It beggars belief that Brexit has escaped basic parliamentary democracy

I thought that in the UK, we had a parliamentary democracy. We elect representatives to tackle, understand, debate and ultimately enact legislation in order to build a cohesive, fair and prosperous society.

OK, our politicians have seen fit on a few occasions, to gauge the mood of the country and seek ‘advice’ from the electorate on a singular matter of importance, via a referendum. Surely, under these circumstances, that received advice should then be subject to the normal process of parliamentary understanding , debate and action as parliament sees fit. In this way the factors of cohesion, fairness and prosperity are woven into our democratic process.

It beggars belief therefore, how we have ended up in a situation where the most ambiguous of advice, given by the recent referendum on Brexit seems to have escaped this most basic of processes. The Government that was ‘not neutral in this matter’ some four months ago, seems to have reversed polarity in the blink of Tory leadership election and think that it is OK to do, the extreme opposite of what it was originally advising us do, without anybody questioning this bizarre state of affairs. It seems that our political leaders have failed to exert the authority of parliament and it has been left to a group of private individuals to exert this constitutional argument in the current high court case of Santos & M v Sec. of State. Whilst this may resolve an important point of law it will not pay heed to the important principles laid out above, especially in respect of cohesion and the wishes of some 16.1 million citizens. Unless the government seeks to build consensus on the Brexit vote this country may be divided for decades to come.

Rather than focusing on scrutiny of the negotiations and terms of the Brexit deal (Nick Clegg et al), our political representatives need to stand up for parliamentary democracy, honour their pay cheques and insist that due process is followed (before Article 50 is invoked). In this way, not only will the government have, or will not have, the political authority to act, but they will have the mood of the House, against which they can set the framework of any negotiations. Only then can the country go forward and our politicians held to account for the decisions they make on our behalf. If this precedence of blind compliance with referendums is allowed to stand, who knows what the next issue is going to be. Who will be the next minority to be disenfranchised . Anybody got a suggestion as to the next such issue? Hanging maybe? Dissolution of the monarchy? Oh! forgot, we did that one 400 years ago, and then brought it back; echoes?

As Edmund Burke said in 1774:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

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48 Comments

  • Ethics gradient 26th Oct '16 - 3:04pm

    Hi,

    I agree that parliamentary process should be sovereign and that our system is a representative democracy.

    This is the bit I do not get though:

    When the referendum bill was passed to pave the way for the referendum. The bill was debated and it was agreed that if leave won (not expected) then this would meaning the UK would leave trigger article 50 and leave.

    There…. that was the parliamentary scrutiny and the parliamentary approval for the triggering of Article 50.

    It seems entirely consistent with due process that the government will now leave (for the reason given above) while at the same time negotiate what sort of relationship the UK-EU will have after the 2 years. During that negotiation parliament should be involved in debates.
    But it is for the executive to decide positions/negotiate and then parliament to then debate the deal/outcome and either support that or not.

    I just cannot see any logic to the notion that parliament needs to debate/vote on Article 50/ the actual decision to leave… because it has already do so in the assent of referendum bill.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '16 - 3:10pm

    Parliament can be just as oppressive and undemocratic as referendums. Parliament doesn’t have a divine right, it has the rights we give it and people need to think about that before saying referendums don’t matter.

    Above all, you have to gauge the mood of the country. Sometimes people change their mind, sometimes they don’t.

  • John Peters 26th Oct '16 - 3:23pm

    I expect your elected representatives will give Brexit just as much consideration as they did CETA.

  • Parliamentary democracy disappeared when the Lisbon Treaty was foisted upon the UK – if there ever was such a thing.

  • Why on Earth did we waste all that money and time having a referendum if Parliament was just going to ignore the result?

  • @Paul Carroll “I thought that in the UK, we had a parliamentary democracy. We elect representatives to tackle, understand, debate and ultimately enact legislation in order to build a cohesive, fair and prosperous society.” – Well no, not really. I don’t think you understand how this works at all… In the minds of most people, we elect a government based on their manifesto and we expect them to implement their manifesto (i.e. do what they promised). This is why one of the things politicians and parties are punished most harshly for is breaking promises.

    It is why one of the most common complaints about politicians is that they often don’t keep their promises.

    It is probably why Zac Goldsmith felt the need to resign and let his electorate either endorse or reject him.

    And it is why most people support FPTP, i.e, they want to actually be able to elect a government based on a written manifesto and hold them to account if they fail to deliver it rather than choose the balance of a debating society where no one party will have a majority to deliver on all its promises, and have the perfect excuse for not doing so.

    “OK, our politicians have seen fit on a few occasions, to gauge the mood of the country and seek ‘advice’ from the electorate on a singular matter of importance, via a referendum. Surely, under these circumstances, that received advice should then be subject to the normal process of parliamentary understanding , debate and action as parliament sees fit.” – Again, not really. In practice a referendum is more than just asking the public for a bit of advice, that’s what public consultations are for. In practice a referendum is parliament deciding to give the public the final say on a matter. That’s certainly what the public expect anyway, and if MPs disagree and think a referendum is merely a bit of advice they had better shut up and learn their place or they can expect the public to give them their P45 at the next election.

    If the average voter read what you have written I think they would be quite angry.

  • @wg – The signing of the Lisbon treaty by Brown, simply showed the sorry state that Parliamentary democracy had descended to. May’s current actions show that nothing has improved since then. I doubt leaving the EU will change matters…

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '16 - 5:13pm

    Additionally, hardly anyone believes the House of Commons alone should be able to instigate constitutional change, so the alternative to referendums is relying on the House of Lords, which is arguably less democratic than referendums.

    In Ireland, to change the constitution there needs to be a referendum, as an example.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '16 - 7:18pm

    I was probably a bit harsh on parliaments, considering I support parliamentary democracy, but if remain won and a leave parliament took us out there would be absolute uproar and talk about “parliamentary sovereignty” would quickly diminish.

  • “Unless the government seeks to build consensus on the Brexit vote this country may be divided for decades to come.”

    This worries me. I suppose it would be an easy shot to say,.. you lost the referendum, you need to get over it.?
    But I’m trying to be more circumspect when I acknowledge that the voter ‘contents’ and ‘malcontents’, numbering 17.4 million to 16.1 million respectively, are frankly, not going to come together any time soon. What is worse, is that even if Tim got his way with a second referendum to overturn the first, and could flip that vote inversely into a 17.4 million to Remain in the EU, and a 16.1 million to Leave,.. Would that seriously constitute a win?
    I see something bigger going on here within this deep and irresolvable ‘binary’ anger between voter malcontents and contents, and it frankly troubles me. I’m beginning to question if the UK is even now governable,.. in the sense of being governed by mutual consent.? Indeed,.. I’ll go further in light of the Clinton,.. Trump fiasco.
    I apologise, that my missive takes the topic somewhat off topic, but I’m beginning to wonder,… in the bigger picture, if in the light of groundswell anger, the West generally,… is becoming ungovernable, by mutual consent.?

  • John Peters 26th Oct '16 - 8:19pm

    @J Dunn

    I think you are being alarmist. I doubt there are even a million malcontents given that MoreUnited.uk can’t even raise 60 thousand.

  • Barry Snelson 26th Oct '16 - 10:07pm

    This proposal to ignore the Referendum result simply says to 17 million people “you were stupid to vote to leave and even more stupid to think your opinions were worth a light.”

    Will that 17 million be grateful that they have been rescued from their own folly? Will they accept that we can now “go forward” happily together?

    I believe that the Leave vote was our biggest disaster since losing the American Colonies and will cost us dear but treating 17 million with such utter contempt and disrespect will yield a bitter harvest.

  • The Lib Dem candidate for Richmond agrees that Brexit means Brexit.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/26/lib-dem-brexit-referendum-candidate-says-people-must-accept-refe/

    “However, in a blog post written on 14 October, Ms Olney said: “Britain is leaving the EU – OK, I accept that. I don’t think we should re-run the referendum. I think we should stick to the course that has been decided.

    “But, as someone who didn’t want this course of action, I have some questions. I want some clarity on certain things. I want my representative to be able to stand up in Parliament and ask those questions.

    “What we need, more importantly than anything else at the moment, is to come together. We need to unite Remainers and Leavers both in Parliament and in the country at large.

  • Barry Snelson 26th Oct '16 - 10:33pm

    “What we need, more importantly than anything else at the moment, is to come together. We need to unite Remainers and Leavers”

    When the first car factory moves away that “coming together” might be violent.

  • John Peters
    “I think you are being alarmist. I doubt there are even a million malcontents given that MoreUnited.uk can’t even raise 60 thousand.”

    I totally appreciate your point,.. but as we have witnessed before,.. malcontents don’t always ‘officially’ register their malcontent(edness) on anyone’s radar,.. sometimes they just seethe [by their millions], quietly in the shadows,.. biding their time, until they are able to strike like ‘shy’ malcontents.?

    It’s not my intention to be alarmist. I just observe that the populations of the West [UK and USA], are collectively giving the middle finger,.. to the establishment,.. to the career political classes,.. to the ‘experts’,… to the bias of mainstream ‘liberal’ media.? And inversely,.. the establishment,.. the career political class,… the self certified experts, are telling the discontented populists that they are too stupid and uneducated to know what’s good for them..?

    I ask you,… where do you think that ‘binary’ of visceral discontent is going, and is there any,.. effective government, that can reconcile that dissatisfaction, and govern for all.?

  • @Ethics – “The bill was debated and it was agreed that if leave won (not expected) then this would meaning the UK would leave trigger article 50 and leave.”

    Point out where exactly in the Referendum bill the above is explicitly stated. Unless Parliament actually voted for such a clause within the bill, it did NOT consent to this. Need I point out how dangerous a concept “assumed consent” is since we can claim Parliament consented to anything & everything if we just start assuming they backed measures that are not in the acts they passed.

  • Ethics gradient 27th Oct '16 - 12:18am

    @Paul,

    An absolutely valid point you make Paul. I definitely agree, neither myself, anyone else and certainly not parliament should make any sort of support for any ‘assumed consent’ . As you say, super dangerous.

    I will go and take some time to look up the referendum bill and see clearly what was agreed and drafted.

  • Ethics gradient 27th Oct '16 - 12:32am

    @Paul

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0002/16002.pdf

    I just worked through all 47 pages of that. Yes I would a agree there is no article within the bill relating to outcome. All about how the referendum was to be held. I don’t think I will go though looking at various commons debates regarding the referendum bill.

    I withdraw and refute my own original post.

  • Mark Goodrich 27th Oct '16 - 1:24am

    @Ethics gradient – I would just like to commend you for being open-minded and listening to reasoned argument. More of that please!

    There was a fundamental problem with the referendum bill in that it was clearly expressed as an advisory referendum but then everyone started treating it as if it was binding. Paul’s rhetoric above is a bit overheated but the arguments are sound and it is evident that Parliament should have a role in the triggering of Article 50.

    Frankly, I am amazed that the Government is so unsure of its position that it is not willing to put it to a Parliamentary vote.

    Here’s an interesting proposition for an opposition motion – a one clause bill requiring parliament to vote on any triggering of Article 50!

  • Conor McGovern 27th Oct '16 - 3:51am

    Eddie Sammon’s completely right – when Parliament want to subvert the aims of the majority in a referendum, does it really hold the democratic high ground over the people?

  • Daniel Walker 27th Oct '16 - 8:24am

    @El Sid “And it is why most people support FPTP, i.e, they want to actually be able to elect a government based on a written manifesto and hold them to account if they fail to deliver it rather than choose the balance of a debating society where no one party will have a majority to deliver on all its promises, and have the perfect excuse for not doing so.

    Polls indicate majority support for a more proportional voting system, and you can’t “hold them to account” under FPTP unless you live in a marginal. Each vote isn’t equal. FPTP works, for certain values of “works” if and only if you have exactly two parties, and even then you can end up with massively unfair results if one party’s winning margins are much smaller overall than the others, as the “excess” votes are wasted.

  • Allan Brame 27th Oct '16 - 8:50am

    @ElSid
    “they want to actually be able to elect a government based on a written manifesto and hold them to account if they fail to deliver it”
    Yes, the Tory manifesto pledge to remain in the single market looks unlikely to be kept. I hope voters will know what to do

  • Polls indicate majority support for a more proportional voting system

    A poll commissioned by the electoral reform society, who are hardly neutral on the matter.

    I suspect the level of support would drop significantly if people were asked, ‘would you like the UK to move to a more proportional voting system, even if it meant that there was unlikely to be a single-party government again and coalitions would become the norm?’

  • Allan Brame 27th Oct '16 - 9:27am

    @Dav
    Whereas if you asked ‘would you like to end a system which gives complete power to a party which three quarters of the population did not vote for’, support for PR might rise again.

  • Our parliamentary democracy is defective – not least in using the first past the post system. Makes no sense to promote its wishes ahead of the popular will expressed in a referendum that parliament itself approved.

  • Catherine Bearder 27th Oct '16 - 12:17pm

    Of course the one parliament where British elected representatives sit that will be key to approving any deal and thus ultimately Brexit is the European Parliament. How we influence our political groups and their votes will be key. Finally it’s possible the Westminster establishment may wake up and realise MEPs have a very important part to play in the future of our country – just as we have had for years.

  • William Ross 27th Oct '16 - 1:25pm

    I can never quite get over the extent of LibDem political denial. Did we not recently have a referendum on an AV system? Frankly, it was a referendum nobody really wanted ( unlike the EU referendum) and Cameron was forced into it as a result of doing a coalition deal with Nick Clegg. The people spoke clearly, but maybe Parliament, under enlightened Lib Dem guidance, might simply enact a proportional voting system?

    If my own country of Scotland had voted for independence in 2014 ( which I supported) could an enlightened Parliament then have scrutinised the result and voted it down?

    The meaning of “Leave” is perfectly clear: an end to EU law and the powers of the European Court of Justice; the supremacy of UK law; a UK immigration policy and the end of our contributions to Brussels under the EU treaties. In short we will become ” an independent sovereign” country again. Or, as we might say. ” take back control” Simple.

    Lets do it.

    To try to ignore the people`s will, expressed in a fair vote held pursuant to Parliament`s express authority is massively reckless. There is a possibility that our country could become ungovernable.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Oct '16 - 2:33pm

    It’s not that the USA and U.K. have become ungovernable, it’s that they have become divided with many people living their lives with no hope of improvement because the economic policies followed since the 80s have failed the poor and the weak in both countries. These people are voting for Trump and also voted Out. Of course not everyone who voted Leave is in this situation as there were many reasons people objected to the EU.
    I am concerned that we are seeming to ignore the will of the people, which, as upholders of democracy, we should be defending. However, I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a parliamentary vote on the result of negotiations and a second referendum to see what the people think at that point.
    It looks as if we will be forced into hard Brexit by the EU without any safety net of trade deals with other countries if it is illegal to negotiate with them before Brexit is signed sealed and delivered as Australia seems to think. This was not the position outlined by the Brexiteers.
    In the mean time we, the Lib Dems, must develop social and economic policies that offer hope to those people who are trapped by the present system at the same time as we call for parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations with the EU. With Labour led by Corbyn we are the only party that can do this at the same time as encouraging business to thrive. It may be that we can propose redistributive taxation, without the usual outcry from the wealthy if in return they can maintain their business interests in the EU.
    Personally I favour inheritance tax as a means of redistribution but others may think differently.

  • Allan Brame – Re: PR
    I think you have grasped the issue, namely, ask the right question.

    PR like all other voting systems will fail to gain traction on a simple vote on voting systems because compared to FPTP, they are all complicated.

    However, if you ask the type of question you suggest – which is similar to the referendum question, you would most probably get a vote in favour of change; leaving Westminster to resolved the details of a voting system that would satisfy the voter demand.

    I suspect this (the relative complexity of each option) is an additional reason why holding a referendum on the style of Brexit is questionable. However, this shouldn’t prevent both HoC and HoL debating the government’s Brexit proposals, even if it means doing it in closed/private sittings.

  • William Ross 27th Oct '16 - 4:19pm

    Sue

    I am glad that you recognise that not all Leavers are ” Trump” voters in Blighty. Polling by Lord Ashcroft shows that Leavers were principally motivated by sovereignty concerns and our ability to control our borders ( like any normal country).

    There cannot be a second referendum on the terms because that means that the EU can grandstand us with our Remainers like Clarke, Soubry and Clegg working with them. No, the vote was Leave the EU and that must be carried out. There is nothing to stop you seeking a new vote to re-enter the EU.

    On trade, note that 55% of our exports already goes to non-EU destinations. ( under these awful unworkable WTO rules) There is nothing to stop us negotiating trade deals with non-EU countries before we leave– we cannot make them effective.

  • Steve Trevethan 27th Oct '16 - 5:17pm

    Even if this horse or elephant has bolted, it might be wise to promote legislation which manages, even to the point of elimination, referenda/referendums/referendumbs so that everyone is, at least, thoroughly informed about the “rules of the game”. [This might help the PM. and our MPs]

    The same applies to “orders in council”.

    The combined use of the referendum and the “order in council” is authoritarianism with a populist mask.

  • “..it might be wise to promote legislation which manages, even to the point of elimination, referenda/referendums/referendumbs ”

    Yes,.. lets remove the franchise of a democratic say from dumb people. They only go and waste it on stupid things like,… trying to improve their lives.?

  • Paul J Carroll 27th Oct '16 - 6:01pm

    Thanks to all for taking the time to think about this post and offer comment.

    The original title for the post was, ‘It aint what you do, It’s the way that you do it’
    I thought it was pretty catchy but the editorial team had their own ideas.

    The situation we find ourselves in is a mess on so many levels and I feel that the way it is handled is as important as what is done. In fact the two are intertwined. Between iners and outers, the UK and the EU, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, I don’t think we have got off to a good start.
    We haven’t exactly been graceful to our soon to be ex-partners. From Nigel Farage’s outburst in the European parliament to Theresa May’s speech to the conservative party conference. The nation is split roughly 50:50 on this issue and ‘Brexit means Brexit’ comes across as completely dismissive to people who voted to remain. In addition, there doesn’t appear to be much listening going on to the voices of the devolved governments. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain and the union is being pulled apart.

    What we need more than ever is time to reflect and find consensus before we lose control of this situation. The reason for a parliamentary vote on Article 50, apart from the constitutional argument, is to allow a voice for these concerns and ensure that the government is listening. The truth is that once the Article 50 notice is issued events are outside of our control.

    There is no point in having a vote on the deal negotiated between the government and the EU. If parliament reject the deal the UK would just fall out of the EU after two years and be treated like any other external country. That is of course unless we go to the ECJ and get them to rule on whether an Article 50 notice can be withdrawn. Even If it is, it will not help as this will just add another complication to the nature of the negotiations.

    In order to remain united as a nation some people are going to have to sacrifice their beliefs on this issue. It is incumbent on the Brexiteers at this point to be sensitive to this sacrifice and value it, if it is not going to fester and lead to recriminations later. Likewise, the fat lady has not sung yet and if the boot is on the other foot the same consideration needs to be paid. I sincerely hope my misgivings are unfounded.

  • John Peters 27th Oct '16 - 6:18pm

    Have you any evidence to suggest the nation is split 50:50? Things have rather moved on since the Referendum and most people seem happy for Brexit to proceed. Most of the sour grapes seems to have evaporated along with the snowflakes.

  • Steve Trevethan 27th Oct '16 - 6:41pm

    The Swiss have frequent referenda and everyone knows the rules. They are a regular and transparent part of Swiss democracy.
    The party political use of the once in a generation referendum where no one seems to know the rules of information accuracy and what to do afterwards, is inefficient and easily manipulated.
    Either use the referendum tool frequently and with clear regulations or do not not use it at all.
    When the power to call/enforce a referendum is arbitrary, opaque ,unaccountable and inaccessible to the public, can the consequent imposed referendum be considered to be securely democratic?

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Oct '16 - 7:13pm

    Paul J Carroll 27th Oct ’16 – 6:01pm
    “There is no point in having a vote on the deal negotiated between the government and the EU. If parliament reject the deal the UK would just fall out of the EU after two years and be treated like any other external country.”

    Thank you! I am so tired of this simple fact being ignored, glossed over or pretended out of the way. The problem is that it makes a complete nonsense of this party’s official position. At some point, it’s going to have to be rethought – and then what?

  • “The party political use of the once in a generation referendum where no one seems to know the rules of information accuracy and what to do afterwards, is inefficient and easily manipulated.”

    The true value of any referenda is, hopefully,.. clarity.

    A referenda that works, is not just a consolidation of popular consent, it is a decisive fork in the road for majority approval.

    The bad news of a referenda is that a roughly 50:50 split, solves very little, but gives politicians at least, the necessary kick in the pants to make radical changes.
    The good news is that a definitive referenda decision, gives social stability. By way of example,.. Does not the province of Crimea, give us a clue to a populous deciding for themselves,.. what they want.?
    We’ve been led to believe by our media, that Russia ‘annexed’ the Crimea,.. [presumably against their will..?]. But surely the fact that Crimea is stable and not in flames,.. tells us that asking the people,.. via a referenda, works.? In short, Crimea appears happy with its referenda result,.. [unless someone can show me otherwise ?] by they’re being re-united with Russia.? Maybe it’s not what *we* want,.. but it’s what *they* want, and that’s surely the definitive value of a stabilising referenda.?

    We can’t dismiss referenda, because referenda can have its place as a valid tool of social resolution. The difficulty, of referenda, as we are now finding, is that we need it to produce a definitive decision,.. otherwise we are in social limbo.?

  • Mark Goodrich 28th Oct '16 - 4:38am

    @Malcolm Todd
    @Paul Carroll

    You are both making the assumption that the Article 50 notification can’t be withdrawn. Rather strangely, the recent court case proceeded on that assumption because it suited both sides to say so. However, most EU lawyers tend towards the view that the Article 50 notification can be withdrawn.

    If that is correct, the party’s position is both logical and right because it would trigger a withdrawal of the notice.

    Of course, it would be nice to have the point about whether or not the notification can be withdrawn cleared up before we issue it….but it seems unlikely.

  • David Pearce 28th Oct '16 - 8:16pm

    Barry Snelson,
    “I believe that the Leave vote was our biggest disaster since losing the American Colonies and will cost us dear but treating 17 million with such utter contempt and disrespect will yield a bitter harvest.”

    But you just pinpointed the problem with going ahead with Brexit. It does to the remain voters what you suggest would be unacceptable if done to the Leave voters. There was no clear result from the referendum, so whichever way it goes will compel half the people of the Uk to accept something they do not want. Most people voted in the referendum the way they thought would be in their best economic interest. Both sides. That is the only result which will be acceptable in the end. This was a vote for economic gain, not for Brexit per se.

    As to the question of whether parliament should have the final say on this, it is. May regards herself as prime minister by nomination from a majority in the commons, with the right to exercise parliament’s power, or call upon it as needed. It is the choice of her party to go for Brexit, not the choice of the voters. This talk of binding referenda is simply a smokescrren to disguise the fact this is a party decision by the conservatives. They seek to prevent parliamentary dissent by pretending it was the voters decision, but it was not.

  • Most people voted in the referendum the way they thought would be in their best economic interest.

    You don’t know why people voted as they did. I know at least one person for whom their own economic interest was not the deciding factor (me).

  • John Peters 28th Oct '16 - 9:22pm

    “They seek to prevent parliamentary dissent by pretending it was the voters decision, but it was not.”

    Are you sure?

    “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

    We were asked, we answered leave.

  • In a democracy, the majority has the right to bind an opposing minority by law, even if the majority’s views are both ignorant and disastrous.

    That said, the existence of a possibly transient majority should not be endowed with more than that legal right, as if its decisions acquired a sacrosanct indisputability. The people may be sovereign; that does not make them either divine or infallible. It is not only the right but the duty of a party representing a minority viewpoint to object to and protest against the ‘popular will,’ rather than supinely acquiescing to it, in the hope that, one day, their minority may become a majority and they will then speak for the people.

  • David Pearce 29th Oct '16 - 8:13am

    Tim,
    Pollsters have asked people how they voted in the referendum and what they thought on the various issues. So I do know what they thought about the economy. 90% of people voted the way they thought was the best economic outcome for the nation. Whether leave or remain, they said they believed this would be the best economic outcome, and more people agreed about this than anything else. Of those people who had no clear view about the economy, or thought it would be much the same, most voted to leave.

    I think this means just as I said. Virtually everyone thought about their financial position first and everything else second. Very few people voted in the way they thought was against their financial ineterest, ie as a principled vote to leave wishing to boost sovereignty but at a personal financial cost.

    The people who voted leave were those who thought it would cost nothing to leave, so we might as well be shot of those irritating foreigners. Which is a sentiment many could agree with.

    I’d go so far as to say the entire nation is united in wishing to get the best economic outcome on whatever terms are necessary, but if the economy is is not compromised then to remove foreign interference in UK affairs.

    Most polls, for example comparing preference for control on immigration or maintaining market access, do not ask people what they believe would be the economic consequence of their choice. The evidence we have is that people go the way they think is eoncomically best. So someone will go for excluding foreigners BECAUSE they do not believe this choice will impact the economy.

  • David Pearce 29th Oct '16 - 8:20am

    John Peters,

    Yes, I am sure. The majority for Leave as against remain was small. Many more people voted to remain than voted for the current government. It is not true that in the Uk system of government the winner takes all. The winner takes all, but only so long as they can get their opponents to agree to a consensus. And the closer the result is, the more this is true. What happened is that the conservative party has looked at the narrow result and decided to throw its weight into the leave camp. It is trying to persuade the public to agree to this. It also knows this issue splits all established parties (except perhaps UKIP and libs), but on the whole its voters are the most reliably anti EU, so it sees personal electoral advantage. Its biggest coup so far has been to get the liberals to accept the result also.

  • Perhaps one question, David Pearce, is then, WHY do people wish to exclude “irritating” foreigners. Many people travel to other countries, and no doubt encounter other “foreigners”. Why do they think Brits are entitled to live wherever they want, but others are not?? I am well aware you are arguing that people vote for their self-interest, but I feel that most people are sufficiently well acquainted with the idea of easy travel (shall we call it freedom of movement?) that they would find it difficult to vote against it. There are a few of course, who are so prejudiced against other nationalities, ethnicities etc that they would take any opportunity to vote them to “Leave”. Are we, perhaps saying “It’s the r*cists wot won it!”

    The other question begged by your comment about “foreign interference” is how many people seem to believe that we can withdraw behind closed doors, and high walls, to deal with all the manifest major problems and crises affecting all of us – climate change being just the most apparent. It seems self evident that we can only crack international problems by working together – our way in Europe of working together over the last number of years has been electing representatives to bodies at appropriate levels to work with others to achieve joint solutions. Is that such a difficult idea – working cooperatively with neighbours, and voting / jointly deciding best ways forward?

  • David Pearce 30th Oct '16 - 1:37am

    Tim,
    “Are we, perhaps saying “It’s the r*cists wot won it!””
    The foreigners are irritating for many reasons. They do not agree with how the Uk government would like to run the EU. They want to come over here to work. There is a housing shortage in the UK which is made worse by extra people here (though it is really a result of government policy to restrict construction coupled with government policy to encourage immigration). Some believe they are stealing our country and way of life.

    The EU is a members club where everyone has agreed to a common set of rules. They do not give anyone everything they might want, but are a compromise everyone could agree to. So they are inevitably irritating and not ideal, but still the best we could get. If you then believe that the Uk gains nothing economically fom being in this club, then I think naturally you would conclude we ought to leave and be rid of those compromises.

    The critical issue is what you believe are the benefits or harm to the UK economy from membership, which offset those disadvantages. Economic benefits are what most people see as the reason for being in. This is why this issue has to be critical to how people voted.

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