Here’s the question the EU referendum should have asked…

Thinking about it now, it’s clear that the wrong question was asked on that fateful day on June 23, 2016. Here’s what the ballot paper should have asked:

Option one:

Do you wish to engage in a monumental and pointless act of self-harm that will tear the country apart, baffle the rest of the world, lead to all sorts of vile nonsense about how we won the war by ourselves and with only a handful of conkers, pave the way for the rise of Boris Johnson as prime minister, do all manner of stupid things such as leaving the single market, all because of a berk called Nigel Farage and his shadowy right-wing backers who splutter on and on about sovereignty (whatever that might be), do you want to chuck everything away to throw your lot in with a US president of questionable mental strength who nevertheless breaks Twitter by spouting off about his “great and unmatched wisdom”, do you want to watch as the Labour leader sits on the fence for three years while trying to make up his mind about Brexit, and do you want the rest of the world to throw away all notions of Britons as pragmatic and sensible people in favour of spending three years chewing each other’s heads off?

Option two

Do you wish to be sensible and just carry on as we are?

Footnote one:

While a little over 17m people voted for Brexit, they only represented 51.7 per cent of those who voted. That in turns represents 37% of the electorate and 27% of the population. This leaves 63% of the electorate and 73% of the population who did not vote for Brexit. As a little over 16m people voted to remain – even without having seen my helpfully rephrased question – that daily splurged myth about this being “the will of the British people” should be politely corrected whenever possible; or shouted down whenever possible, but really there’s just been too much shouting. A close win never was the will of the people; and perhaps the people have willed up a new will.

Footnote two:

Leave.EU’s has deleted its vile tweet about Angela Merkel – “We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut”. Can we just sit at the sensible table and agree to stop going on about how we won the war all by ourselves? Wars are complicated and end for overlapping reasons. The notion of solitary British supremacy is just a comforting myth. Without wishing to dig too much deeper here, the clue lies in the title of “world wars”. Oh, and the second of those wars ended more than 70 years ago and the first more than 100 years ago. Try looking forwards for a change, chaps.

One comment

  1. I’d go one step further – there should never have been a ballot paper in the first place.

    In the UK, we have a massive disconnect between how we think the country is run and how it is run – possibly because we have no written constitution. But how many people think that we vote for MPs to represent our views in Parliament? That’s not the case – we vote for the person who we believe will use their best judgement in the national interest on key decisions.

    The question of the UK’s relationship with Europe is incredibly complicated – as the last three years have shown. We have always had sovereignty – talk about regaining it is an absolute nonsense. Freedom of movement is a two way street, and will affect our children’s choices in the future. There is an enormous amount of ‘good’ EU legislation that makes our lives better – standards in manufacturing and safety, which save British lives as one example.

    Yes, there’s also huge bureaucratic waste – layers of well-paid people working from the EU that achieve very little, and I don’t deny that the EU needs to look at how budgets are spent, but given how many people voted for the Brexit Party – to pay people who have absolutely no interest in contributing positively to any debate at all a hefty salary and expenses – we’ve just sanctioned exactly the kind of waste that we complain about. That’s 2.7 million euros per year wasted – the equivalent of the salary of 100 NHS nurses, and that’s before you take into account the MEPs’ expenses. Oh, and their pensions. Nice work if you can get it.

    The government even messed up the referendum – legally, it had no more standing than an opinion poll, but MPs on all sides said they’d stand by the result. If it had been a legally binding referendum, irregularities in spending would mean that the result was null and void, and it would have been re-run. But it wasn’t, so we end up with a narrow margin win where one site massively overspent their budget – possibly enough to swing the vote.

    And now, three years down the line, having had a tiny bit of insight into how complex withdrawing would be, we’re at the point where people are genuinely so fed up with political discussion that many would rather have a no deal Brexit just to end the political pontification, than to get a good deal that won’t leave our economic future looking bleak for a full generation. Some actually believe that no deal Brexit is the same a no Brexit – I’ve genuinely had discussions with people who are less politically engaged that believed this.

    What scares me more is how all of the politicians spoke about how easy it would be to negotiate great trade deals with Europe once we’re out. It is not in Europe’s interest to do this – we export more to Europe than we import. We’re putting barriers in the way of their products reaching our consumers, and vice versa. We are angering the very people we need to trade with.

    So, how do we move forward? My personal view is that we need a second vote, legally binding and with a single transferable vote, so you can give you first choice and second choice. Leave with a deal, leave with no deal or remain. I’d prefer to remain, but if it really is the ‘will of the people’ to leave, then let’s do so in a way that gives us some chance of economic recovery within a decade – a decent deal.

    I heard an MP yesterday saying that the potential political fallout of not leaving the EU would be worse than a no-deal Brexit. We’ve polarised society, even the PM’s family is split on this issue (as are so many families across the country) – the damage in trust in our political system has been done already. Let’s not compound it by a generation of recession.

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