Monday, August 08, 2016

The Poll on 23rd June was democratic and binding. Voodoo polls in newspapers are not.

Although I was personally very disappointed by it and consider it the wrong decision, the vote to leave the EU on 23rd June was in many ways the largest exercise in democracy in British history.

The 52% of voters who voted to leave the EU represent the largest number of people in Britain who have ever gone out and voted for anything in our history. If democracy in this country is to mean anything at all, that means Britain must leave the European Union.

But the mandate to leave the EU - on what was, when all, is said and done, a pretty narrow majority - is a mandate only to leave the EU. Every voodoo poll on a newspaper website - or even member surveys on Conservative Home - do not carry the same moral force.

The second and third largest votes in British history were in fact the votes to remain within the European Union in 1975 and on 23rd June. The fact that there was a huge minority vote does not give those who voted "Remain" any right to over-ride the view of the majority about whether we leave the EU but the 48% who voted remain have as much right at the 52% who voted leave to have their views considered by those who are negotiating what leave actually looks like.

The trouble is that, while a referendum is an acceptable means of producing a decision on a binary question like "in" or "out" it is not much help in resolving more complex questions like what sort of trade deal we should have with Europe.

The 52% of people who voted for "Leave" included both strong supporters of a world-wide internationalist Britain who think that the European Union is too regional and parochial rather than global in its,' attitudes, and also other people who that they had been let down by society and were victims of globalisation and who wanted to cast a vote against global business.

This is NOT an argument to ignore the vote, it is a recognition that you will never be able to satisfy all the people who voted for Brexit because they include millions of people who want utterly contradictory things.

Millions of people, most of whom are not racists (indeed, many of them are not white) voted leave because they believe that unsustainable levels of migration have been putting pressure on our public services, driving down wages and damaging community cohesion.

But there are many others among those who actively campaigned for "Leave" because they wanted more open trade with the whole world rather than just Europe, who want to keep as much trading access to European markets as possible and who are prepared to accept freedom of movement.

So even reconciling the differing views among those who voted to leave will be no picnic, and the government has to try to get the best Brexit deal for the country as a whole, including Northern Ireland and Gibraltar to name two areas with particularly difficult issues, as well as Scotland where some people are looking for excuses to try for another Independence referendum.

As H.L. Mencken said,

I am not in the least surprised that there are people pushing the idea that we can get out of the EU in a quick and simple way without suffering damage and that when this question is put to people in dodgy opinion polls such as  this one in the Express many of them see it as an easy answer.

Actually, that has about as much validity as the opinion polls which the fictional Sir Humphrey suggested you could commission in this classic clip from "Yes Prime Minister:"

There is no alternative to the hard graft of doing our best to negotiating the best deal we can which is not going to please everyone but which gets as much as possible for as many people as possible.

Talking of Sir Humphrey, there is a brilliant sketch here by the authors of "Yes Prime Minister" which brings him back to "explain" Brexit.

I'm not sure it adds anything to the sum of human wisdom or to policy on how to leave the EU but it is very entertaining.


Jim said...

"There is no alternative to the hard graft of doing our best to negotiating the best deal we can which is not going to please everyone but which gets as much as possible for as many people as possible."

Well there is, because the nice people at the leave alliance have already done it all for you, and they continue to keep the curve right up to date too.

Chris Whiteside said...

AS you know I think there is a lot to be said for the Flexcit proposal, but it still has to be negotiated.

Jim said...

Indeed negotiations do still need to take place, however, Flexcit tells you what needs to be negotiated and what the results of successful negotiations will be. It also gives back up plans should certain parts of the negotiation process go a bit pear shaped.

its a bit like an agenda for a meeting, sure the meeting needs to take place, but the agenda lets you know what the meeting is for.

Flexcit is the same, the negotiation still needs to be done, but the plan will tell you what is to be negotiated. Which, you must admit, is a worthy way to start.