One of the benefits of having my own blog is the opportunity to have a say on anything I like. Of course most of the articles I write are on investments and personal finance related matters. A couple of years back I wanted to put down some of my thoughts on the Brexit debate and outcome. At times it seems like the country has spoken of little else since then and now at the second anniversary there will be more media debate and analysis so apologies in advance and if this subject is a real turn-off ...feel free to skip.
So, June 24th 2016 and I was very surprised at the outcome given all the dire warnings of immediate economic armageddon if we voted to leave from just about every establishment figure from George Osbourne (who?), Mark Carney, Christine Lagarde from the MFI, Barak Obama and a host of so called experts and economists. Indeed we were told there would need to be an emergency budget the day after if we voted 'Leave'.
Here is my last post which summed up my thoughts on the matter shortly after the referendum.
Here is my last post which summed up my thoughts on the matter shortly after the referendum.
The Treasury estimated that up to 820,000 jobs would disappear within two years of a vote to leave. Two years on and the reality is that more Brits are in work than at any time since records began. There are now over 1.5 million more jobs created since the referendum...currently ~32 million.
The Democratic Process
In years past, one way to resolve an issue would be an armed battle between two sides. I think we have moved on a little since then and most sensible people would agree that this method is a bit crude and unsophisticated and maybe the better solution is to debate the issues and then have a vote. Of course, the vote must be free and fair and everyone affected should take part. This is democracy and it only works if both sides agree beforehand to accept the outcome...if one side does not accept the outcome then we may well return to the old ways of doing things.
We have a general election every five years. There are some close results, sometimes within just one or two votes either way and there could be several recounts but it is traditional that one person is elected and the losers accept the decision of the voters. They can redouble their efforts next time round.
So, there was a debate in Parliament in June 2015 on whether to hold a referendum and after all the debates, the MPs overwhelmingly voted by 544 to 53 to hold a referendum on whether we should leave or remain in the EU. This was also supported by the House of Lords. It would be decided by a simple majority of 50% +1. There would be a simple question - "Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?". Everyone aged 18 or over could vote.
The government sent out a leaflet before the referendum advocating a vote for 'Remain' with a promise that it would implement the decision of the electorate.
What is more, everyone's vote counted unlike a general election when voting is on a constituency level and many votes are 'wasted'. In the referendum, every vote for and against in every part of the UK counted and when every vote had been counted the final figure was 'Remain' 16.1 million (48.1%) and for 'Leave' 17.4 million (51.9%). The turnout on the 23rd June was very high at over 72%. If the majority of 1.3 million people were to stand finger tip to finger tip, the line would stretch from the UK to the football World Cup in Russia. Here's the BBC results breakdown
Like most people in the country, I was surprised by the outcome. I voted to leave but really did not expect the majority would vote to leave. I thought it may be close but I was of the opinion that it would be 55% remain similar to the referendum in Scotland in 2014.
I would have been disappointed but I would have accepted the outcome like a good democrat and moved on.
A year later and we had another general election which placed Brexit firmly at the top of the agenda. There was not much difference between Labour and Conservative.
"As we leave the EU, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union" Conservative Manifesto 2017
Immediately after the election, John McDonnell said “I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum.” This was consistent with Labour’s manifesto, which promised to retain the “benefits or the single market and the customs union” without being a member of either.
The Liberal Democrats offered an alternative to the main parties with their pledge of a second EU referendum on the Brexit deal.
The Tories increased their share of the vote to 42.4% but lost 13 seats and their majority, Labour narrowed the gap increasing their share to 40% and gained 30 seats and Lib Dems managed just 7.4% of the vote and a gain of 4 seats. The big losers were the SNP who lost 21 seats and UKIP who lost their only MP and managed just 1.8% of the vote compared to 13% in 2015.
Of course there has been much analysis and discussion post the referendum. I have seen articles which suggested 'leave' voters were too stupid to realise what they were voting for. I think what has caused most disappointment/sadness on a personal level is the refusal on the part of a hardcore of remain voters to accept the outcome. I can understand their disappointment and maybe shock/disbelief but surely the very essence of out democracy is that we accept the decision of the majority.
For sure those 33 million people who cast a vote cannot possibly have understood all the implications of the vote. For me, I guess mostly it was a 'gut feel' like so many other decisions in life which defy precise logical analysis. Yes I read the papers and listened to the TV debated in the lead up. I discussed with friends and relatives and researched online but at some point, maybe a month or so beforehand, I had more or less made my decision. I will not know until maybe 10 years after we have left (if we actually leave) whether it was a good decision or completely bonkers. If I had to vote again tomorrow, it would be exactly the same.
I am very much of the same opinion as MSE's Martin Lewis who made the point "The principle of our democratic process far outweighs any benefits from remaining in the EU" (Question Time 3/5/18)
There have been challenges in the courts, calls for the referendum to be run again, objections from the SNP who think the result should not apply to them because Scotland voted remain - even though a year earlier they lost their own referendum as Scotland voted to remain as a part of the UK.
There have been anti Brexit rallies in London, Oxford, Bristol and elsewhere and now we have a campaign from the usual suspects...Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubury, Lord Adonis, the Lib Dems/Greens for a 'people's vote' on the final deal organised by remainers whose motives I mistrust as I believe they really don't accept the decision of 2016 and don't want our elected MPs in Parliament (all elected after the referendum) to have the final say on whatever deal is agreed with the EU after 2 years of intense negotiations.
The fact these people are persisting in their efforts to undermine the referendum reflects their misplaced sense of superiority and demonstrates how out of touch they are with ordinary people. Whilst purporting to promote liberal values, social mobility and inclusion these clever people hold in contempt the poorer working-class people from the North who despite all the warnings of dire consequences voted leave and refused to bow down to the so-called experts.
For me, a referendum on the final deal is a non-starter. It would undermine the 2016 referendum. If the Brexit vote was about anything, it was about sovereignty and returning power from the EU to our Parliament. Therefore it should be our elected MPs in the Commons who have the last word on the final deal when the negotiations are concluded.
I can accept that these people are not happy with the decision to leave. I can accept they genuinely believe that leaving the EU will be a disaster for our economy and jobs but it seems to me that just as I cannot possibly know how things will turn out after we leave, neither can the remainers...it may not be so good but also it may work out better than they fear. The most legitimate course in my humble opinion, would be to wait a reasonable time after we actually leave to see how things settle down and how our economy performs and if not happy after say 5 years, THEN start a campaign to rejoin the EU.
Of course, no one can predict the longer term consequences of leaving but so far it has been business as usual but then again we have not yet left. Of course there is no shortage of clever people who 'know' this will be a huge mistake and want to save us from a dire future. They are driven by fear of the unknown and prejudice which is understandable as they probably have more to lose than some other less educated people however for all their further education, in reality, they have no more insight into how things will turn out than the rest of us.
In..Out..Shake It All About..
I really believe that neither side will be served by an final outcome which is half in, half out...that would be the worst outcome for the UK. Many want us to remain as part of a customs union but that would mean we could not independently strike our own trade deals with other countries and therefore severely compromise our freedom as a sovereign country which I think was at the heart of what those voting for leave actually wanted. We therefore need to find a solution which results in independence and the UK becoming free to make our way and, of course, free to make mistakes just as it was before 1974.
At the end of the day, I believe the real division is not between those who voted one way or the other. I believe it is between those who respect democracy and those who persistently refuse to accept the outcome and are doing anything they can to delay, reverse, obstruct and generally undermine. This is not good for our country and for those involved in the negotiations with the EU. It is negative and I strongly believe with just 9 months to go, we need more people to look at the positives which could come out of all this if we approach things with confidence and optimism.
If the final outcome is a UK which is little different from how things were as members of the EU then we will all end up the poorer. Brexit must happen, democracy demands that the wishes of the 17.4 million people is respected...I do not like to think about the consequences if the relatively small but influential group of clever people get their way and we do not get what we voted for.
So, where are you with all this? Did you vote leave or remain? Did you know what you were voting for? Do you accept the outcome or are you not yet reconciled to leave? Have your say in the comments below...we still have freedom of speech, it's a democracy!