- Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:48 pm
You know, in the endless stream of radio phone-ins, commentary, and newspaper think-pieces around Brexit over the last 3 years, I'm beginning to think that the thing that I'm becoming most heartily sick of hearing is the ill-considered assertion that if Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is rescinded - with or without a new public vote - or a new referendum is held, or Brexit is not "delivered" in whatever way, the "damage to democracy" will be grave and serious.
Really? Here's the truth. If the UK at the end of this saga blessedly does not end its membership of the EU, the "damage to democracy" that people wring their hands over will be precisely NIL.
The UK will *not* transform into North Korea overnight. Our democratic institutions, our parliament, our government, will all continue as usual (though still in need, in my view, of urgent reform). The Scottish parliament will continue, as before - we may even save the UK from fragmentation - as will the Welsh assembly. The NI assembly might even resume if the Good Friday agreement is saved from the impact of Brexit.
"Democracy" as a concept, as the principle on which our polity is allegedly based, will survive abandoning Brexit undamaged, if slightly battered.
Why assert this? You may ask. Because the referendum held in 2016 had no legal status other than as an advisory plebiscite. It did *not* bind any government to act on its result. That the Tories chose to promise to do so was a political choice, not a binding, unalterable course of action. That they have since chosen to disguise this in order to drive Brexit through is nothing short of scandalous.
Had the 2016 referendum had the legal status of a binding referendum, the argument that not to implement its decision would damage democracy may gain some force. Without that status, the notion of damage to democracy resulting from a considered decision not to proceed with the action indicated by its narrowly achieved result is, frankly, absurd.
That the High Court has explicitly stated that, had the 2016 referendum had the legal status of a binding referendum, the result would require to be anulled because of the breaches in campaign law perpetrated by the Leave campaigns, and that the referendum's decision to leave the EU could in fact *not* be anulled precisely *because* of the referendum's advisory-only status - underlines this.
We need to see the absurdity of this notion of "damage to democracy", which has gripped Leave voters and some Remain voters, challenged far more frequently, in my view.
The only "damage to democracy" that will have been caused by the whole sorry Brexit saga is, in my view, the vile distortion of the concept that the Tories have used to push through the whole destructive right-wing project.
"The opportunity to serve our country. That is all we ask." John Smith, Leader of the Labour Party, 10 May 1994.