The will of the British people may change yet
March the 29th, 2017, is a date to be celebrated.
It’s the date the lies, the bluster, the cynical manipulation of so many decent British people began to be seen for what it is. The date facts began to emerge, centre stage. The date reality began to bite.
From now on, there is absolutely nowhere for the Brexiteer bullshitters to hide. Every inflated claim, pledge and promise will shrivel away as reality comes to bear. Many areas which voted Brexit are, tragically, going to suffer as they are sold down the river. Some of these places are the places that can least afford to hear any more bad news.
But bad news is coming. We go into these negotiations knowing that the best possible deal is worse than the one we are in the process of tossing away.
On March 29, the Prime Minister asked us all to come together now that an irreversible Article 50 has been triggered and that our departure from the EU is inevitible. We should give up the fight, she said. We should get with the programme.
Sorry, Mrs May, but no. That’s not how it works in a democracy. In a democracy, you get the right to speak your mind.
The Prime Minister also calls for the Remain side to stop resisting ‘the will of the British people’ (as though we were anything but) and respect the vote of June 23.
Two things on that: Democracy is not a point of singularity, never to be revisited. That would be known as totalitarianism.
And the referendum of June 23 saw a narrow majority of those who bothered voting, decide in favour of leaving the EU. That does not constitute the will of the people. The will of the people is not settled, it is divided.
That those voters were relentlessly lied to by a Leave campaign which never expected to win is today dismissed by our Remain-conviction Prime Minister with a shrug and a grimace as irrelevant.
That is a shameful, cowardly and morally bankrupt position for her to hold.
As though not being caught until after the theft is any defence for the thief.
Not a soul voted for this dogmatic and autocratic interpretation of what that vote meant, by a Prime Minister who is putting the unity of her party ahead of the unity of her country.
Well. We are where we are. But where we will be in two years time is what matters now.
Yes, there is plenty to be angry about (and we should stay angry*). But there is so much to hope for, too.
Those who acquiesce meekly at this point, despite knowing in their hearts and in their heads that Brexit is a potential disaster for the UK, do nobody any favours, 48 or 52.
There is so much at stake, and not just the economy which has dominated the debate to the exclusion of everything else. But our lasting peace in a violent continent, the chronic fragility of the United Kingdom, and the chance for our younger people – who voted overwhelmingly to remain – to enjoy the same benefits we have for so long now … all these things matter greatly.
Today they are in jeopardy. It’s not just our right, but our duty as democrats and as patriots, to keep articulating this.
It’s down to us, and all those who today are angry, as we are.
Keep reminding friends what was said before the referendum; about the money for the NHS, the fat trade deals just waiting to be done, the end of immigration, the single market and customs union privileges we’d continue to enjoy after Brexit, how Britain is going to enter a new era of global power and prosperity.
Don’t tire of telling them. Even – especially – when they tell you to shut up and ‘accept the will of the people’.
There are many who will think that by not giving up, we are damaging country. Even many ardent Remainers now believe the best course is to get the best deal we can and just accept Brexit.
But we’d rather take a leaf out of the Nigel Farage book of political tenacity. Yes, you read that right. Farage didn’t give up. He didn’t roll over. He didn’t accept he should shut up and go away. So why, now the boot is on the other foot, should we?
For our part, this newspaper – which started life as a four-week pop-up and is now publishing its 38th edition – will continue to challenge, to ask awkward the questions, to be a royal pain in the backside of those who would rather bury their noses in the Daily Mail and wish it was 1957.
And we’ll continue to bring faith, hope and clarity to the many millions of people who are, today, feeling angry and insulted that their opinion has been subsumed beneath the politically-motivated put-up job that is Article 50. (And it’s your continued support for this paper that sustains us. Thank you.**)
Why? Because it’s what we believe.
Why do we believe Brexit itself is reversible?
At it’s heart, the answer lies in Mrs May.
Though she gives every appearance of being an unexpectedly hardline dogmatist, she is not. The one thing we know about the unknowable Mrs May is that she is Remainer.
That she has, on a sixpence, become this hardline spearhead of a Hard Brexit, tells us more about her determination to hold the Tory party together than it does about her personal sense of conviction.
Theresa May is, perhaps, the biggest pragmatist in contemporary politics. And unless she manages, in fewer than 730 days, to pull off a miracle and secure everything the country was promised, the will of the people may change.
If people start losing their jobs, their homes, if food prices soar, if the quick trade deals they promised us fail to materialise, the will of the people may change.
And when (no need for ifs on this one) the real cracks start to show in political parties as riven by conflict over Europe today as they have even been, the charade that prompted this whole debacle will be daylight clear, and the will of the people may change.
And if the will of the people changes, it will find a way – as it always does – to be heard.
The how of a reversal is harder to define just now. But obstructing that will of the people would be nothing short of anti-democratic.
Article 50 is, definitely, NOT irreversible. Donald Tusk says so. Lord Kerr, who wrote the article, says so. The price of a reversal will be a political one. We believe that’s fair. It’s politics that got us into this mess, and if politics has taught us anything in the last twelve months, it’s this: Nobody knows anything.
Stay angry. Fight Brexit.
Matt Kelly, editor
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