I’ve never voted Conservative and, considering that I am a lefty, the chances I ever am going to do so are pretty damned slim. That means I have been on the losing side in many elections I’ve voted in, most recently in 2015 (yes, I live in Germany, but I only have a UK passport, so vote in UK general elections still – but that’s another story). But I do what everyone else does in this situation – I try to critique the government, I write letters, I build campaigns, and (in the past) I spent hours as a volunteer in the Labour Party hoping that our side would do better next time. Throughout all of this no one called me a moaner, a maniac, or told me to shut up or told me I was bitter or twisted. Because that’s how representative democracy works – you lose this time, but when the next election comes around, the other ones might win.
But what about referendums then?
The problem of course is we have no idea how long a referendum result is supposed to last. There’s no time frame on it. It of course should not be considered to be an infinite amount of time – if it were that, why did the UK hold an EU referendum in 2016 having held one in 1975*? But that does not stop those on the Leave side from wheeling out the argument that the people have voted, that’s it, it’s time to move on. I’ve put every Brexiteer tweet replying to my blog entry about why Brexit will not happen in a separate post here, but this is the gist of it:
Embrace it? Make a success of it? Shut up and move on? Get real!
If the Conservatives got into power and starting privatising something I didn’t like, what would I do? I’d come up with every possible way to stop it happening – using parliamentary means, legal means, protest means, trying to get press coverage. Until the law is passed, the thing actually happens, you do not give up.
I see no reason why it should not be the same with the EU referendum. The UK leaving the EU might mean Scotland leaves the UK – so work with the Scots to work out how that could be used as a lever. Same with Northern Ireland. Find legal routes. Use political parties and parliamentary means to oppose Brexit. If the case for a Brexit that is actually workable is so strong, then these hurdles ought to be surmountable by the pro-Brexit side, and after all the government that has said Brexit means Brexit. It is not my responsibility, and indeed not the responsibility of anyone who opposed Brexit before the vote, to stop opposing it now. This does not make me a moaner, or in denial, or anything like that. It makes me a person committed to my principles, and committed to carrying on arguing for them.
Indeed I’d actually go so far as to say pro-EU folks ought to not even entertain the idea that they ought to shut up, or that they ought to take responsibility or move on. This tweet was what prompted me to write this blog entry:
Actually we ought NOT debate it. We give their argument air, it wastes our time. If you believe in EU, argue for it! https://t.co/1x9cHs9pUE— Jon Worth (@jonworth) August 18, 2016
The issue as I see it is that this “ohh, Remoaners shut up” is once more a rhetorical device of the Leave side. In the same way as Remain spent ages trying to rebut the idea that no, £350m a week did NOT go to the EU, the myth stuck. Actually efforts to make Brexit happen since 23rd June have been pretty damned awful – because the Brexit side did not have a plan, and government does not have a clue what it is doing and still has not triggered Article 50. But instead the Leave side wants to cover this by blaming the Remain side instead – that they are moaners, that they ought to give up etc.
So from now on, after having read this blog entry, do not even reply to critique about the behaviour of the Remain side. Every democratic and peaceful means to oppose Brexit is legitimate. A tough and ethical defence of the European Union is as vital now as it was before 23rd June. This battle is not lost. And now, as before 23rd June, make the case for the EU, and Britain’s enduring membership of it, on its own terms. Don’t waste time and effort on a bunch of fantasists who actually have no sodding clue how to actually deliver on Brexit. They ought to be the ones moaning at the government that Article 50 has not been triggered, rather than deluding themselves that the Remain folks are the problem.
[* UPDATE 19.8.2016, 1145]
Alan King rightly points out on Twitter that it was not the EU, but the EEC, in 1975. So the facts change, so the country then votes again. Strikes me that then, if the Brexit promised to the British people before 23rd June (inc. £350m week saving, and it going to the NHS) is hence not available, i.e. the facts have changed, then there’s no problem with a further referendum. There’s no reason why the 23rd June referendum must be the final word on all of this.