Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Keeping a sense of proportion about Europe.

It is possible to discussions about national identity to get very heated and passions to arouse well above what is called for.

We saw this in the 2014 Scottish independence Referendum and we are starting to see it now in respect of the EU membership one.

My first reaction when I saw Alistair Meek's article on Political Betting, "How the eurosceptics are destroying the Conservative party" was that he'd gone completely over the top.

The article starts by saying that

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  By that definition, the Eurosceptic right of the Conservative party is insane."

and goes on from there.

I have Conservative friends who want to leave the EU who base that opinion on evidence-based criticisms of the organisation and are capable of putting forward a civilised and reasonable case, whether I agree with it or not. (I also have friends who are not Conservatives who support Brexit on the basis of opinions which a perfectly sane person could hold.)

But it is possible for opinion to get so heated that it people start down dangerous and destructive paths.

If you have a referendum on something, and make a reasonable attempt to ensure it is fair, most British people will expect the decision of the referendum to stand, and start to get cross with people who try to overturn it.

If the SNP call another referendum on Independence in the next few years without a spectacularly good reason to go back on their view that the 2014 one was a once in a generation event - and I'm not 100% certain Brexit would be good enough - I think even the Nats will notice how cross they have made many Scots, and the margin for "No" will be larger.

Similarly the idea of a second referendum on Europe is an extremely bad one and will not be at all popular, unless it is to refine the direction of travel within an agreed direction.

My view is that if a majority of the British people vote "Leave" on 23rd June, then that is the end of the matter, we implement article 50 and leave, and everyone who believes in democracy should respect the result and try to make the policy of building a successful Britain outside the EU work.

And that goes both ways. Sauce for the "Remain" goose is sauce for the "Leave" gander.

If the British people vote "Remain" on 23rd June that result too should be respected by anyone who believes in democracy. I find the idea that a great political party might be hi-jacked by people who are still fighting for a cause which the British people had just rejected, as this Conservative Home article by Andrew Lillico suggests, to be completely intolerable.

Lillico argues that in the event of a win by less than 20% for Remain the next Conservative leader would probably be someone who had voted to Leave - which I accept is quite possible though I don't think any of us have a reliable crystal ball to predict an election which is probably three years away.

He then suggests that the next leader "will be expected to find some excuse to hold another referendum in the 2020-2025 Parliament.  Indeed, it is likely that there would even be a commitment to hold a referendum in the 2020 manifesto."

Alistair Meeks is right about anyone who supports such a policy. Either they do not believe in democracy, or they are insane.

We need a sense of proportion on the issue. A section of the political class - including myself - cares quite a bit about Britain's relationship with Europe. The vast majority of the electorate is far more interested in issues like jobs, hospitals, and the cost of living, and in a democracy, banging on about issues which they regard as settled is a good way to wreck your influence.

It's a good thing that the electorate will decide this issue. Perhaps it should happen more often. And when they have made their decision, it should be implemented and should stand.


Jim said...

yes passions do run high, though i can see Meek's point about insanity.

Bear in mind that some of us have wanted this referendum for years, we now have it. Sensible campaigns just cant seem to get any sort of publicity, its almost like there is a media coo. But to top it all off we get BoJo giving train wreck sessions like this in front of the treasury select committee.

Its no wonder I am a little bit annoyed by it, and yes I can see why Meek seems to think they are insane.

Chris Whiteside said...

Indeed. To be absolutely clear I am not drawing a correlation between supporting Brexit and being insane, as you obviously realise, Jim.

But as someone who is genuinely torn about how to vote and would like to see a proper debate, I find the fact that the most prominent supporters of Brexit appear so woefully unprepared for what will probably be a once-in a generation opportunity from their perspective to be quite extraordinary.

Jim said...

Brexit - if we are going to do it we had better do it right. There is no room for error. Its something that is understood, must be de-risked and safe and a clear path of how to do that. That my friend is called an Exit Plan.

Is there one?- Yes there is

Why is it being ignored? - that bit I really don't know.

Chris Whiteside said...

All credit to you and your friends in the Leave Alliance for trying to do the heavy lifting of producing a credible plan. You will probably have noticed that I have posted links to Flexcit.

I can't give you a good reason why it is being ignored. It must be that the media find the nuts and bolts of building an exit strategy less interesting than watching UKIP hacking chunks out of one another, and that too many leave supporters themselves find this too boring and would rather send out idealistic tweets about how Brexit will bring paradise or accusing remain supporters of not being true patriots.

It's very annoying to me and must be even more annoying to you.