Negotiations over Britain’s exit have begun—but the process of leaving is an act of folly. Article 50 should be withdrawn, and another referendum heldby AC Grayling / June 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
When Theresa May called a general election in April, it was “to get a mandate for the Brexit negotiations.” She thereby confessed that she did not have such a mandate already; and indeed there never was a mandate for Brexit. The EU referendum of June 2016, advertised to all as “advisory,” resulted in just 37 per cent of the electorate voting to leave the EU (. By no democratic standard is that a mandate for anything, still less for a major and consequential constitutional change. The outcome of the general election has reaffirmed, and emphatically, that there is no mandate for Brexit.
Yet May is clinging gracelessly to power, by seeking help from a profoundly unappealing political group—and doing it with an unconcern not merely careless but dangerous for the Northern Ireland peace arrangements. What and who will she not sacrifice to keep power, even when her request for it was refused?
The general election demonstrated not only that there is no mandate for Brexit, but that the idea of a so-called “hard Brexit” is dead: the voters refused to rubber-stamp May’s extreme Brexit vision in the manner she thought they would. Because so-called “soft Brexit” is a pointless unsustainable fudge—explanation below—and because sentiment in the country is turning against the whole idea anyway, Brexit is dying. All that remains is to put it out of its misery, thereby to save the country from the misery that the mere idea of Brexit is causing and threatening further.
“One painful year after that profoundly flawed ‘advisory only’ referendum, and the UK is in a mess”
The Article 50 notification should be withdrawn. To draw a line under the mess we are in, another referendum should be held—with a properly constituted electorate including 16-17 year olds, all expatriates, and citizens of other EU countries resident in the UK, plus a supermajority bar as is standard in a properly run referendum. This way the real sense of all those affected by its outcome can be tested. The exposure of the falsehoods and fraudulences of the Leave campaign in 2016 means that debate leading to a second referendum has a chance of being more sensible. Ideally, voting in it should be compulsory.