Parliament must make it's mind up
Elizabeth Anderson says it is time for Parliamentarians to stop playing politics with Brexit. It must decide now between Deal or No Deal.
On 23rd June 2016, I like, like many others, went and cast my vote to leave the European Union. I then tramped off around south east London, where I was the Vote Leave co-ordinator for the area, doing my bit to combat the Government’s Remain propaganda leaflet insisting that the nation was better off staying in the EU. A torrential downpour finally stopped us in the mid-evening.
With an early morning ahead of me, I fell asleep, saddened by the exit polls showing we wouldn’t win the day. Then I woke up. We’d won the day. The sun was, with a striking case of pathetic fallacy (for English Literature fans out there), shining and the air seemed full of promise. Against the Government’s endless pro-EU messaging, the people had spoken.
Estimates suggest that 7 out of 10 Conservative MPs represent a Leave constituency. 6 out of 10 Labour MPs represent that, too. Claire Perry, on Question Time, stated:
“7 out of 10 Conservative MPs… represent constituencies that voted to leave, as did mine. 6 out of 10 Barry’s party [Labour] represent Leave constituencies.”
Claire Perry MP, 12 July 2018
And yet, here we are, nearly three years on, with the Westminster Village refusing to honour the result. I do not deny for a second that there are many shades of Leave. But what is evident from the endless posturing, debates, obstruction and indecision, is that for a lot of MPs, many of whom come from a bubble of political elite, representing the voter on the street is too much for them. Many MPs are likely to be aware that in reality, the vote comes down to Conservative or Labour. Voters are unlikely to switch to the other side because their MP didn’t deliver on the referendum result, because there is no alternative. In my view, what they will do, is just not bother to vote.
Anyone who has ever canvassed knows, the view is that as long as they aren’t voting for the rival, it doesn’t matter. But it does. It really does. We live in a democracy. That only works when the people are exercising their democratic right. Otherwise, voting simply becomes the preserve of those who are truly committed, and that’s not how this is meant to work.
The EU are not supportive of Brexit – and I have started to believe that having got this far, Theresa May’s deal is as good as the deal is going to get. It is, however, far from perfect and very few people in Britain would have created the deal in that way. But in order to leave, surely, we just need a decision. Sadly, MPs are confused. They think the options are between the deal, no deal, or no Brexit. But we’ve done that part. And they need to respect the views of their constituents.
I’m a massive fan of tradition. Heritage and ceremony are what make Parliament what it is, it gives it gravitas, it gives it codified ways of working. It gives it meaning and stops it becoming a bunch of people in a big meeting. But it does need a change, for Brexit. We can no longer go on with votes where it is possible to avoid a decision.
At the moment, it’s like asking a group of children what fruit they’d like to eat. “Would you like apples?” “No” comes the answer. “Would you like oranges?”, and again “no”. “Would you like bananas?”, and still no. And so it goes on.
Until we present Parliament with one question with two possible outcomes, rather than the means to continue endless delays, we will continue with the current impasse. The question needs to change from a range of opportunities to passively resist the people’s vote of 2016. And that question is, “Shall we accept the deal, or leave with no deal?”
Elizabeth Anderson coordinated Vote Leave campaigns for South East London in the 2016 referendum. She is also co-editor of the 2017 conservative policy book, True Blue.
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