Recently I stumbled across a clip on Facebook of what I can only imagine is one of the hottest talk shows of the modern age, The Wright Stuff. Within this clip a woman calls into the show following a discussion on the costs of Brexit, and what she said truly amazed me. After voting to leave the EU she had admitted to not exactly knowing what she had voted for and after a year of tumultuous negotiations, she now wishes that the referendum didn’t even happen in the first place. Here was one of those rumored individuals who I had been yet to meet or hear from, a Brexit voter who had changed their mind!
This was only paired with the remarkable news of the Lib Dems, who I am a member of, securing a vote on an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal bill for a final say on the Brexit deal. Now, as much as these two pieces of news tingled my pro-European senses many people, including those who voted for remain, feel antagonistic to the idea of a vote on the final Brexit deal. So that’s why I thought I might delve a little deeper into the issue and provide a rough break down of why I believe a referendum on the final deal is not only vital for the British public, but also for our nation’s democracy.
One of the first reasons for why I believe a vote on the final deal is necessary is one which is often negated in discussions over the subject, which is the simple unfairness in which this Conservative Government, and Labour opposition, are treating 48.1% of those who voted to remain in the 2016 EU referendum. All this talk of a hard Brexit led by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg completely neglects the views of nearly half the British population and a substantial amount of leave voters, who let’s be honest were not all voting to kick ourselves out of the single market.
This is primarily the reason why myself and most ‘remoaners’ I know would prefer a softer Brexit which consists of being a member of the single market and customs union, instead of plunging ourselves into an economic pitfall supported by the very fringes of our society. This would not only provide a Brexit more loyal to the views of the public but also help create the vital consensus that we need to heal the scars of our political divisions. However, if the government is determined in fulfilling the whims of the Tory Right then it is only right that we get a final say on Brexit, not just for the 48.1% but for those leave voters who are getting a rotten deal they didn’t vote for.
This leads on well to my second point and probably one of the most overused of the pro final vote arguments but a vital one nonetheless, which is that most people genuinely didn’t know what they were voting for. I mean I had absolutely no idea about Article 50 and the 2-year negotiation process until after the Brexit vote and the truth is most voters didn’t either. I hardly even remember any mention of the Northern Irish border during the referendum campaign and now it seems to be all we can talk about. This exactly proves the point our delightful caller to The Wright Stuff was making, those who were actually running the different campaigns had absolutely no idea of the consequences of Brexit.
So with Theresa May now talking about a longer transition process of up to 7 years isn’t it time that we had another referendum. A referendum where we know the true consequences and have all the facts in front of us. A referendum not on the principles of staying in or leaving the EU but on its realities and the final deal presented to us at the end of negotiations. Considering how things are going at the moment I really doubt that this deal will be that of which a lovely old lady in Sunderland voted for nearly 2 years ago.
Now I know exactly what I am going to be told now, ‘Aymen you are just a crying remoaner who can’t face the fact that your side lost. And you are being undemocratic by going against the ‘will of the people!’ Now to refute this claim regarding the ‘will of the people’ I will move onto my third point which is the most important reason for wanting another referendum, which is that we should have more referendums. I think for a while I was genuinely starting to hate direct democracy especially as my party had come on the wrong side of two substantial votes in the last few years, the EU referendum of 2016 and the AV referendum of 2011.
Nonetheless, in true liberal fashion, I changed my mind and started to see the real positives to direct democracy. If the Brexit vote truly had one benefit it was that those who had been previously unheard for years were now being listened to, the working class finally had a voice, and the establishment deservedly had a shock to its system.
I think referendums have a real power to make our government more accountable to the people and why shouldn’t it? On the largest issues of the day referendums stay true to the feeling and thoughts of the British people, so why don’t we have another one on the final Brexit deal? If these passionate ‘brexiteers’ truly believe in the ‘will of the people’ then there is surely no problem in asking them again. If you genuinely believe that what we have at the moment is what people voted for in 2016 I am sure the result will be exactly the same.
However, we must realize that those wanting a hard Brexit will never want another referendum because they are afraid the vote will go the other way. They don’t want the government to be accountable to the people they want the government to be accountable to their own hard-line vision of Brexit. If we truly want to live in a democratic society where large decisions are made directly by the people, for the people we need a final say on the deal. In the words of our current Brexit secretary and passionate Eurosceptic David Davis, ‘If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.’
So to conclude I will implore all of you to support the current amendment the Lib Dems have made to the Brexit bill and get your MPs, from whichever party, to give you the chance to vote on the final Brexit deal. If not for the 48.1% of voters cheated out of a future, if not for all the Brexit voters who have changed their minds and watch The Wright Stuff on Channel 5, then do it for our democracy.