Brexiteers will shine, through sobriety, if we win on June 23
If the pro-democracy movement wins on June 23 and we leave the European Union, there will be tonnes to do. Patience and British values will see us through
Just a couple of days to go until we know the result of the referendum, and it seems the Leave campaign is in the ascendancy. So what happens now, after all this time?
For me it has been almost exactly a quarter of a century since I started campaigning to leave the new superstate which was to be created by the Maastricht Treaty.
I am absolutely clear on this: we must now pause for breath. We have won a very important battle, perhaps the greatest of our lifetime, but this is the time neither for gloating nor for bloodshed.
In the first place the people will have voted but Parliament will not have. Legally the referendum is advisory and Parliament would be within its rights to vote against leaving.
Clearly it would be very wrong to do so: the members of the House of Commons know who put them there, and for the unelected Lords to thwart the will of the people would be dangerous in the extreme.
But the fact remains that a majority of Parliament will have voted Remain. They will have to be treated with care, tolerance and patience. Suppose the Commons decides it cannot vote until it knows more about the conditions of leaving? Would that be wrong? In my view it would, but we must remember that our MPs are representatives not delegates.
And how will negotiations be conducted? They should be led by the government of the day, of course. However, it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that David Cameron would be the right person, nor the Deputy Prime Minister George Osborne.
Apart from the fact that they campaigned for Remain, Cameron’s attempts to negotiate better terms before the vote made him a laughing stock in Brussels and in England. Negotiation is obviously not his thing. And Osborne’s silly threat of a punitive budget if we vote Leave has lost him the confidence of his own party.
So we shall have to wait for the Tories to choose a new leader. As with the election of Cameron, there will be hustings at the party conference and two names will be sent to the rank and file.
Whoever is chosen will have to usher a vote through the Commons and lead any negotiations with the rest of the EU on a whole variety of matters, not just tariffs.
And the vote will have to be interpreted. For example, Alex Salmond says that there will have to be another independence referendum if the Scots vote in massive proportions to remain. However, word has it that the Scottish Remain vote is crumbling. And of course in voting to remain in the UK the Scots voted to abide by what the UK decides.
Another area in which the vote will have to be interpreted is on immigration. The easiest option (not the best, in my view) on trade would be the Norway option, whereby we remain members of the European Economic Area.
But this involves accepting free movement of people, that is to say unlimited immigration from Europe, which of course a large number of Leave voters oppose.
So there is plenty to do. If the vote goes our way we shall have won a decisive battle, but not the war. The shape of British democracy, British trade, the very character of our nation will be decided in the months to come. We must remain vigilant.
There is no hurry. The Lisbon Treaty merely requires us to give two years’ notice of leaving the EU. That period starts when we say it starts. Chris Grayling says 2019 will be the right time to leave. I think that is optimistic.
Of course if the vote goes to Remain, we Leavers will have to lick our wounds and prepare for our moment to come again.
Either way, patience.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
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