Here’s Owen Jones on why he “accepts the EU referendum result.” It’s a good piece, there is much to agree with.
But it is important to be clear on what “accepting the EU referendum result” actually means. Clearer than he is.
The result does dictate that that we leave the EU. It dictates that unless public opinion decisively turns. And that is why I have consistently said I would have voted to trigger Article 50.
But although the result was that we should leave the EU the result told us little about what that means. Theresa May took over six months to decide she wanted to leave the Single Market. And longer still to decide she wanted to leave the Customs Union. These were her choices. There are countries outside the EU but inside the Single Market and it is likely that the UK could leave the EU but remain in the Customs Union.
They are incredibly important choices for the future of our country. They were not dictated by the Referendum. They are choices made by our political leaders. If our leaders pretend they are dictates of the Referendum our leaders lie to us.
I wish Owen – writing on a day when Jeremy Corbyn pretended that leaving the EU meant we had to leave the Single Market – had not ignored these choices. What do you say to that pretence, Owen? What do you say to the choices Corbyn has made? And what do you say to the huge majority of Labour voters who disagree with them? What do you say to the majority of the electorate who would not sacrifice their economic health to restrict free movement?
There are other criticisms too. Perhaps the most important is this.
It demeans us to pretend the risks to democracy are one way. To pretend they run from ignoring the result but not from delivering it. To pretend it is without risk to democracy to promise there would be no downside to Brexit and then deliver inflation and falling real wages, weak economic growth or recession, disinvestment and prospective joblessness, weakened public finances with jeopardy to the NHS, a Hard Border in Ireland and the list goes on.
If your intention is to protect democracy you seek a path that acknowledges and limits these downsides. You do not pretend that the future of democracy involves giving the electorate what it was persuaded to vote for and giving it to them hard.
Finally, as I said above, the Referendum result is that we should have Brexit unless public opinion decisively turns. We must listen. If the electorate comes to think that what it wanted from Brexit it will not get from Brexit it must be heard.
This is the only control on the dishonest conduct of a Referendum that our politics can offer. In a General Election you kick out a Government that breaks its Manifesto promises. But if the sanctity of a Referendum result survives both the lies told to deliver it and a public coming to understand it had been misled we have no functioning democracy at all.
So we must hope that Labour delivers its Manifesto promise on Parliament having a meaningful vote on the Final Deal.
Owen was silent on this promise yesterday but to live the values his article espoused he must be vocal on it tomorrow. And Labour will not be able to deliver on that promise unless it amends Clause 1(1) of the Repeal Bill in the Autumn. Let us hope Labour, and Owen, protects democracy by fighting to deliver its Manifesto pledge.