From the beginning, Brexit was more about the internal politics of British political parties than it was about serving the interests of the British people. As we approach the endgame, this farce continues. Some MPs, such as Chuka Umunna (Independent Group, formerly Labour), David Lammy (Labour), and Caroline Lucas (Green) have indeed stood up for the people, and for what is right, but sadly they are a small minority. The chaos of last week’s votes in the House of Commons, and the pathetic spectacle of Prime Minister May still trying to get MPs to support “her deal” after two defeats already by calling for an “honourable compromise“, only serve to reinforce the failure of the UK’s current political system. Our system of so-called democracy is unfit for purpose, and it is time that it was replaced.
I have often been asked by friends from oversease how we could possibly have arrived at such a situation, where 12 days before we are due to leave the EU, we have no idea of what will actually happen. I have written extensively about the half-truths upon which the original referendum was based, the voice of the 700,000 who marched on 20th October 2018 in London, and the need to use use powerful arguments that combine emotion and logic if we are indeed to convince people about the benefits of remaining. I have tweeted ad nauseam (much to the chagrin of some of my friends) about Brexit, and likewise shared my increasingly frustrated opinions on Facebook. As we rapidly approach the abyss of Brexit, let me just briefly share some of the most important failures that our Parliament (and by that I mean both Corbyn and May as leaders, as well as politicians on all sides who have failed to serve the interests of the people) have made.
- The 2016 referendum was advisory – and yet Parliament chose to see it as being definitive. A wise leader would have listened to the advice of the people, and then gone back to discuss what options there might be for a new deal in Europe before simply saying we would leave the EU. A wise leader would have led the people to do what is right, and in the interests of the country as a whole.
- In any case, the majority of British people did not vote to leave the EU. Yes, 52% of those who voted did indeed state they wanted to leave, yet this only represented 27% of the total British population. We should never have had a referendum that would permit such a tiny majority of those who voted in favour of leaving to determine the future.
- The leave campaign was corrupt and based on lies, and yet there have been long delays in bringing those involved to justice. In October 2018 Open Democracy reported that “Police (are) still not invesitgating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivies'”. The full extent of illegal funding, penalties for the blatant untruths promulgated during the campaign, breach of data laws, and dubious use of social media still remain unknown.
- Most MPs voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, including Theresa May, and yet they are now persisting in supporting some kind of Brexit. They knew what was right in 2016, and yet they have changed their minds in order to try to survive as elected politicians. Surely, we elect our MPs to do what is right for the country? If they believe deep down we should remain, then they should make this happen.
- Theresa May has been unbelievably hypocritical in not supporting a second referendum. She wanted to remain in the EU, and yet for two years has been championing “her deal” to leave, claiming that “the people have spoken” and another referendum would “damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy“. If she can change her mind, surely the people sbould also be allowed to change their minds? In the name of democracy, May is being undemocratic.
- Theresa May and her lead negotiating team failed to understand the European Union and its leadership. I have huge admiration for many of the UK civil servants who tried to deal with the complete failure of our politicians to understand the “European position”, but sadly they are not in able to tell the truth of what has been happening. It was therefore great to read the former UK ambassador to the EU, Ivan Rogers’ comments that May’s strategy was bound to fail because she did not understand the EU!
- Theresa May’s arrogance. Over and over again, May sought to dictate to the EU, telling the Union’s leaders what to do. As a Daily Telegraph headline in September 2018 read, “Defiant Theresa May tells EU ‘show us some respect'”. This arrogance is simply unbelievable, and I have great admiration for those in the EU who did not respond in a like for like manner, but instead still sought to negotiate on a consensus basis.
- The Labour leadership is as much to blame as the Tories for the situation in which we find ourselves. It has long been clear that Jeremy Corbyn has seen the EU as mainly serving the interests of the rich rather than poor. He thus suspects that the EU would resist the radical changes that he would like to make were he to be elected. Moreover, he has consistently argued that he would prefer to have a General Election, rather than a second referendum. His recent willingness even to consider another referendum appears only to have been driven by the dramatic loss of members of the party, and polls showing that his stance over Brexit is largely to blame. It is quite remarkable that despite the appalling performance of the Conservative goverment, most recent polls suggest that Labour remains behind in the polls. If, as seems likely, we do indeed leave the European Union, Corbyn will be as guilty as May for the long-term damage that will be done.
- May’s attempted bribery of MPs to support “her” deal. In an effort to persuade MPs to support “her deal”, May was accused of trying to bribe Labour MPs by announcing a £1.6 billion fund targeting Leave-voting constituencies; she has also been accused of trying to bribe DUP MPs to support her, both in the 2017 elections and also over the latest Brexit deals. Such behaviour is unsurprising for May, but is clearly unscrupulous and lacking in moral rectitiude. Apart from anything else, with the decliing UK economy it is very unclear how she will have the resources to pay her bribes.
- Leaving it until the last minute. May has sought to delay and delay, so that those who wanted a no-deal Brexit would have no choice but to vote for “her deal”. However, this has already had a devastating effect on the British economy, and means that we are quite unprepared for what might happen in 12 days time. The EU should call her bluff and not permit any extension.
I live in hope that we may somehow remain. My European friends, and apparently most wise European politicians do not want us to leave. However, remarkably, despite all of the evidence, many people in the UK still wish to leave the EU. That having been said, almost every poll in the UK since the summer of 2017 has indicated that a majority of people would now vote to remain in the EU. If most MPs originally voted to remain, and most people now want to remain, how can it be that our Parliament will not enable us to do so? They, and our parliamentary dmocracy are failing the people of Britain.