Dear UK citizen, registered voter or not,
I am writing to you today to tell you to not give up on your new-found political passion just yet. You need to contact your local representatives. Immediately.
We can still stop the Brexit being invoked or shape the negotiations that happen, and we can do it without subverting democracy. I think we can unify ourselves, from every corner of the political spectrum, under the agreement that both campaigns were awfully run. And that has masked the facts: the referendum was not ‘completely in’ versus ‘completely out’; there were ‘Remain and Reform’ ideas, as well as ‘Leave but keep close ties’. This leaves a lot of room for voters to have been mistaken and not feel now how they felt on Thursday.
There is a two and a half year period now where negotiations will start and happen. That’s two years under the law that allows us to leave (Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union) and about six months before the UK formally tells the EU we plan to enact article 50.
It’s been a strange sort of a month. And although it climaxed in a victory for the Leave campaign, the post-coital cuddling included the predictable chaos of the sterling and the not-so-surprising revelation that reclaiming that £350 million per week doesn’t guarantee any increased investment in the NHS. But, it’s not over just because someone climaxed.
The thing is, democracy is not the will of the majority. 52% of the electorate voted Leave; they did win. To be entirely clear on what they won, the referendum is not legally binding, it is only advisory. A good number of Brexit voters seem now to be regretful-Brexit voters. I’ve heard a lot of people saying they regret voting that way. There are a lot of reasons for that, including the threats of the dissolution of the United Kingdom, with talk of a Scottish referendum on membership of the UK and Northern Ireland discussing the re-unification of Ireland, but also the plummeting of the pound. Most bizarrely, there seemed to have been protest Brexit-votes from people who never actually thought it would win.
(For the record, as much as I support unity for its economic and social benefits, I fully understand why Scotland (overwhelmingly voted Remain) would want to leave the UK, to not be held to England’s Leave vote. But I would ask Scotland to give us a brief opportunity to figure out where we’re actually going.)
I say this to highlight what we can now do, without damaging democracy. We have until the UK formally tells the EU we wish to invoke article 50 to stop that from happening. That’s not necessarily undemocratic, and here’s why: Brexit voters were lied to. Not only was the £350m/week figure misleading (because we get a lot of that money back in science and research, arts and cultural and agricultural funding, among countless more things), but the suggestion that being given sovereignty of that money would mean investing in the NHS has now been revoked. We were lied to. Cornwall, who voted Leave (57%) are already calling for their EU funding to be protected, which suggests the voters were misinformed.
There’s several very interesting points to make about democracy after the referendum. Hopefully, interested people have looked into the accusation that the EU is not democratic; especially with the goal of comparing it to the UK. It is fair to say that the EU is more democratic. But the relevant points here are about flexibility and adaptability. Do we really believe that the UK should be held to a view it held on Thursday, given that the context has changed, lies have been revealed, and there are many regretful voters?
All of this is context and preamble to what it is you can still do. See, you have an elected member of Parliament whose job it is to represent you. They will find their job very difficult if you don’t actually contact them and tell them what you want. They should then stand up in Parliament and share that with the floor. Sure, if it’s just your MP, it’s all kind of useless. But, if everyone does it, then it isn’t useless. Write a letter, send an email (only Tweet if you absolutely have to), and encourage others to do the same. Shape the future.
Maybe you want Parliament to run a second referendum, for reasons outlined above. Or maybe you want them to block article 50 being invoked at all because the vote was based on mininformation and lies. Or perhaps you want to shape how the negotiations will happen, with suggestions and preferences. These are all things you need to contact your MP about, because their job is to represent you. They need to hear the voices of the people. If you are a regretful-Brexit voter, then your voice is doubly important! You are the voice that will stop your representatives hiding behind the referendum result to excuse their own laziness and ineptitude.