There has been a bit of a sea change in British politics in the last couple of weeks.
Since June 23rd Remainers have had to put up with their lot, accept the referendum result as if it were a binding expression of democratic will and start preparing for a post Brexit world, or face howls of outrage. I guess that is still the likely outcome, despite today’s court ruling.
But it has become more possible than it has at any time since the referendum to say publicly that I want to stay in the EU, and I hope very much that we find a way to get out of the fix that the vote for Brexit has put us in. Partly it is a matter of courage. Any expression of dismay with the result has been met with a explosive mixture of nastiness, aggression, scorn and abuse ever since. The level has not abated but I have begun to summon up the courage to take it on. Partly that comes from having worked out more firmly the reasons why I stand where I stand:
The referendum was not an instruction to Parliament. It was a snapshot of opinion. Opinion was different before, and it has again become different since. (Current polls are around 52-48 for staying in – the margin Farage said he would not accept.)
The majority was wafer thin, and it is quite right that our sovereign body – Parliament – should decide “whether” to pursue monumental, damaging and long lasting changes to Britain’s political and economic structures on the basis of such a tiny majority.
The vote was won on the basis of a mountain of lies from the Leave campaign and therefore has no moral standing. I do not buy the subsequent lie that both sides lied. The Remain campaign indulged in what I regard as the normal level of exaggeration and selectivity of a political campaign. It never approached the industrial scale of the Leave campaign’s lies.
What has happened since has also stiffened my resolve. Every Leave voter I have spoken to knows exactly what the vote meant for them and everybody else. The trouble is they can’t agree. I have read a number of accounts applying the alleged stages of change to the result. I read one today. It said there are four stages: denial, anger, chaos, renewal. Brexit has not been going through these stages. Brexit has been chaos ever since June 23rd. Nobody, least of all the government, has a clue what is going to happen. It is not wise to plan our long term future on the basis of chaos.
So I want to stay in the EU. I want to be part of reforming it so that it works for its citizens, not its elites. And I want to be part of reforming Britain as well so that it works for its citizens, not for its elites. I want the people who voted to leave because they feel ignored to have a government that is interested in ensuring that they have jobs, houses, a health system and a future that works for them. That means massive change in our political priorities. It does not mean leaving the EU.