As I See It
May must pay heed to calls for Brexit rethink
No one knows how many flooded the streets of the city. A figure of 700,000 has been widely reported, but who was counting? Scotland Yard said it had no idea how many were there. It could have been half or twice that number.
Even so, if 700,000 is a reasonable estimate, then it would exceed the membership of the Labour party. It was also the biggest outpouring of public opposition to government policy since the anti-Iraq war protest in 2003. Both these statistics would make Remain one of the biggest political movements in Europe, especially if those who support it, but did not attend, are added to the total.
Describing the second referendum as a People’s Vote is a mistake and plays into the hands of those, including the Prime Minister, who argue that there has already been a people’s vote and that the people have therefore decided.
Well, to a degree. At risk of getting into historical tit-for-tat, there was also a referendum or People’s Vote on 5 June 1975 when the people that day chose to remain in what was then the European Economic Community. So the 2016 vote, far from setting the decision in stone, set a precedent for overturning an earlier verdict.
Far more important is that Britain takes the right decision rather than follow a single directive issued on 23 June 2016 to determine our future and the future of those who follow.
It is a nonsense to argue that a decision cannot be reversed. Any organisation, whether a business, a charity or a public authority, would always have a contingency plan if an earlier decision proved to be the wrong course of action. By way of example, RBS was instructed to sell or float hundreds of branches as a condition of receiving its bail-out from the taxpayer. The bank struggled to fulfil this requirement, ordered by the European Commission, and after much haggling it was agreed to scrap the plan and opt for one that was more workable.
No organisation with any regard towards good governance, management and commercial gain would plough on and pursue an objective that was clearly against its own interests. It may require a resignation or two, but sacrifices are necessary for the greater good.
So it is with the Brexit vote. It is now widely acknowledged that the public were asked to vote almost blind. Few understood the workings of the EU and EC. Fewer still had heard of the customs union (many would still struggle to explain it). Few considered the implications for Northern Ireland.
Since the vote we’ve had all sorts of other linguistic terms to grapple with – soft Brexit and hard Brexit, a ‘backstop’. None of this was known to the voters at the time, let alone the true costs and benefits of either leaving or staying in the EU. It was, in short, the most incompetent and embarrassingly poor political campaign in British history which has left us a divided nation and the laughing stock of the world.
In purely financial terms, even the process of withdrawing from the EU is costing Britain billions that could be more wisely spent elsewhere, a cost that makes another joke of the austerity programme and the supposed careful management of public finances that Mrs May’s government claims it is pursuing.
There are stories of thousands of interns and ‘experts’ being employed behind the scenes to advise ministers on how to handle the Brexit negotiations. In the meantime, the CBI says companies are losing patience with the government’s inability to progress talks and are already instigating contingency plans of their own, including cutbacks in jobs and investment. Businesses say they are beyond the point of no return. The warnings are no longer warnings, they are being implemented.
I admit that I voted for Brexit because I have always disliked the monolithic, remote and, to a great extent, unaccountable bureaucracy that the EU has always been (It is also why I’ve never understood how the SNP can slavishly favour membership of the EU and yet use these same arguments against Westminster to call for separation from the UK).
I still believe the EU to be a horrible mess of an organisation, but the benefits to trade are becoming increasingly obvious and having seen the complications of leaving I now believe the better solution is for reform from within.
Greater flexibility towards the issues that concern other member states, not just Britain would surely have satisfied many of those who, like me, voted to leave. With the benefit of two years ‘campaigning’ that we never had before the last vote it is now time to either confirm or reverse that decision.