Make no mistake – our democracy is under threat. Powerful people are brazenly declaring, “Brexit may never happen.” Vince Cable has. Alistair Campbell has. Lord Heseltine has. “It’s too complicated. People didn’t know what they were voting for.” They say it with worrying indifference and nonchalance.
Fundamentally, as a democracy, our politicians aren’t in charge: we are. They should do what we tell them to do. That’s how democracies work. Thankfully the naysayers have now moved on from merely insulting the views of 17.5 million people (more than have ever voted for anything else in the history of this country), and are instead now trying to redefine them.
Remain voters were disgusted with the outcome to begin with. Ian McEwan said Brexit represented, “the lowest human impulses.” Thanks for that Ian. Now the haters are trying to pretend that the views of Brexiteers aren’t as awful as they first thought. Maybe we can stay in the Single Market. Maybe we can stay in the Customs Union. Maybe we can have an extra couple of years of freedom of movement. Maybe if we wave a few flags at Glastonbury then Jeremy Corbyn (praise be unto him) can just stop the whole thing from happening. We’re at a crossroads – and it’s either Brexit (and leaving the Single Market and Customs Union) or we are quite simply not the democracy we thought we were.
During the EU referendum campaign, Michael Gove was asked on the Andrew Marr Show, probably our country’s most important current affairs program, “Do you want us to stay inside the Single Market – yes or no?” He said, very clearly, “No”. Boris said the same the following week. Andrea Leadsom did exactly the same on Newsnight. Gisela Stuart and Nigel Farage constantly echoed these views throughout the campaign. The Vote Leave argument was based upon four very simple points – taking control of the £350 million we send to the EU every week, taking control of our borders, taking control of our laws, and taking control of our trade policy by ensuring we can trade freely with the rest of the world. It is a simple and utterly unavoidable fact that if we remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, none of those things will happen. Yet, still, a vocal minority of Remainers believe that Leave voters didn’t vote on the Single Market issue, because somehow it was insufficiently clear. “They didn’t know what they were voting for”. If you don’t want to take it from the leaders of the Leave Campaign, then take it from the losing side themselves.
George Osborne said, “We’d be out of the Single Market. Britain would be quitting, quitting the Single Market”. David Cameron said on the Andrew Marr Show, “The British Public would be voting, if we leave, to leave the EU and to leave the Single Market”. Or, my personal favourite, was Nick Clegg, the arch-loser, saying on the 26th May last year, “The Brexit campaign have, I think, come clean now and said we dislike it so much, we want to tear up Margaret Thatcher’s Single Europe Act – we don’t want to have anything to do with the Single Market”. They were right then, and the point holds true now. A vote for Leave was a vote to leave both the Single Market and Customs Union. Every single leading member of the Leave AND Remain campaign said so. Every single point of the winning Leave manifesto relies upon it. It has to happen.
If Parliament has any respect for those it is supposed to serve then it will take us out of the European Union, out of the Single Market, and out of the Customs Union, without asking us to change our minds. The loud, but sizeable, minority who oppose this happening quickly need to stop complaining and realise that our democracy is more important than their pride.
Photograph: airpix via Flickr and Creative Commons