The recent pro-Remain march in London was not about demanding a vote on the Brexit deal, but a push to repeal the Brexit vote itself.
Every year, at the beginning of March, Emperor penguins overcome daunting obstacles in order to return to their breeding grounds for the mating season. It’s a long and perilous journey across the Antarctic. The journey encompasses all the emotions and experiences that make up life, with the sole goal being a fight for survival. The journey reflects the harsh reality of the world we live in.
On the second anniversary of the EU referendum, tens of thousands marched through the streets of central London, demanding not the reversal of the Brexit vote, but a referendum on the Brexit deal. The banner that was stretched in front of the thousands of marchers said it all, “We demand a vote on the final Brexit deal.” The marchers were, akin to the Emperor penguins, fighting for their survival in a hostile world.
In an ideal world where people respect democratic votes, this should not have been an anti-democratic demonstration, as the Brexiteers would have it, but quite the opposite. However, the nature of most of the banners only confirms what the London march was – anti-Brexit, rather than letting the people have the final say on any eventual deal. Placards that read “Exit from Brexit” and “For UK’s Sake Stop Brexit”, had nothing to do with a second referendum, but well with the desire to reverse the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This justified the Mail on Sunday‘s headline, “Remainers stage march on Westminster,” and the BBC’s coverage entitled, “Anti-Brexit campaigners protesting in London.” This was an anti-Brexit march, but a march tinged with a semblance of wanting to uphold democracy.
In September 2016, I flew to London to take part in a “March For Europe”, knowing full well the nature of the march, even though I could not vote in the referendum, due to the 15-year-rule. This time, I decided not to participate, for the reason that we must accept that Brexit will occur, and must occur, to respect a democratically organised referendum result that has been validated. It does not matter how strongly we disagree with the outcome, or what we think about the way the referendum campaign was run. We must let the result stand. No second chance – if the UK is unhappy, it can re-join the EU in 10 years time, if those who said that “The Brexiteers did not know what they voted for,” were right. You may be angry with my words, but I was probably angrier than you, on 24th June 2016, and shed much more than a solitary tear. I have said it many times; the EU is encompassed in my genes.
[A second referendum is] a bit like replaying a football match after having increased the size of the goals, to make scoring easier. What about the winners of the first match?
If the government did decide to organise a referendum, it would not be a second referendum on Brexit, but a referendum on the Brexit deal, if there is one. The government would certainly not give the UK electorate, and Remainers in particular, the opportunity to reverse the Brexit vote. The question posed would not be along the lines of, “Do you still want to leave the EU under the present deal?” but rather, “Do you approve the deal that has been reached for the UK to leave the EU or should the UK leave without a deal?” In the first instance, the Brexit decision could be reversed, but not in the second.
In other words, if the referendum on the Brexit deal results in a rejection of the deal, if there is a deal to vote on, the UK would leave the EU without having agreed terms, but would leave all the same. This is the only way in which a referendum on the final deal can be ethically justified. Any other interpretation can be considered as an attempt to reverse the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The People’s Vote campaign prides itself in wanting to ensure that, “We, the people who will be affected by the Government’s Brexit negotiations for generations, have a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.” The campaign is hoping that, in the case that the deal is rejected, the voters can decide that the UK will stay in the EU, after all.
If we leave the EU, Brexit will shape this country’s future for decades to come. – Sir Patrick Stewart
All of this may not matter since it is far from certain that a deal will be reached by the time the two years since triggering Article 50 are up, and the UK officially leaves the EU.
The EU has cynically accused the UK of wanting to, “have its cake, and eat it.” Similarly, the People’s Vote campaign wants to “have its democracy and tinkle with it.” The Remainers had their chance when Theresa May called a general election. The UK voters could have voted to make it crystal clear that they wanted to reverse Article 50, but everyone was too busy respecting the rules of democracy. There was hardly an MP to be found who had the guts to oppose an advisory referendum result. Even Theresa May was endorsing something that she didn’t believe in – and still doesn’t – in the name of democracy. At least David Cameron, who started it all, had the decency to resign.
The way out of the morass is a People’s Vote, with an option to remain. But defeating Brexit is just the next step. – A.C. Grayling
A.C. Grayling, in an opinion piece published in The New European, illustrates the true nature of the People’s Vote campaign – to defeat Brexit. It’s not that I’m fundamentally against what the campaign is fighting for. On the contrary, I would be the first to welcome a “UK U-turn”. Furthermore, it is quite clear that the referendum question and campaign were flawed.
It’s the way A.C. Grayling defends the vote of the people that is wrong. He knows full well that the only acceptable result for him (even though he denies this) is a vote to annul the Brexit vote. He knows what is best for the UK and that, since ordinary working people don’t, they should vote as he says they should. I’m not so sure that the UK would change its mind, in any case.
Politics and democracy are crooked and fragile enough without being tampered with. If a second referendum is to be held, the disenfranchised should remain so. The only reason A.C. Grayling advocates the right of vote in a second referendum, for the young, long-term British expats, and EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK, is because he knows that we are the people who would swing the vote in favour of Remain. In his eyes, we have gone from being bargaining chips to useful tools.
Last time, three important constituencies with a huge stake in the outcome were denied a voice: the young; British expats who have been working and living abroad for 15 years or more; and fellow EU citizens who have made their lives here with us in the UK. – A.C. Grayling
I certainly do not blame A.C. Grayling for the present situation, and I am the first to point out that it was outrageous that many British expats, like myself, were disenfranchised. But the fact remains that a democratic process cannot be tailored and re-run to suit a particular political purpose. It’s a bit like replaying a football match after having increased the size of the goals, to make scoring easier. What about the winners of the first match?
Ensuring that we could vote should have been done at the time that the EU referendum was conceived. On 9th June 2015, MPs voted 544 to 53 in favour of the principle of holding a referendum with only the Scottish National Party opposing the Bill. It was then, taking the importance of the decision into consideration, that the voting age should have been lowered, and long-term British expats in the EU, allowed to vote. Even a threshold could have been voted for, below which the referendum result would not be valid. It is quite cynical that we have only now become so important because the Remainers have been defeated by their own ineptitude and arrogance.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain profoundly against Brexit, and firmly believe that the UK will suffer without the EU and that the EU also needs the UK. But, as is famously repeated, “Brexit means Brexit,” and “We should respect the will of the people.” The people of the UK not only got the chance to express their will to leave the EU but also had the opportunity to renew the composition of Westminster. Both have contributed to the situation the UK now finds itself in.
Now, under another name, using another disguise, some want to reverse the decision taken by a majority, no matter how small. In 2016, the UK made the wrong decision about Europe. In 2018, the UK must not make a wrong decision about its democracy. The UK is a parliamentary democracy, and it is up to parliament to pick up the pieces of a broken dream and get the UK out of a situation that a people’s vote was responsible for, in the first place.
George is a British/French national. He has a passion for oral microbiology (obtained a PhD in Lyon, France) and a passion for philosophy and politics.