Friday, 25 November 2016

There Isn't a Case for a 2nd Brexit Referendum

Both Tony Blair and Sir John Major have said that there is a case for a second referendum on whether we should leave the EU. Their reasons are:
  • We are sovereign people, and so we could change our mind;
  • We only voted on the principle, and not on the detail;
  • Government should not be organised on the tyranny of the majority;
  • There's no difference between a 'Soft Brexit' and staying in anyway.

This has been wildly leapt upon by Remoaners who are desperate to keep us in the EU at any cost as sure-fire reasons for a second vote. Here's my reasons why we shouldn't.

1. The EU and its supporters have past form on making countries hold referenda until they come to the right decision. Refusing to acknowledge the decision of the people is profoundly undemocratic. We could 'change our minds', but to be honest, it'd take a pretty seismic shift in public opinion to justify holding a second referendum. Anything else would look like naked political opportunism, which of course, it would be.

2. Many EU supporters claimed that we shouldn't be having a referendum in the first place, because it was too complicated an issue to be decided by ordinary people (translation: the plebs are too thick to vote the right way). So if a referendum on a general statement of direction (i.e. whether to stay in a quasi-federal union or not) is too complex, how on earth are us plebs going to cope with making a decision on a complex international treaty, which is the likely form that the Brexit deal will take? This position holds no logic whatsoever.

Referenda are useful democratic tools for providing direction, i.e. should Scotland stay in the UK, should the UK stay in the EU, should we change the voting system etc. What they are not very good for is working out fine details. That is better left to elected representatives. We had a referendum on the direction, and the direction was given. It is now up to Government and Parliament to work out the details. That's what we pay them for.

3. True, Government should not be based on the tyranny of the majority. However, neither should it be based on the tyranny of the minority, which is decidedly worse. However, the Government's approach is not majoritarian tyranny - it is actually attempting to build in the views of those who voted to Remain, by setting out its intention to either remain a member of, or retain access to, the single market. Concessions are being offered in the light of the fact that, although the Leave campaign won, it was a narrow victory. Similar efforts were made after the Scottish independence referendum. The No campaign won, but a sizeable portion of the Scottish electorate voted Yes. The consolation was a significant extension of devolutionary powers to the Scottish Parliament.

We aren't running the Government on majoritarian tyranny - if anything, the Government is trying to accommodate the views everyone. If anyone is being intransigent, it is the hard core Remoaners.

4. Whether there is a difference between 'Soft Brexit' and staying in the EU, is very much open for debate. It depends entirely on the detail, and there is not a simple binary option between 'hard' and 'soft' as many seem to play it. It depends on the outcomes of the negotiations, which are in the hands of our elected representatives.