Like many friends and colleagues I awoke on Friday feeling alienated in my own country. I appreciate those who voted leave saying that for them this is the feeling that has built up over many years, but the intensity with which such a feeling was brought upon was devastating.
I don’t think those that voted to leave are all idiots or racists. However, I do believe many have voted naively, taking great risks with our future, the stability of our society, and the dreams, aspirations and opportunities of a generation, whilst handing a mandate to xenophobia, for, at best, a gain in their conceptualisation of sovereignty.
The distribution of votes regionally, and across age groups, is divisive and dangerous to the unions that have been built over decades. It alienates regions of the UK, and generations who will out live many in the majority who voted for this outcome.
We cannot change that now, but we can change the future, and its direction. We now live in a highly disrupted political environment. It’s unpredictable, but disruption brings opportunity. We must move on. We must look forward to what happens next and take the opportunity by engaging in reforming our politics for the better. We cannot ignore the referendum result. The EU cannot ignore the result. It is not legally binding, it is advisory, but it must be respected, the people have cast their vote.
However, the referendum is certainly not a guarantee that we will leave the EU, and it will not be un-democratic to ultimately, with time, remain a member of the EU. Many were undecided up until the last moment, and the majority for Vote Leave was small. The longer uncertainty continues, and the greater the disruption, the more likely it is we will remain a member of the EU. Here’s why:
- There is no post-referendum plan. There never was a plan. Leave did not expect to win and Remain didn’t need a plan. Neither side in the referendum fought a strong campaign, but the winning side’s lack of plan is clear. It was high risk to Vote Leave on that basis, and whilst no clear plan is presented, the public sentiment towards leaving will wane with time. As the Vote Leave campaign promises unravel this only serves to turn public opinion against leaving the EU.
- I find it impossible to believe that many leave voters feel that the possible break up of UK is a price worth paying for Britain leaving the EU. The Government’s review into the process of withdrawal from the EU accepts that we likely need agreement from Scotland, and the other devolved regions to leave the EU. Nicola Sturgeon will not grant this without a second referendum which will almost certainly lead to independence and the break up of the UK. This genuine risk of breaking up the UK only serves to turn public opinion against leaving the EU.
- The markets and business dislike uncertainty, and the economy and jobs will be affected longer term whilst no decisions are made. In any event, the economy will eventually recover, as we will adapt, but the longer any decision takes, as the pound remains weakened, and holidays more expensive, the more likely it is that the public opinion moves against leaving the EU.
- The EU is not perfect and there are many issues that require re-negotiation. Similarly, there are many other groups in countries within the EU who are not completely happy with how the EU works. The EU as a whole now has an opportunity to put pressure on Brussels and catalyse a broader renegotiation. It is quite likely that we will now be offered a “second deal” from Europe, or be asked to speed up the process of leaving, the latter begins stalemate, which will likely move public opinion against leaving the EU. Stalemate because…
- Article 50 notification has not been sent, the longer that takes the less likely it ever will be. Cameron’s resignation has purposefully kicked this into the long grass. Whilst the UK is compliant with the EU’s conditions there is no process by which we can be removed by the other member states. There’s much more on this in David Allen Green’s excellent blog. Without Article 50 notification being sent, we probably won’t leave the EU.
- Corbyn is likely to resign within a few days, Cameron has already resigned. Both main party leadership races will be fought on an EU manifesto. It’s highly possible there will be offers of general elections (albeit they will have to get round the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011), offers of second referendums and hopefully, an opposition leader able to hold the Government to account. The Conservative constitution does not allow the sort of member take-over that elected Corbyn, but there is a huge unknown here, a lot to play for, and a lot to influence. Whilst he is the obvious choice, there is no guarantee that Boris will be the next Prime Minister, the majority of Conservative MPs are for remaining a member of the EU and…
- Leadership of the Tory party is now a poisoned chalice. To lead the country in leaving the EU, as an unelected head of state, requires a mandate that I don’t believe Boris thinks he has. This was summarised in this Guardian comment:
- Being apathetic is no longer an option. On either side, the debate will now happen, and the public are catalysed to engage with it. They now see that it matters, and see the fallout, even if naively they didn’t before. That only serves to produce a better, more democratic, outcome. Do not be apathetic.
The Vote Leave campaign was fought on taking back control. These are some of the biggest decisions the UK has faced since the end of the Second World War, yet we now have less control than ever before. We have handed it back to the EU, and to our now leader-less, mandate-less political parties. Without a general election fought upon leading us post-referendum, the people of the UK, and its regions, have no sovereignty whatsoever. Before we leave for good, we should be given an opportunity to genuinely take back control.