You know when you toss a coin or do eeny, meeny, miny, moe and it isn’t until you have your decision made for you that you truly know you feel about it? Well, I think that same effect has just occurred in a large number of people who will not be the only ones forced to bear the consequences.
This EU referendum is advisory and is not legally binding and it is not too late to stop this fiasco, though to ignore it would obviously cause uproar and insult a great part of the electorate. Mind you, I’m insulted that a 52-48 split was ever considered acceptable, either way it might have fallen.
The whole campaign was a travesty of democracy, so perhaps it should be rendered void on grounds of political malfeasance. Brexit voters were fed a pack of non-issues, half-truths and outright lies by Leave campaigners who voiced hardly any unified opinions between them and the Remain campaigners who completely squandered the opportunity to provide information that could have encouraged real understanding and critical thinking. The right-wing Press were despicable and primetime Media was often pretty unhelpful, even on its better days.
You know I already believe that having the EU referendum was a mistake in the first place, both in timing and necessity. Just a four percent difference between the Ins and the Outs is intolerably close and the worst possible outcome, that can only highlight the polarisation in the country and eventually undermine the result. The country is split in two: the losing side is very distressed and the winning side has been scandalously misled. Both sides are more likely to become angrier than accommodating as the days slip into weeks and the full implications surface for scrutiny. Social justice is what a great many Leave voters thought they were choosing but it will soon sink in that they have voted for the opposite; that globalising banks and corporate businesses have not been vanquished; that they have just reinforced the establishment of more elites.
But, to transform the result into deed, Article 50 needs to be invoked and some experts, yes, experts say that we can avoid leaving by just not activating it. There is talk of a second referendum, both as an ask-until-you-get-the-right-answer solution and as a matter of our withdrawal process. And there are stories, everywhere, about people who are only just realising the consequences of their will to Out and are anxiously regretting it.
I think we should let the Tories choose their new leader, as soon as possible and have a General Election. This would have the same effect as a second referendum. Labour could stand on a campaign platform promising that a vote for them is a mandate for voiding the result. The Greens, SNP, Plaid and Sinn Féin could support this and do the same.
The referendum did not include a manifesto, a reasonably detailed plan, a programme on which to vote. The Conservatives and UKIP, from which most Brexiters come, must clarify, both to their voting base and the Remain side, what we are getting. Those from the left, who chose Brexit, would then have the best chance of being able to vote for the direction in which they actually wanted to travel.
This would have to be done fairly swiftly to minimise instabilities and before the notification of Article 50 made it a futile exercise. It would give space for the entire electorate to take a breath, reflect and consider what they want and how best to achieve it. I know some will think this is adding to the risk and that it wouldn’t guarantee that we wouldn’t still leave the EU – and if the decision were still for Brexit, then so be it – but it would give Britain’s people a chance to test their confidence and check their expectations. It seems the more sensible course of action and a more palatable risk than the constitutional, democratic, diplomatic, economic and social crises we are facing right now.