Brexit. Love it, hate it, sick of it?
Either way you will have no doubt heard about the possibility of a second referendum, a pledge that the Liberal Democrats, among others, have pushed forward into their 2017 manifesto. Their ‘Exit from Brexit’ campaign aiming to sway voters, and appeal to those who were still adamantly against the idea of leaving the EU. While the result of 2016’s In /Out referendum was no doubt going to split opinions, it was never truly anticipated the extent of what this divide would be.
The decision was made, and the people turned out to vote (well 72.2% of those eligible did). With over 1.2 million more voting in favour of leaving rather than remaining, coupled with the 16 million others who also voted leave, it would only be unfair and undemocratic to ignore this result. Surely if the result were the other way around, we, now, wouldn’t be questioning the decision to stay in, and drawing up plans to leave so quickly?
The idea of a second referendum, to me, seems ludicrous. The principle of democracy is to allow citizens to participate in politics, a referendum being the most direct form of this. While the referendum was, like all other referendums, not legally binding, it would be a dark and frightening day should such result be undermined. The result or subject of the referendum has little to do with this, but it is all that it stands for which makes it so important. The practice of voting and the comfort of knowing that the majority would win allows voters to go into elections, referendums and such like with a clear and reasonable expectation of the outcome, aware of the consequences. If the referendum result and the wishes of 17.4 million people was to be undermined it would send shockwaves throughout our whole political system, and result in a sense of frenzy and panic, distrust in politicians and the whole political establishment. If a referendum result could be overturned so simply, then what’s to stop the transition of power between elections, or future political activity from being corrupted, distorted or played into the hands of those who were unhappy with a clear, democratic result?
Unfortunately, a sector of politics which could be argued was far too complex, vast and with too many consequences, was summarised in a 16-word long question and put to the public, seemingly leaving British politics in a disaster zone. The fact is, Ministers are resigning weekly, cabinet members are unhappy with decisions, and MPs are being dragged to the House of Commons to try and scrape through pieces of Brexit legislation. A question which in theory sounded like it would be great to gain public opinion on, was probably far too weighty, and with too much importance to ask the electorate. While my aim would not be to undervalue the opinion of the voter, or their education and intelligence, how is your everyday person – who is possibly overwhelmed by a sense of apathy towards politics – supposed to sufficiently educate themselves on such an important topic? Especially when the campaigns they were supposed to be able to trust were filled with lies, broken promises and scaremongering. It seems unfair to have even asked such a misleading and important question in the first place given the state of the campaigns that were run alone. However, in the end, undermining the result would be even more detrimental and disastrous for British politics than whatever Brexit deal we may or may not end up with.
Written by Anna Bulcock