Over a year on from the EU referendum, there are still many people, politicians and voters alike, who refuse to concede defeat and accept the result. This has worrying implications for the state of British democracy and also for voters’ trust in the political system. I have seen many people on social media say words to the following effect: “if the will of the people as expressed in the referendum isn’t respected and implemented, what’s the point in voting?” If fewer people vote, it would mean that politicians would become even less accountable to the people.
Around Europe, the EU and its supporters have a long history of ignoring referendum results that they don’t like, often forcing people to vote again until they fall in line with the superstate’s will. For example, last year the Greek people voted against the EU bailout plan, but they ended up being forced into a very similar plan regardless and the Greek finance minister was forced to stand down. There has been several cases of citizens being made to keep voting in referenda until they give the “right” answer, for example Denmark on the Maastricht Treaty, Ireland on the Nice Treaty and Ireland again on the Lisbon Treaty.
The European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pompously proclaimed in reference to the 2005 French referendum on the EU constitution: “If it’s a Yes, we will say, ‘On we go,’ and if it’s a No, we will say, ‘We continue.’” Source: The Telegraph. In the words of Jean-Claude Juncker: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties”.
Also of great concern is the level of elitism and snobbery towards those who voted Leave, implying that the masses are uneducated and shouldn’t be allowed to vote on such important matters. Many of the people who take this view claim to be progressive and tolerant, but this attitude shows them for what they really are. On the contrary, I believe that ordinary people are better placed to make decisions affecting their lives than politicians who, shielded by their own wealth, are often out of touch with voters’ concerns.
Many MPs have, thankfully, accepted the vote, however there are still those who claim that we didn’t really vote to leave the single market, advocating a half-Brexit. This is despite many politicians and activists on both sides of the pre-referendum debate saying that a vote to leave the EU would also be a vote to leave the single market. Indeed, many of the demands of the Leave campaigners can only be met if we fully leave the single market. Worst of all are those who still refuse to accept any kind of Brexit, and are calling for us to be made to vote again on any final deal. In the unlikely event that there is a second referendum and the exit deal is rejected by the voters, I think this should be taken to mean that the government would have to negotiate another deal, or even leave the EU without a deal at all. However, I suspect that many of the advocates of a second referendum (eg the Lib Dems) are secretly hoping that a rejection of the exit deal would mean that we would be forced to remain in the EU after all.
Once we have fully left the EU, I don’t have a problem with a political party advocating re-entry (although I would obviously disagree with that position and would never vote for them), but I think that trying to thwart our withdrawal from the EU before it has even taken place is very anti-democratic and shows a complete lack of respect for the voters.
It may be true that the referendum was only advisory, but to ignore or attempt to water-down the result would cause serious damage to our democracy and the public’s trust in the political class. It would lead to more people feeling even more disaffected and could ultimately lead to unrest in our society, which is something no-one wants to see.
At her Florence speech in September, Theresa May committed the UK to a two-year transitional period predicted to cost between £20billion and £40billion. We voted to leave the EU – we didn’t vote for any transitional period; we should be out as soon as two years has gone by from the triggering of Article 50. We can always make deals or negotiate after we leave, and be in a better position to do just that. May doesn’t seem to be working for the people. There is nothing in Article 50 about a transitional period. Both Cameron and the EU said before the referendum that leave meant leave. Now get on with it. May is far too wishy washy. She does not come across as strong, direct and sure of herself – more like a please everyone kind of person.
In conclusion, we need to ensure that our voice is fully respected by the politicians and that we fully leave the EU including the single market. This would not only ensure that the referendum result is respected, but would also increase people’s faith in UK democracy, and prove that unlike in previous EU referenda across Europe, the voters will not be ignored.