The Brexit referendum was so damaging that we should avoid holding another at all costsby Melvyn Bragg / December 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
Beware of holding another Brexit referendum. The first one damaged the country immensely, and a second could make matters even worse.
Primarily the referendum diminished our respect for the constitution. It took centuries for this country to arrive at the electoral system it now has. Blood was spilled, vested interests challenged, ideals fought for. But every few years the electorate can dismiss those who govern us and there is room to think again.
The Leave vote, on the other hand, has been presented as a sacred text. It was one vote at one time yet it carries the curse of absolutism.
Rarely can a single vote have portended so much self-harm: according to every sensible account this country will be poorer, less influential and most of all less free than it was. Meanwhile the Foreign Office, which was widely thought to be the Rolls-Royce of the diplomatic world, will now resemble an old banger.
There is something of a Moonie cult about the parliamentary “Brexiteers.” The word suggests musketeers, valiant chaps out to right wrongs; the Brexiteers on the other hand are wronging rights. Coverage is given to wildly unrealistic statements which the blusterers themselves know are untrue: the wrecking ball of the referendum has given us politicians who take the public for fools.
Remainers are derided. But this country is built on the persistence of those who fought for unpopular viewpoints. It is hard to believe that over 48 per cent could be dismissed like this.
So what is the answer? For some, it lies with a second referendum. I can see the appeal. But the first was so damaging, we should now strive to avoid referendums altogether. Instead, if Brexit is to be reversed—or if Britain is to rejoin the EU in future—then it should be done through usual democratic means. The referendum deserves far less status than our regular election votes.
Europeans wonder where our British sense of moderation has disappeared to. But people do not know where to turn. They have been locked in. Processes that took centuries to construct have been dealt a hammer blow and the losses will be severe—whatever happens next.