want to be members here, pack your belongings from your desk into a box and clear out. And don`t expect us to let you use the key to the executive toilets any more – use the pissoir in the street like the rest of the world has to. Oh – and the stapler belongs to us – leave it there!”
Also, Barak Obama has said, “Sure – we want to have the same Special Relationship with you that we always have, but I meant it when I said you will go to the back of the queue for trade negotiations.”
It occurs to me that we have fallen into a state not unlike that which arises when you declare war on another country and that this may require a similar degree of pulling together so that we manage to avoid the worst mistakes of single-minded tunnel vision. For one thing, by far the majority of our esteemed members of parliament disagree with the strategic choice the sovereign people of this land have dictated, so they are not necessarily going to be unbiased managers of the best choice of exit strategy.
Furthermore, the Leave campaign, as well as the Remain campaign, was a cross-party affair and people`s reasons for wanting to leave were as varied as the reasons for those of us wishing to Remain. My point is this. I do not think a change in the leadership of the Tory Party is enough to give us the confidence that all appropriate avenues will be examined in the divorce proceedings.
We are being told that Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon can be invoked by the UK Government when it is ready to do so. However, the Treaty says that a Member State “may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”. I believe it can be reasonably argued that this actually happened around 5am on Friday 24th June, since the Conservative Government had stated in its election manifesto that it would have a Referendum and then act upon the will of the people once the referendum was concluded. The will of the people was declared at 5am on Friday once the mathematical 50% point had been reached and, since the people are Sovereign in this matter that, in my humble opinion, is the point at which Article 50 was invoked in practice.
No doubt there will be constitutional lawyers who may see it differently once they examine the fine print, but apparently Article 50 is pretty vague on the matter since they actually thought nobody in their right minds would WANT to withdraw from such a fabulous club anyway! So I do not think the fine print will help very much.
Paragraph 2 apparently says “A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention” – here again I think the result of the referendum pretty well covered that too. Though this point may only be “officially” reached when David Cameron tells his fellow premiers at the European Union meeting scheduled for this next week.
Also Article 50 goes on to say that the Treaties shall “cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement” or… “failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2”. Now, I read that as saying “You are OUT, as of now, but we may give you a grace period which might be as long as two years”. And it strikes me that the European leaders do not want to see a domino effect being allowed to happen, so they will want the quickest possible route to getting us out of the door before we can contaminate too many other waverers.
By the way, this factor will also mean we will not get very good terms for our future trade agreement with the Union, and, frankly, who can blame them for that.
A Government of all the talents
I know this may seem an unfashionable notion, but what I am suggesting is that from this point onwards until our full exit has been concluded, we should have a Government of All the Talents, taken across Party Political lines, just as if it were a War Cabinet. Frankly, the dangers we face, though they may not be so violent and deadly as those in a war, will be as potentially harmful to the long-term welfare of the people of this country in economic and environmental terms.
One of the matters this Government of All the Talents should also consider is the urgent introduction of a system of Proportional Representation and a new Constitutional settlement for the people of England and Wales. Then we will be able to cope with all the new Party divisions which are likely to emerge during the next two years, as well as facing the loss of Scotland to its Independence and the merging of Northern Ireland within the new Island of Ireland.
As I said at the outset, I did not vote for leaving the European Union, but I am essentially an optimist by nature and since we have democratically decided that England and Wales want to leave the European Union and the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, then let us work it out so that can happen.
“Wait”, I hear you say, “the referendum was for the United Kingdom to Leave or Remain” and so my point is this:- I believe the UNITED Kingdom has decided to leave, but in the process we face the prospect of becoming Disunited, so let us embrace the change and use it to forge a new future for all of us.
Let us, in the process, make that future more Liberal and more liberating than the old political settlement allowed. Let us free ourselves from the yoke of bureaucracy; let us spend all this released money from Europe on the National Health Service; let us also take the opportunity to rid ourselves of the burden of building a replacement for Trident since no-one is going to be in the least impressed with a “deterrent” which can have no credible target people to deter; let us divert the huge savings on that white elephant into a hugely expanded science and research programme to convince the young people in this country that we, the Baby-boomer Generation, who apparently mostly voted to Leave, were not casting our votes to deliberately “screw over” the younger Generation X and the Millennials, who voted, by and large to Remain.
And, finally, let me reiterate the point that I made at the very start of this blog post. None of this was my doing, it was not done in my name, I voted to Remain.
But since we are now set to Leave, let us do it positively and make the most of it, giving the unvoiced the benefit of listening to what they have said so loudly in the referendum result. Let us take the opportunity to correct many of the huge errors of the post-World-War-ll political classes. Let us redistribute the benefits of having belonged to the Rich Persons` Club of Europe more fairly amongst our people.