Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Some Leave voters have every right to be angry. They just need to work out who with.

So quite an extraordinary act took place last week. 3 judges from the High Court in London made a decision on a technical point of law and sent the news and the political sphere into overdrive. This doesn't happen very often, but given the topic they were ruling on this was hardly surprising. They were passing judgement on a case brought by a group of private citizens against the UK Government on the specific legal steps the government must take to invoke Article 50 of the EU - that is to start the formal process of Brexit.

This has been jumped on, by members of the public and experienced politicians alike as an attempt to derail the democratic will of the UK - that we want to leave the EU. The majority have spoken, and here are a bunch of bremoaners trying to stop that from happening. Is that the case though? Our democracy that has been hard won and hard protected now under attack? Certainly during the Leave campaign much was made of our governance, rights and democracy tying back to the Magna Carta and being uninterrupted since then. Is someone trying to run roughshod over that?
I believe the answer is an unequivocal yes. Should Leavers be angry? For some of them, I think they have every right to be.

Lots of leavers voted that way for lots of different reasons. I think it is a real shame that so many have wanted to tar them all as racists. Some Leavers had decided, long before any cases were put forward that they wanted to Vote Leave. That is absolutely fine. It is a democracy. We don't get a right to limit the vote to only people who consider issues in the way that we do. It is the system we have. But over the course of the referendum campaign, there were really 4 key issues that were used to push the Leave vote. Firstly, to take back control of unchecked immigration. Secondly, to take back control of our laws and rulings. Third, that we would be able to create new and better trading relationships with a wider range of partners. Finally, that we could save money paid in to the EU and use this, for example, to give the NHS an extra £350 million a week. 

These 4 issues, when combined and brought together, spoke to the very heart of the issues a large group of people care about. It spoke to our national pride and national strength. Anyone arguing against this could easily be derided as not patriotic (I know this, because I took this claim fairly regularly). But I can see the emotional flow of that argument. These claims were pushed very strongly, not just by the official campaign, but by UKIP and the majority of the British press too. 

It's quite easy to see, when someone is faced with this level of emotional argument, and see a set of factors that are so clearly wrong and unjust, that they expect everyone else to see it too. I actually wonder why there wasn't more aggression and violence. But also, if you have been given this story, you would assume that once through the referendum, this horrible situation would be remedied quickly. No more EU, no more money paid, no more immigration, control back in your hands.

Unfortunately, they have been both badly let down, and badly lied to. Firstly, David Cameron has let down not only Leavers but everybody in the country. This referendum was only ever meant to kill off UKIP. There was never any intention within government that Remain would actually lose. For this reason, there was never any clarity or honesty as to what would happen if they did. The government didn't even make contingency plans for that outcome. Just imagine that, a government not planning for a possible outcome of a binary referendum. Leave was never on the cards. Why else do you think the PM immediately resigned?

The other effect of this is that there was never any clarity given on how we would or could leave and what leaving would free us from. Had government departments been allowed to work on both outcomes then a clear option would have been given. Stay, and you get A. Leave and you get B. Unfortunately, this was taken away from the electorate. Instead, the Vote Leave campaign, UKIP and press barons were allowed to fill the void where official government guidance should have been. 

A really good example of this is shown by the reaction to the court case last week. The legislation which allowed the referendum was quite clear that it was advisory. Any decision was always going to be subject to British laws and British government - in the shape of the houses of parliament. But if you have been told for three months - you, personally - that you were taking back control, wouldn't you be shocked to now hear that? I would be. 

But this belief that people were given, came quite clearly from UKIP, Vote Leave and the press. It is therefore not at all surprising that all of those bodies have immediately come out and attacked the judges and the law of this country. Not because they ever believed it. But because the alternative is that this raw emotion they have unleashed turns on them to hold them to account for selling them a fairytale. 

Indeed, the judges had not made any ruling on whether we could or couldn't or even should or shouldn't leave the EU. They were purely ruling to say that British Law must be followed. However, social media and the mainstream media were awash with this attempt to stop Brexit by these judges. Never mind the fact that reading of it is completely untrue - UKIP, The Daily Mail, The Express all presented it as an attempt BY THE JUDGES to stop Brexit. In fact, in ever more dangerous behaviour Nigel Farage has called on people to march on the Supreme Court. Because nothing says respect for the rule of law like attempting to intimidate judges. 

Of course, this is just one example where a lack of planning and honesty is going to cause problems. There was never any decision or agreement on whether we would have any future relationship with Europe at all. This was not covered in the referendum. We were given a binary choice between the status quo and whatever the Leave campaign wanted to sell us. So it is far from certain whether our final leaving deal will include: Trade tariffs, freedom of movement, single market access, accepting some European rules. But the Leave camp have already sold all of these things. Given the level of emotion they have plumbed and brought to the surface, this could lead to even greater anger in the future. 

If you voted or now want to Leave, I would not expect any other outcome. But it is time to look at what you have been sold, and whether you actually want it. And if you do, what should it look like? The problem is that other Leavers might have a different view from you. There is no way you can all be kept happy. So, you have every right to be angry. But be angry with David Cameron for making a mess of such an important democratic process. Be angry with those who have lied to you. But don't be angry with the courts. Once this is all over, it is likely they will be the only ones left to us. Do you really want to damage them to the point that they can no longer hold the government to account?

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