By Campaign Agent Joseph Monk
Party division, a deal which fails to meet the demands of voters and the prospect of a new prime minister: these are just some of the problems that Brexit has caused. This has come about through 17.4 million people simply putting a cross next to leave on the ballot box. The question that remains is, was it worth it?
Within the mainstream, there are now parties within parties. May is trying to mediate between social conservatives on the one hand, and the European Research Group (ERG) on the other. In contrast, Labour don’t have a clear vision of the outcome they want. The party membership and those on the National Executive Committee encompass members of momentum (the group supporting Corbyn) who want a second referendum. However, this view completely ostracises the many Northern Labour heartlands that voted heavily to leave; they feel left behind by the political class. Not only this, the formation of The Independent Group has caused further controversy. Their motives are to have a second referendum, but they would actually make the chances of another Tory government more likely as they would steal votes from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It is deeply frustrating to see. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that they join a party that is already fighting for a second referendum, such as the Liberal democrats were. The influence of the likes of Chukka Umuna and Luciana Berger would, in my opinion, attract significant support for the party. Additionally, they would be more likely to hold onto their seats at the next election if running under a party name.
From party divisions comes the debate over what deal, if any, Britain should leave with. The ERG and many who voted leave are frustrated that the deal May has had nearly three years to devise does not represent the will of the people. Many would assume that May has delayed the formation of a deal until the last minute so that the only alternative is her deal, no deal (which many MP’s have relentlessly opposed) or remain. Her deal has already been rejected twice, with the speaker John Bercow preventing a third vote unless fundamental changes are made. Meanwhile, no deal has been ruled out by parliament in spite of the legal implications stated in article 50. Arguably, the only option left to the country is to remain. In my opinion, parliament was wrong to rule out a no deal scenario given that there is no consensus on the deal May has put forward. If the deal continues to be rejected, the only alternative is to remain or leave with no deal. This is exactly the choice that was given to the people in 2016. There were no other options; no leave but say in a customs union or single market, no leave with a Norway or Canada-style deal, no leave but comply with the principle of free movement of people.Therefore, the view that no-one knew what they were voting for is absurd and patronising.
Many remain voters, or remoaners, are increasingly depicted as trying to thwart the will of the people and overturn the referendum result. Many argue that, because the referendum occurred nearly three years ago, people should have another say. This is deeply problematic. The referendum result hasn’t even been implemented yet remoaners are pre-empting the perceived economic catastrophe that will ensue, despite the fact that other predictions such as the economy collapsing as soon as the result was announced didn’t take off. It is deeply patronising for the minority to say that the majority got it wrong and should vote again to get it right. Ultimately, what will a second referendum resolve? The result is unlikely to be bigger than a 5% swing either way and the campaign will inevitably be more hostile and divisive than the first. In an already fragmented society, why add fuel to the fire? Moreover, referendums are supposed to be a simple form of direct democracy, yet the likes of Caroline Lucas and the Liberal Democrats are proposing that an array of questions are put to the public. Where is the simplicity there?
This has cumulated in what many see as a lack of direction from the government, with many now wanting May to stand down. In all respects, if pressure had been applied earlier on from parliament, May would have possibly considered her position. As it stands, no one has been bold enough to step up to the plate and deal with the aftermath of the referendum. Some sympathy should be given to the PM; she didn’t necessarily win the leadership campaign, as her competitors stepped down amidst a series of betrayals and offensive comments. Thus, she was thrown into the position to deal with an issue she campaigned against. If the hard Brexiteers truly want what they voted for, why did no-one step in earlier? Labour also need to share the blame. They have been incompetent as the opposition of her majesty’s government, waiting for their moment to call a vote of no confidence in the government. They have deliberately tried to avoid setting out a clear agenda for what they want due to the inherent divisions within the party- mediating between their new cohort of support from young, university educated and middle-class intellectuals on the one hand; and their elder, working-class traditional base in northern England that defected to the Tories in 2017 and need to be won back.
This brings readers back to the question, are the events that have ensued worth it? The answer remains to be seen, and until the will of the people has been implemented, it will stay this way.
Image: Kevin Grieve @Unsplash