This is bad. Very bad.
Never mind the ‘Leave Lies’. If there was a crime against democracy that was committed in recent months, it was where the ‘Leave’ side campaigned with no plan in place and no agreed position on what Brexit looked like.
One seriously touted outcome (and it looks like it could be, catastrophically, true) is that there will be no way out of the stalemate and no way for Article 50 to be triggered unless the UK is forced out by the EU. There may never be a point where it will not be economically, and strategically, catastrophic for the UK to trigger Article 50.
During the campaign, I argued that the perils of being ‘out’ are being overstated in the long run (or that they won’t be as damaging as the remainers say if it were a parting by mutual consent) but we are now not in normal circumstances.
It turns out that, because of a lack of political courage on the ‘Leave’ side, the referendum was little more than an opinion poll asking people, “in the best of all possible worlds, do you think that leaving the EU will be a nice thing to do?”
During the first couple of days after the vote, Leave campaigners were lecturing anyone who will listen about the dark forces that will be unleashed if the Brexit vote isn’t honoured, yet because of their irresponsibility, a catastrophic disillusion of anti-EU voters is now on the cards.
A particularly nasty genie is now out of the bottle and it will be antagonised by any overturning of the referendum vote. The EU may decide that it can’t afford to be handcuffed to the UK and it may decide to force the UK out (which should be fairly easy, as the UK Parliament is committed to a referendum on all treaty changes).
If people really wanted to leave the EU, then there was always a democratic parliamentary route to doing it. By holding a referendum, the Tories have poisoned British politics for at least a generation and massively weakened the UK’s bargaining hand, ensuring we leave on the most damaging and humiliating terms possible.
Every attempt to ‘restore faith in politics’ using crude versions of direct democracy are having the opposite effect and Britain may look back on June 2016 as the most disastrous example of this. A while ago, I looked at the way that governments were using petitions for this purpose, saying….
1. You sense that the public have a lack of faith in Representative Democracy
2. You introduce a process that allows people to have more of a say in Representative Democracy
3. The public use it to demand something that elected representatives are not prepared or able to deliver on
4. The petition is spiked, or paid lip-service to (i.e. perfunctory debate, status quo-ante retained)
5. Quick assessment to see if this has improved or damaged the reputation of Representative Democracy
The offer of a petition is a typical politicians answer. It should be treated with contempt.
If petitions were a bad idea all those years ago, this referendum may have proved to have been catastrophic.