13th December 2019
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash
Opinion

Opinion: Brexit and democracy

I am writing this in reply to the article by David Rouse (Opinion: Tribalism and polarisation, from Brexit to Catexit, published 14 February).

I am also a fairly ancient Brit, and resident in an EU country – Finland – though my own connections to Spain and in particular Catalonia go back to 1973.

David writes that he is enraged by the prospect of Brexit and in the next breath he says he is embroiled in a ‘surreal gigantic mess’, the blame for which he ascribes to the vote to leave the EU.

He says that the people who voted to leave did not know what they were voting for, and in his I have to say inappropriate (I am being restrained here) reference to demagogues like Goebbels there is even the suggestion that the people were gulled by lying propaganda.

One misconceived Leave advertisement on a bus could hardly have had much effect on voters’ minds, and in any case the case against it was made before the Referendum.

I write as someone who voted to join the Common Market in 1973 along with an astonishing 67.23%.

Although I live in an EU country and foresaw there might be some extra bureaucracy regarding my residential status here in Finland, I voted for Brexit because the issue is so important.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

I knew exactly what I was voting for, and it is clear, from what one is able to hear from others who voted likewise, they knew very well too, that to leave the EU meant to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, as it was stated repeatedly in discussions before the Referendum that the ability to strike our own trade deals was one of the major economic arguments for leaving and being in the Customs Union does not allow that.

There are some very important basic facts about the situation. Before the Referendum, in the government’s own leaflet that it sent to every household in the UK, it said that whatever the result of the vote it would be carried out by Parliament. (By the way David Cameron‘s government actually spent millions of taxpayers’ money on trying to persuade people to vote Remain). It was Parliament that decided to give the people a vote on the issue in a binding Referendum, and in it more people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything in the UK. Further, in the General Election of 2017 both the Labour and Conservative parties’ manifestos had policies in favour of leave. So there is a very clear democratic mandate to leave the EU.

So what is the problem?

The problem is that some Remain voters, including importantly and unfortunately MPs, do not accept the will of the people, and because they do not accept it they produce all kinds of arguments to try to disqualify the results of the Referendum and the policies in the election manifestos.

One of the main ones employed is that people did not know what they were voting for. This argument is often allied to the notion that the people are ignorant masses who cannot be trusted with such an important issue because they do not understand it. That comes across many times in blogs. I was actually told that by someone who was for 40 years a close friend and who has become decidedly distant since I told him I voted to leave the EU. That experience of mine has been echoed across the UK – the inability of many Remainers to accept the democratic result has its sad counterpart in Leavers being ostracised.

Only recently the Conservative MP Nikki Morgan who has long been continuing to work against Brexit said she supported the so-called Malthouse Compromise and has apparently been expelled from several Whatsapp groups.

Remainer MPs who cannot accept the democratic result are rather like Bertold Brecht‘s Stalinist rulers in Brecht’s poem Die Lösung (The Solution):

The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another? 

Another point. The idea that the media in the UK is generally biased in favour of Brexit is another Remainer argument but does not hold up at all.

The Guardian is fervently pro-Remain and anti-Brexit, and as it is among the broadsheets the only one that can be accessed without paying, people who rely on it are getting a very one-sided view. I know this by the way from conversations with colleagues of mine who read it who are astonished to hear arguments against what it is purveying. The Mail online is also free and that is pro-Remain too.

The BBC is very influential in framing the terms of the debate, as it does so by using such terms as ‘crashing out of the EU’ and using the term ‘no deal’ that is a very clever Pro-Remain term for leaving the EU and on WTO terms. Such terminology is part of Project Fear. The notion that BBC journalists are more pro-Brexit is patently inaccurate to the point of being laughable.

There is a whole other set of reasons for leaving the EU to do with what is wrong with the EU itself, and there is great deal to be said on that but I will not go into it now. Nor will I venture into David’s other topic of Catexit.

What I will say is that the betrayal by the powerful Remainer establishment of the Brexit that the people voted for, constitutes a colossal betrayal of democracy. If, as seems possible, it even results in the will of the people in the end being denied, the consequences for trust in democracy in the UK will be very damaging indeed.

Roger Noël Smith is a Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.  He speaks Catalan, is a Catalanophile, and is interested in Catalan culture and in particular art. He is author of The Paintings of Jacint Morera. 

If you’d like to contribute to our ‘Opinion, Blogs & Spanish Experiences’ section, please email us: editorial@spainenglish.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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