With the recent high court decision that triggering Article 50 has to pass through parliament, a lot of people in the Remain camp have become excited about the idea of parliament overturning the result of the Referendum in June.
However such a scenario is not only unlikely, but would be quite terrible if it happened. Here’s why…
I voted to remain, and it upsets me that I will likely lose a lot of my rights as an EU Citizen once Britain withdraws, but a majority of the voting public voted to leave. Whether they did so out of being hoodwinked by Leave’s unfounded promises or as a protest, or with genuine political and economic insight, it hardly matters.
It would set a very worrying precedent if the government decided to ignore the will of its people, even though it legally can. A government could use that mandate in the future to justify pushing through anything despite the effect it would have on its people. It would also totally prove the points of people like Nigel Farage who say that the political elite are corrupt and out of touch.
Then there’s the debate over we will have a Soft Brexit or a Hard Brexit, but in reality Britain has very little choice over what it can do. The EU can’t give Britain any leeway, as it would look weak and risk becoming completely broken up. As such, remaining part of the Single Market, or receiving EU funding/subsidies, or allowing Brits to enjoy free movement across the continent are fantasies.
So what happens now?
My thoughts have always been that as a political union, the EU can be a force for good, as an economic union, not so much.
The problem with the economic union is that it allows major corporations to exploit workers across the continent in the name of trade. The richer countries have to support the poorer ones, and the buck is passed to the working class, whose communities and lifestyles are irreparably changed, instead of governments and elites taking the hit for a more politically stable continent. Why would they, without regulation decide to give up a chunk of their wealth and business?
This is why the EU will not work as an economic union if it is to work as a political one. The free movement of people is a wonderful thing, but under economic interests, this will be used by companies to find a cheaper workforce. The EU could have been more selective about which countries were allowed in – but then you have a human rights issue that individuals are only allowed the benefits of freedom if they have the luck to be born in a rich country.
Politically, the EU has been a good thing. After Europe was close to breaking point following two world wars, it managed to forge better ties which has thus far prevented the same thing from happening. With greater awareness and integration between EU countries we have more diverse communities. A normalisation of laws and regulations being decided by elected representatives across the continent is likely to result in a fairer society for everyone. The EU could be reformed politically to achieve all of this fully.
That negates the economic union, however, which is dictated by big business. No country would join the EU if its biggest financial backers had to agree to huge regulation, so the EU has to entertain business and allow it to dictate how it operates.
The implications of leaving the EU suddenly and noisily are quite scary, especially when it’s led by politicians on a platform of intolerance, but the internal vicious cycle of the union may in the long term be something we want to avoid. It seems unlikely now, but perhaps there is a dim glow of hope for the future.
Remember as well that protests against Trump’s victory in the US are well within their rights to protest against an undemocratic system; a leader who most of the voting public didn’t vote for and the hate and fear that he has promised. Here in the UK, protesting against a democratic decision that didn’t go your way is arrogant and unhelpful.
Democracy isn’t always going to benefit you directly, but you have to accept it, even if you marvel at the lack of foresight of your opponents. The alternative will certainly lead to a society that nobody wants to live in.