The fallout from the UK European Referendum result was predictable no matter which way the result went. The UK still have a long way to go before they leave the EU.
When I woke up on Friday 24th June 2016 I was genuinely surprised by the result of the UK EU referendum. I had gone to bed the previous night slightly deflated that a ‘Remain’ result was imminent. I had just read an article that confirmed ‘Boris Johnson admits defeat on the tube’. I was sickened by the jingoism of some remain voters on Twitter tweeting under #SuggestAJobForFarage images of Nigel Farage in the mangled wreckage of the light aircraft that crashed during his 2010 election campaign, with the accompanying suggestion ‘crash test dummy’.
By the end of Thursday I had had enough. The emotional manipulation, the claims of far right infiltration, of Eton boys having a punch up, the analogous claim that a vote for leave is a vote for racism, and the apparent genuine belief that to leave the EU meant literally leaving Europe. Presumably by tugboats attached to north of Scotland?
I felt disappointed that the debate had become so muddied and, to my mind, a central thread of the narrative in the latter stages of the campaign became heavily focussed upon an MP who had been murdered. Because Jo Cox MP supported remaining in the EU her death became a reason to remain in the EU.
With a strong focus by the mass media in the MP’s death, culminating in what would have been Mrs Cox’s 42nd birthday and Trafalgar Square tribute the day before polling, the debate over a choice to leave the EU was seemingly repackaged as an emotional decision. News reports of flowers and tributes being laid outside Batley polling station (Mrs Cox’s constituency) on polling day was faintly reminiscent of the hyperbolic press reporting of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The murder of the MP was undeniably terrible. I believe the crime was cynically exploited to further a political agenda. Details I would expect not to see were published by the press. For example, on the 17th June 2016, the day after Mrs Cox death, the media were widely reporting that the police found nazi regalia and that the suspect was also known to have bought books from a US-based neo-Nazi group. I posit that reporting such information may jeopardise a fair trial.
I find many aspects of the media narrative surrounding the death of Jo Cox implausible and incoherent. I do not know the real truth about the incident and it is unwise to speculate.
The widespread profiling of the suspect within the mainstream media loudly reverberated through the EU debate as polls opened. By the end of polling day there was a clear sense that the propaganda machine had done its duty and the UK was to remain in the EU. Nigel Farage had conceded that the Remain side had probably won. It seemed like a done deal.
So it is with a sense of disbelief that I write this. It was close (it was always going to be) but the result was came in; a 4% lead in favour leaving the EU!
Now a week has passed and it doesn’t feel quite like the victory it was last Friday. It is as if a large proportion (although not the majority) of the population have rejected the outcome of the democratic process. The older generation have been denigrated, apparently by the young, for voting to leave. It has been estimated that 64% of 18-24 year olds did not vote. A petition for a second referendum was signed by millions, although many of the signatures on the petition had dubious origins. Nicola Sturgeon is reported to have confirmed she may advise members of the Scottish parliament to block the UK exit from the EU. And David Cameron has not immediately invoked article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start the process to exit the EU, as he told parliament he would do in February 2016.
What was the point in having a referendum if we were not going to observe the result?
For the record, I am quite content with voting leave. It is not something I regret, as the media have reported some leave voters are. Maybe they have, but I doubt these people are significant enough to overturn the result. There are plenty of people who’s decision to vote either way was not based on the rational. Should we now factor people’s reasons for voting as a barometer of their legitimacy to vote? Should some votes be more equal than others?
When I see the reaction from Jean Claude Juncker in the EU parliament I am pleased that the majority of the UK voted to leave the super state:
I do not doubt there are hard times ahead. From the political rhetoric and the way the vested interest financial sector are reacting, it appears that any deal between the UK and the EU is going to be difficult. It seems that there is a popular belief that the EU hold the best hand and the UK will have to capitulate to such an extent that we may as well have just stayed in the EU in the first place. I think not, and it is concerning that the likes of Boris Johnson are looking for some kind of EU-lite membership renegotiation.
My knee jerk reaction to the vote was that we must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty immediately. However, having now read around the subject it appears this is not the only, or best route to leaving the EU. In fact, Article 50 allows the EU to offer terms for the UK to accept and dictates the time frame in which negotiations will take place without a framework within that period. Effectively the EU could offer a deal at the 11th hour which the UK may feel forced to accept without reasonable reflection.
An alternative, and probably better way of conducting matters would be for the UK government to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which is the legislature that allows UK government ministers to transpose EU Directives and rulings of the European Court of Justice into UK law.
With this Act repealed the UK would no longer have legislature which enables EU legislation to be imposed. We are then free to ratify any sensible existing legislation (workers rights etc.) and discard that which we do not need. We could then begin a process of negotiation with the EU that allows the UK a more equal footing at the negotiating table. Once negotiations had been completed we could then invoke Article 50 and allow that process to begin. In any event the European Communities Act 1972 will need to be repealed. It strikes me this would be the best way to respect the will of the people and negotiate the best deal.
To be continued…