Another Brexit blog
You may say, “That’s just what we need, another blog about Brexit, as if the internet is not already full of too many of them,” and you would be right. So why am I, so early in the New Year writing about this? It is because the call for a second referendum is getting stronger. Also in a few months time, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be leaving the EU.
The economic debate
I was never convinced by the economic arguments from either side of the debate.
Leave say that we will be able to make our own trade agreements with the rest of the world without needing to follow EU regulations. Neither will industries and agriculture which trade within the UK need to be bound by EU rules.
Remain said that our largest trading partner was the EU and it is therefore in our best interests to be a part of that block.
I see both as being true, trading outside the EU will be easier, whilst trading with the EU will still be through their regulations. Not a new set of regulations but the regulations we have now. Trade agreements will need to be put in place if we leave, meaning that there will be a dip in the UK economy after we leave the EU, followed by a recovery. Whether the recovery is going to be back to where we were before the referendum in 2016, or whether we will be better or worse off remains to be seen, but better or worse off there will be pain, another recession, first.
The long-term answer is we will be no worse off if we remain in the EU, but there will be winners and losers if we leave. The overall outcome is uncertain.
The social debate
On economics alone, there is an argument for Brexit. The social debate is different. In 2016 the Leave campaign conflated the economics of how much we contribute to the EU (without taking into account the amount we get back in subsidies or our rebate) with the cost of the NHS, a social construct.
The EU has laws about workers’ rights and other social laws which it would be sad if we lost. As things stand at the time of writing these will all become laws in England and Wales after we leave, but the Government will be able to then change them. It would be sad to see people’s rights go. In fact, it is the social side of the EU that I like, that people have rights and that nations get together to talk. Isolationism does not seem like a good idea for a continent that suffered two devastating wars that became world wars in the last century. We must not let this happen this century. With politics moving towards the hard right now we need political co-operation more than ever.
Why another referendum will not change anything
The last referendum divided the country. Well no it didn’t, but it made splits that already existed obvious and deepened those divisions. There are people who will not talk to each other because they differ over Brexit, online debate is often no more than an exchange of strong insults with no attempt being made to understand the position of the other.
A new referendum will not change anything. Most people who voted leave will vote to leave again. There are some who will change their vote from leave to remain who will be cancelled out by those who will change the other way.
Also Leave will not mean all our EU workers will have to go. They came here legally, under the rules at the time they entered. They are not illegal and will not have to quit jobs. As far as seasonal workers go the Prime Minister has said that EU citizens will be able to stay for up to 12 months after Brexit. In any case, there are a lot of non-EU citizens living and working in this country. EU citizens will still come under the same rules that now apply to non-EU citizens.
Why we need another referendum
But why do I think we need another referendum seeing as I think referenda are bad things, showing a government to be about popularity rather than ideals: To be weak. We elect a government to govern, not to keep coming back to the country over every contentious issue.
We need a new referendum because we had a very bad one.
The 2016 referendum was not about a mandate. We were told that the result would not be binding on Parliament. Nobody won or lost the last referendum, all people did was give an opinion. We need a new one in order for it to be binding. I was in the minority last time and I expect to be in the minority again. But this time we need the outcome to be clear, and we need to follow that mandate, whatever it is, clearly and swiftly.
Then we can start work of healing the country, of reconciling people with different views. We need to make friends across the divides.