AC GRAYLING: Sea change in politics is inevitable
PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 July 2018
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As part of his personal campaign to keep Britain inside the EU, the philosopher and academic AC Grayling has sent a letter to all MPs, highlighting two of the central fallacies of Brexit. We reproduce it here
I write to alert you to two highly significant considerations which have not figured in the Brexit debate to date, and both of which are directly relevant to you as a Member of Parliament.
One concerns a fact about the future relationship of the UK to the EU. The second concerns what must inevitably now happen to the constitutional and political order of the UK, together with implications for party politics, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process.
The first point is as follows.
An examination of the UK’s demographics shows that within three years from today’s date, the Remain section of the population will be 74% of the 51 million UK citizens aged under 55 years, and 37% of the 14 million people aged 55 years and over (estimated from the latest polling data by Survation on 7 July 2018). In other words, within three years there will be a large pro-EU majority in the British population.
Indeed, that Remain majority is already with us. The emphatic trend recorded by YouGov, polling on the same question since June 2016, confirms my own direct experience of speaking at meetings up and down the country, at which those attending grow more and more numerous; likewise, as you will be aware, every pro-Remain demonstration has been larger than the last.
In light of the fact that the Remain movement in the UK is vigorous, determined, vociferous, and growing, what will happen if some form of Brexit occurs is that this movement will work to have the UK rejoin the EU fully at the earliest date, and it will have the support of that large majority for doing so.
Therefore the Brexit process is futile. It will be reversed. It is doing an enormous amount of harm to our economy and our world standing already: history will look back on this period of turmoil with incredulity. Real statesmanship would bring this damaging episode to a halt now, before the excellent current membership terms we have with the EU are forfeited, ensuring that our return to the EU in a few years’ time will be on different terms.
The second point is as follows.
The referendum of June 2016 and everything that has followed has demonstrated the need for an examination of our constitutional order and our parliamentary system. An explicitly advisory referendum in which 37% of the electorate voted to leave the EU has been taken as mandating a Brexit, a truly astonishing constitutional dereliction. Every authority on our constitution from Bagehot and Dicey to Jenner and Bogdanor has insisted on the sovereignty of parliament, even in light of parliament’s own choice to devolve or share some parts of sovereignty with the smaller constituent states of the UK and with the EU. These derogations are reversible, and indeed you have witnessed just such reversal of derogation in the Withdrawal Bill recently enacted. In treating the 37% of the referendum electorate as sovereign, Parliament has abdicated its own sovereignty. In allowing the Henry VIII clauses of the Withdrawal Bill, Parliament has further abdicated its own sovereignty.
It should have happened that immediately after the referendum, Parliament assembled to discuss whether or not to take the advice of 37% of the electorate on the matter of the UK’s membership of the EU. It did not do so. It was dragged rapidly away by media and eurosceptic frenzy into a course of action which, apart from the serious economic and diplomatic damage it is doing, is constitutionally profoundly problematic.
Such things might happen if the membership of parliament at a point in its history were largely ignorant about or careless of the institution’s powers and responsibilities. But the key lesson to be drawn from the failure of parliament is that the party whipping system, which has forced so many of you to vote against your judgment and conscience, and the absurdly unrepresentative electoral system we have for elections to the House of Commons, require reform.
If we had a genuinely democratic because proportional system of representation in our state, the Brexit disaster would not be happening. Reform of our politics and constitution is now inevitable: the growing majority for EU membership is also a growing majority of dissatisfaction with how our government and parliament has behaved, and it is inevitable – inevitable – that the current system will have to change.
Were I you, I should wish to be in the vanguard both of rescuing our country from the debacle of Brexit, and ensuring that the best aspects of our system are retained while the worst are reformed in a mature and considered manner.
I recommend these two points to your careful attention.
Professor A. C. Grayling CBE