Image Credit: TeaMeister
I understand the frustration some people will feel when they read this title. I too am frustrated by Brexit. I’m not frustrated that Brexit hasn’t happened. For that, like millions of other people I’m incredibly grateful. I’m frustrated that the same MPs and lobbyists who pushed for Brexit now cannot agree on what form of Brexit to pursue. At the same time, it’s these same people who insist that everyone knew what they were voting for, to which their answer is Brexit. Despite the fact that even they can’t agree on what that is.
In 2016 we had a referendum on EU membership. The country voted to leave. But what leave meant was unclear. If any of the public want to mistrust Parliament over this Brexit fiasco, it should not be over some fake idea that MPs have “betrayed the will of the people.” It should be over the fact that Parliament was ever stupid enough to agree to a tool as crude as a referendum to try and settle such a complex question. Furthermore, it was a question that most people, if asked about five years ago, would not care about. So rather than getting annoyed at Parliament, let’s all get annoyed at the Conservative party, who tried to use us, and the whole country, to settle their internal divisions.
The problem with the original people’s vote (because that was also a so-called people’s vote) was that we were offering people a choice of something that hadn’t been negotiated yet. The result of that is that we ended up with a Brexit campaign of make believe and unicorns. We ended up in a situation where we are being promised continued access to the single market, but at the same time we’d be able to go and get amazing trade deals tailored to British needs all around the world. But getting those trade deals means changing standards. And trading standards which don’t align with the EU’s means no single market access. During the referendum, we often heard what now are obviously ridiculous arguments about how the German car industry would make sure we got a good deal; the reason being that they don’t want tariffs during their production stage as parts move multiple times between the UK and EU. The reality we’ve discovered is two very different points. Firstly, these multinational corporations are increasingly thinking about moving production out of the UK altogether. Secondly, something the EU cares about much more than losing a member or Brexit is preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market.
Furthermore, the idea that the EU 27 would argue amongst themselves, allowing us to negotiate one on one with individual EU countries has proved to be completely false. The EU has maintained a united face. The UK, however, feels it has been constantly arguing about Brexit for the last three years, whether that was at a rally, in a pub or in the cabinet. Back in 2016 we didn’t know the options that would actually be available to us. There are still a lot of misunderstandings, such as the idea of a “clean break” or that the UK can just “get on with it.” A no-deal Brexit is just the start of decades worth of negotiations. And disagreements over whether the UK is complying to a level playing field with the EU will characterise our future relationship.
We will be turned into a country that tiptoes across the world stage looking for free trade deals. For example, China cracking down on Hong Kong, well, don’t expect the UK to say anything. We’d need that deal with China, won’t we? Now we know what the options are: leave with Boris Johnson’s deal, leave with no deal, or move on with all of our lives and remain. Rather than a general election which will likely produce another Parliament as deadlocked as this one, what we really need is to go back to the people and let them have their final say. A public mandate on the better-defined options which are now a reality, not just soundbites. Politicians started this, it’s time that we, the people, finish it.