It’s time to stop pretending Brexit has anything to do with democracy

It's time the public had a say.

It seems never-ending, doesn’t it? Whilst the world quite literally burns around us, child poverty is on the rise, racism and xenophobia creeps across western democracies and inequality reaches ever-more staggering heights each year,

Britain remains paralysed by the constitutional crisis that never had to be. Extensions, negotiations, resignations, even elections… all have come and gone, and yet British politics still remains rooted in place by the now almost mythical status the 2016 referendum holds, like a hallowed legend akin to the Boston tea party or the French Revolution – unquestionable, undeniable, irrevocable. As long as we continue to build a solution within the edifice of the 2016 vote, we’ll remain in this mess.

Many voted Leave based on legitimate concerns about the EU and were right when they argued not respecting the result would set a dangerous precedent. Brexit is a terrible idea, but it’s people’s right in a democracy to make bad decisions – our commitment to democratic principles has to be strong enough to weather that. There was a time, maybe even a long time, after the referendum in which ‘respecting the result’ was the right position to take, although this should always have involved more public input given the binary, vague nature of the original referendum. However, that time has long since passed.

Look where we’ve come to – a Prime Minister with no public mandate, leading a government without a majority, securing approval from an unelected head of state to shut down our democratically elected national body, in order to force through a scenario that there is no evidence the majority of the public wants.

All of this to supposedly honour a referendum held three years and two Prime Ministers ago, which gave us a vague answer at best, during which the winning side has subsequently been found to have severely misled the public and committed electoral fraud.

The road here has hardly been paved with a regard for the democratic process. Theresa May had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the point where parliament was given a say over how Brexit progressed. Her government was held in contempt of parliament, the first time in British history, and fought tooth and nail to pass a deal that there was little parliamentary or public support for.

For months, I’ve asked no-deal Brexiteers, implored them, to outline a democratic, legitimate way out of this constitutional quagmire, and simply been screamed at that we’ve had a vote, get over it, with them displaying no evident concern for what other people actually want.

Viewing Leave, which has increasingly become synonymous with no deal, as the default ‘democratic option’ is no longer a legitimate position to take, wishing to honour the referendum result no longer the surest way to preserve democracy.

We need to shed our politics of this bizarre fixation with the immutability of the 2016 ballot – there’s been too much misinformation and dodgy campaigning exposed, too much new information about the reality of Brexit, too many changes in wider British politics and too many subversions of the democratic process for us to any longer assume that any next steps, from the point we’re at now, have any legitimacy.

This has become even more apparent now that Brexit has become the very thing it promised to save us from – the curtailment of parliamentary sovereignty. We need a reset, a chance for the whole process to be re-informed by the public will – it’s time for a new vote.

We get there by a no-confidence vote in the government, a caretaker government that negotiates a Brexit extension, justified to the EU by promising to hold a general election (in which Labour pledges referendum, remain, reform) and then a referendum, therefore proposing a genuine path to progressing on this issue, and allowing British politics and society to move past this paralysis. We get there by joining local protests and signing the petition against Boris Johnson’s latest move. By contacting our MP’s (of whatever side) imploring them to support a no-confidence motion. By starting a campaign of mass civil unrest if Johnson attempts to run down the clock by ignoring a no confidence vote or calling an election for after the 31st. By doing whatever we can to make it clear this will not stand.

Many of those that voted Leave did so out of legitimate concerns with how the EU operates, and deep disillusionment with mainstream politics. Many people that voted Remain did so out of the fear for migrant rights, or economic dislocation, or out of a sense of European identity. Many didn’t vote at all in the last referendum, but over the years since that day have watched and formed opinions of their own.

All of these people deserve better than a no deal Brexit rammed through by bypassing their elected representatives. They all deserve a voice.

Bradley Allsop is a PhD student and a committee member for Student Left Network.

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12 Responses to “It’s time to stop pretending Brexit has anything to do with democracy”

  1. Ld Elon

    There will NOT be a deal made with yurope.
    Yurope will swing in the wind as your dealt a deathly demise…
    Dayz are ending.

  2. Ld Elon

    Scotland will finally be freed along with Ireland.

  3. Tom Sacold

    Brexit should be about the ability to elect a real socialist government that can implement real socialist policies which are currently NOT allowed by the EU’s neo-liberal Single Market rules.

    We will never get real socialist economic reform in the UK whilst we remain a member of the EU’s capitalist club.

  4. Julia Gibb

    Once again we are being told that a Rightwing isolationist Government is the answer over the EU.
    The socialist Brexiteer on the same side as Farage, Boris, Trump, Fox, Gove, Patel etc etc.

  5. Tom Sacold

    Brexit can result in either a socialist future or a Tory pro-US capitalist one. But, at least, we have the choice !!!

    Staying in the EU can only mean a continuation of the corporatist neo-liberal capitalism that only serves the bosses of european multinational corporations and no effective choice in any of the political decisions. And no chance of any effective socialist reform due to the ECJ enforced Single Market rules.

  6. Pauline Vernon

    Excellent article. Thank you.

    While I understand and sympathise with the Lexit stance that enacting the Labour Party’s radical manifesto would be difficult while we remain in the EU, it would not be impossible. While we remain (thankfully) outside the Eurozone, the EU does not have the clout to affect our economy in the way they can manipulate Greece or Italy, and many member nations already ignore the most egregious of the EU’s neoliberal rules and regulations. Should we remain in the EU, a Labour government could simply ignore the Fourth Railway Package (which would not allow us to take back those rail franchises into public ownership), and ignore the competitive tendering rules which have seen so many NHS services shipped out to private contractors. That kind of passive defiance could be at the heart of ‘remain and reform’ as the government could make a good argument for its position.

    Quite simply, the Lexit argument pales into insignificance when put against the prospect of finding yourself in the same camp as Rees-Mogg, Johnson, Patel, Farage and the hedge fund managers rubbing their hands in glee as they stash their millions in offshore bank accounts. I, for one, do not want to be in their gang.

  7. Cole

    Come on, Tom. Admit you’re a Tory provocateur. No one on the left actually comes up with this drivel.

    Of course there was a Labour Leave group – but it turned out it was mostly funded by prominent, wealthy Tories!

  8. wg

    I’m sorry, Pauline Vernon, without disrespect (too much of that about now) but the pro-EU team have lined up alongside the hedge fund managers – and big business, the bankers, and international financial speculators.

    For Heaven’s sake – George Soros has spent thousands financing lawyers to overturn the referendum result: some of that money going to Labour-attached law firms.

    I, and many working class people, have seen our world turned upside down: black is white, war is peace etc. It now seems that our once supportive representatives are now on the side of the devil.

  9. Dodgy Geezer

    To achieve Communism, as Marx said, you need a strong leader – a ‘dictator of the proletariat’. This is what the EU is. The European Parliament is an exact counterpart of the Congress of Soviets and People’s Deputies, while the Commission plays the part of the Politburo and Secretariat. There is even a Council of Ministers.

    We should rejoice in having a worker’s paradise, governed by exactly the same system that made the Soviet Union great.

  10. Gary

    Like many, though not the majority, I didn’t vote Leave in 2016. But I still think that we must honour the referendum result. To fail to do so would mean that all who voted wasted their time voting. Imagine if we’d voted Remain and we were told we were leaving anyway, there would, rightly, be an outcry.

    Leaving the EU, as we knew, wouldn’t happen overnight. The fact that this happened three years ago doesn’t diminish it democratically. Neither does the fact that it is difficult or even vague at times.

    A ‘People’s Vote’ has already been held. But, for those genuinely interested in a way through this there IS a solution. But it is a solution that no one wants, won’t discuss and hasn’t been raised by ANY politician on either side of the argument. It would respect the outcome of the vote, respect those who voted Remain and, above all be democratic. In short we have a referendum with the existing deal as one option and leaving on 31st October without a pre-arranged deal (deal to be made retrospectively by the government of the day) Remain is obviously NOT on the ballot for two reasons. You can’t have three options on a referendum ballot paper and secondly this has already been decided on.

    So why won’t ANY politician consider this as an option? In short, none of them, either side, are TRULY interested in democracy…

  11. Dodgy Geezer

    “….In short we have a referendum with the existing deal as one option and leaving on 31st October without a pre-arranged deal (deal to be made retrospectively by the government of the day) Remain is obviously NOT on the ballot….”

    Er…yes, it is. The ‘existing deal’ essentially says that we will stay under all EU rules, including any new ones, but not have a say in any changes, for another year or so. During this time we will pay all our bills to the EU and negotiate any deals. At the end of this time the EU will decide if we can leave, or if we have to extend the period of being a ‘vassal state’.

    We will also stay in the Customs union in order to keep the NI border open – which means complying with all EU trade rules.

    Even Remainers concede that the ‘deal’ is effectively slavery. The problem is that the EU won’t offer anything else. Which is why No Deal is such an attractive option…

  12. It’s time to stop pretending Brexit has anything to do with democracy - Politics Highlight

    […] 1 September 2019Politics Highlight It’s time the public had a say. Author: Bradley Allsop | Source […]

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