Last July I wrote a blog comparing Brexit to the punishment of Sisyphus. In Greek legend Sisyphus was the King of Corinth who fell out of favour with the Gods due to his craftiness and deceit and punished by having to roll an immense boulder up a hill every day only to see it roll back downhill at the end of his exertions. My comparison was intended to explain how I felt as a Brexiteer, that not a day seemed to pass when it did not feel that the legitimate outcome of the referendum was under constant threat from a powerful elite who refused to accept a democratic process. It really felt that no matter what we did, how right our argument was, day in, day out we had to roll the Brexit boulder up a hill only to see it crash down again by way of yet another legal challenge or Parliamentary obstacle. As an aside – funny how none of these devices were ever used when Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty with no democratic mandate (despite all three main parties saying they would seek one).
A few months on I feel the worse of the law-fare is over, the legal challenges are becoming more speculative and desperate although I still anticipate further nasty surprises given the lavish funding Gina Miller and her confederates seem to have available. Incidentally why has she not been taken to task and asked to explain who exactly is funding her?
In October I expect all manner of Parliamentary tricks and ruses to be deployed to further thwart our path to independence. Nonetheless I feel that enough politicians realise the permanent damage they will do to democracy and the reputation of Parliament if they fail to implement the will of the people and leave the EU in 2019.
My guess is that the Remain ultras like Tony Blair have made the same calculation. This explains the current narrative, i.e. we respect the vote but people should be given a say on the final deal. In other words a second referendum, which if you think about it is the same as saying I don’t agree with the first vote, I want a second go.
There is of course a harsher response to the Remain ultras, a logical trap and it works like this, the United Kingdom is leaving the EU, this does not mean the EU ceases to exist. You can of course go and live in the EU after we have left. This does invite the response that they want their country to remain in the EU – but I am afraid they cannot have it both ways, you either believe in a country in the way I do or you prefer to live in a region of a supranational entity. I do not deny them the choice but they seek to deny me mine, the choice me and millions of others exercised in June 2016.
As I say this is a harsh response so lets instead explore the say on the final deal – which Tony Blair should be more honest about because he means the final say. I think there are a couple of quite odd assumptions about a second referendum. The obvious one is what happens if they lose that one as well? Do we now go for the best out of five option, a sort of Brexit penalty shoot out?
The second assumption I would challenge is the one that things go back to how they were. This simply cannot be the case, I doubt the EU would restore things to how they were but let’s say that they did, what country do they expect to be living in when 17.4 million people have just been told their votes don’t count? Do they really believe we just all collectively shrug and go back to grumbling about the EU? Do they have any concept whatsoever of the resentment they will create? That the EU flag will become the symbol of a hated occupying power? For millions Parliament would have no constituency, for a smaller section like myself, no legitimacy either.
The third assumption I would challenge is that there is some notion of a landslide victory to Remain which is not likely, if Remain did manage to win a second referendum it would at best be by the same margin of the Leave vote in the first. So it is hypocritical to complain about losing a referendum by a small percentage but demanding the right to overturn it by the same amount. In any case the referendum was a binary choice, Leave or Remain in the EU, there was no bar set, if one single vote had separated the two campaigns it would have decided the outcome, them’s the rules.
The fourth assumption is that there is any kind of democratic mandate for holding a second referendum, both Labour and the Conservatives stated clearly in their manifestos that they would uphold the outcome of the referendum, that we would leave the EU. A second referendum has no democratic legitimacy – although it does rather fit with the EU practice of holding referenda until they get the result they want.
The fifth assumption I would challenge is that this would somehow be a final say on the matter. Surely this just provides grounds for another referendum? Surely if Remain did manage to win a second referendum then a third one would be demanded by Brexiteers? If this was denied to the people the resentment I described earlier would almost certainly lead to civil unrest, if another referendum was granted then why not a fourth or a fifth? Welcome to the neverendum.
I do however accept that for many people in this country remaining in the EU is very important to them. What I would say to them is that you have to do the same thing that Leave voters had to do. I am not a Tory but I did vote for David Cameron’s Conservatives for the simple reason that they promised to hold a referendum on EU membership, I am sure I am not alone in being a Brexiteer who held his nose to achieve a bigger prize. So the answer is there, convince a major party to go in to a general election with a mandate to hold a referendum to join the EU. Get behind this party and get them elected, then go on to win the subsequent referendum. This is the democratic way to do it and whilst I do not wish you to succeed you have my full support in using this process since it is the correct way to do it.
Yet this lies at the heart of the clamour for a vote on the final deal, the Remain ultras know full well that once we leave the EU it will be practically impossible to convince the people to vote to re-join the EU. There is a clear democratic option open to them the legitimacy of which even the most hardened Brexiteer would accept. Remain won’t explore this option since I believe they suspect in the same way I do that once we are out it is over, we would never re-join.
One final note on Sisyphus, it is said by some that as he worked through his daily ordeal he did so with a smile on his face.