In what topsy turvy world is a public vote to confirm a previous public vote undemocratic? That is the question posed by former Oxford economics professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his latest Mainly Macro blog.
Answering his own question, he states: “It is a world where Brexiters have control of most of the media, and where Brexiters and some of the people who voted for Brexit are desperate for some democratic justification for what has become an assault on pluralist democracy and evidence based policy.”
Clearly, Prof Wren-Lewis is a supporter of Labour’s plan for a confirmatory vote on any form of Brexit – which includes the possibility of remaining in the EU after all. People in Brecon and Radnorshire who have the chance to base their vote on that issue should seriously consider voting Labour if they haven’t already done so.
Prof Wren-Lewis continues [all boldings mine]: “If no one contradicts you when you say we must leave with no deal because of a narrow referendum win where no one on the winning side talked about leaving with no deal, you can convince yourself to enact the biggest act of self-harm in modern UK history on an unwilling majority.”
And there is no reason to leave at all: “What many Leavers would like you to believe is that this referendum requires the UK to leave the EU in some way or another. This is false. The referendum did not say that we must Leave the EU whatever the circumstances and whatever the cost or whatever leaving meant. None of those words were on the ballot paper, and they were not implicit either.
“The question was whether to Leave or Remain. As a result, not surprisingly people voted on the basis of what they thought Leave or Remain meant. So to see what people voted for, you need to look at what was discussed. In particular, the Leave vote will have been influenced by what the Leave side said. And almost without exception, no one on the Leave side mentioned Leaving without any deal at all. (Of course some Brexiters are now pretending they talked about it all the time – lying is second nature for these people.)
“Normally when someone says that a government has a mandate for a policy, it is because that policy was in the manifesto presented at the election. The Leave side did not have a manifesto, and that was a fatal flaw in Cameron’s referendum. In the absence of a manifesto we have to base any assessment of what any mandate was on what the Leave side said Brexit would entail. And almost without exception the Leave side said it would involve a trade deal with the EU of some sort.”
Ah, but Parliament failed to agree on a deal. Prof Wren-Lewis says such an outcome was implicit in the 2016 result: “Because the referendum did not specify what type of Brexit should be attempted, we have no a priori reason to believe that any particular option would command a majority. Indeed with such a close victory the presumption must be otherwise, and the polls show this to be the case. Parliament’s failure to agree a deal simply reflects the fact that there is no majority for any particular deal.
“It is true that the Remain side talked about No Deal as an extreme case in the list of possible forms of leaving the EU. But when looking at mandates, we look at what the winning side said, not the losing side. The Leave side spent a great deal of time ridiculing Remain predictions as Project Fear, and that included ridiculing the idea that we would not get a deal with the EU. Some on the Leave side said it would be the easiest deal in history.
“The reason why No Deal is the only Brexit option left standing is that militant Brexiters have done everything they can to get us there. They voted down alternative options their government proposed. It is militant Brexiters, not a majority of the public, that think No Deal is the only true form of Brexit. When Brexiters claim that voters were really voting for No Deal they should be laughed at.”
And he states: “The idea that we must go through with Brexit even though there is no majority for any form of Brexit is nonsensical. It is an illusion created by a flawed advisory referendum narrowly won which politicians foolishly said at the time that they would implement. Luckily no politician is bound by the foolish promises that other politicians made.”
Remember that, next time Boris Johnson tries to suggest otherwise.
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