I’ve just read a brilliant A-Z of Brexit, which I can’t replicate because it’s been done. However, I do like to unpick definitions, so instead of a longer piece on the current situation around Brexit here is a little something based on the words and phrases used so often in this mess that we think we know what they mean – but do we?

Btw, I’ll aim to curb my tendency to rant as this gets us nowhere.  We’re a rather divided and techy nation at the moment, not helped by the constant heat of this never-ending summer. What happens is that we talk amongst ourselves agreeing to be appalled by, for example, the incompetence of the UK negotiators, or are amazed by our inability to simply walk away from the EU.  And with the latter, after all, shouldn’t the will of the people prevail to do just that? Hence this glossary and, I hope, some discussion with people who don’t agree with me.

The will of the people?  We all know the result – it was 51.89% for Leave and 48.11% for Remain. However, the turnout was actually 72.21%.  That means that only 37% of the total eligible British electorate voted for Leave (51.89% of 72% = 37%) and to support my argument that this is absolutely not a good enough majority, I’ve just read a very dense statistical article that argues that the result shows a tie.  How is that the will of the people?

Sovereignty The majority of people who told me they voted to leave have said it was ‘sovereignty’ that governed their decision. But what does that word actually mean? Some said quite bluntly that they don’t want the European Union to dictate and have control over our nation state. The thing is, we were part of the EU and we dictated enough times when we were there. Are you therefore looking forward to lower standards in air pollution and so many other things too many to write that we’ll regret when they’re gone?  Or is it that sovereignty conjures up a mighty nation going it alone without those foreigners just over that bit of water interfering all the time?  Read Boris Johnson for that kind of thinking or, on the other hand, don’t! It’s an attitude that I find distressingly untethered to the reality of our place in the international sphere. Globalisation anyone? Or put simply, car parts and aeroplane parts that come from all over, are we are now to pay tariffs on these and get said parts delayed at the ports? No, the idea of sovereignty, as in no ‘interference’ from outside, is an impossible ideal.

Brexit This is us, Britain, leaving or exiting the EU.  Although don’t forget that this ‘exit’ is very much an English thing as Scotland voted 62%-38% to remain, as did Northern Ireland 55.8%-44% and don’t forget Gibraltar at 96% for remaining in the EU.

Let’s be clear what Brexit means One of Theresa May’s favourite, albeit derided, phrases has been Brexit means Brexit.  This is meaningless, but it is however, important that we understand the terms; hard Brexit and soft Brexit.

Hard v soft A soft Brexit would mean the UK staying in the EU single market and/or customs union for goods and services with some freedom of movement of peoples.

A hard Brexit, meanwhile, involves the UK leaving the EU with no deal or any other kind of agreement so it would then trade with the EU (our largest trading partner) under World Trade Organisation rules. Actually, we would, at that point, have no trade deals with any other country either. See also ‘crashing out’ and the ‘no-deal Brexit’.

The cabinet’s decision making Have you seen the usual pics of the Cabinet?  There seem to be a lot of people around that rather large table. Apparently, there are 22 Heads of Departments there, plus a few civil servants.  That’s actually not a decision-making body, as no decision could be made with that number of people. During my working life I ran focus groups, of which the perfect composition for a fruitful discussion was eight participants.

There are of course many Cabinet sub-committees and recently Theresa May divided the Cabinet into two sub-committees so that members could decide how best the UK could leave the EU, because, as I expect all of you know, the Cabinet is riven with differing views on just that. They cannot agree AT ALL. You’d think that they might have agreed on the way the UK would leave the EU before activating Article 50 in March of last year, no? Hmm? And I expect you are aware that negotiations are meant to be finished by October of this year with our exit scheduled for 29thMarch 2019 at 11.0pm precisely.

The latest version of the game this government seem to be playing at, as in ‘what are we going to do and let’s decide right now’ was the Cabinet away-day at Chequers, one Friday not so long ago (6thJuly).

That Friday at Chequers Have you ever experienced those away days some companies and institutions seem to think are a ‘good thing’? I have, and thought they were ghastly.  My experience was of a lot of talk and a lot of ‘games’, both intentionally supervised and games-playing of that other kind. Who knows what happened at this Chequers away-day apart from that we know that Cabinet members had their phones taken from them. And wow, whatdya know, the Cabinet apparently agreed a policy! But. Not for long.

The short-lived agreement Gosh – they agreed a soft-Brexit!  What was decided upon was, amongst other things (see full Statement) a common harmonised ‘rule-book’ on standards and goods, a customs deal that would avoid hard borders (that’s absolutely to be avoided between Ireland and Northern Ireland) and a ‘combined customs territory’. Yet, at the same time, the UK would have an independent trade policy alongside this frictionless trade with the EU.  My first reaction was that this would never ever be allowed by either the EU negotiators (it hasn’t) or the Brexiteers in May’s Cabinet (see below) who obviously hadn’t the courage on the day to do anything other than ‘play the game’.

So, what happened? Well, it didn’t take long for it all to fall to pieces. May has had two resignations David Davis, the Secretary of State for exiting the EU (good riddance to an absolute dunce) and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary (good riddance to an absolute buffon), a debate in Parliament, which nearly resulted in her losing the vote, but also stymied much of that soft-Brexit watering down that customs thing through various amendments, and a lurking (as in, it’s threatened but not actually happening) revolt of a possible no confidence vote. The latter I see as the typical bullying tactics of many of these Brexiteers – they barrack from the side-lines but don’t actually want to take on the truly horrendous role that May is burdened with.

We’re all going on a summer holiday And then, please note, they’ve all gone on holiday, Parliament that is. But not, I daresay, the negotiators.  And I forgot to say that the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Dominic Raab, who seems to have an IQ a tad higher than Davis, (but has some interesting links with a think-tank that is dedicated to leaving the EU) has been side-lined as there’s been an announcement that the Cabinet Office, with May in the lead, will take over negotiations.  So, no holiday for the Cabinet Office nor May either.

A no deal Brexit or ‘crashing out’ of the EU There’s been quite a lot of talk about this scenario. What happens, if all the negotiations come to nothing, is that at 11.0pm on 29thMarch 2019 the ports of Calais and Dover put up the barriers, and custom checks begin, which will lead to a huge tail back of lorries trying to get in and out of the UK. Plus, amongst many other things, the status of both EU people living here and the Brits living in the 27 EU countries would be somewhat uncertain.

For those of you reading this outside the UK did you know there is talk of having a plan for this, which would include stockpiling food and medicines?  Naturally such talk and having such a plan has been condemned as scare-mongering by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the European (not much) Research Group but to even to have such talk shows you that there is some concern that a no-deal might happen.

Why do people want to crash out? I mean, they actually do want this, so why? Well, take Rees-Mogg, who, one person I met on holiday said would make a jolly good Prime Minister, because he’s such a gent, isn’t he, and he’s not Boris Johnson. All said with a lot of good humour, but on questioning, he really did think the world of Mogg.  But think again, my friend, he has a Hedge Fund for one.  Look, by all means have a Hedge Fund, I’m not stopping you.  But maybe his true colours showed when he said the Brexit dividend might only happen 50 years hence (see below for some more figures on that).  People like him, often closely connected to the think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, see a hard crash-out as the road to a more flexible vibrant economy with less protectionism and regulations.  In other words, they truly want the freedom of lower environmental and consumer standards, all in the name of (their) profit.

Should we have a second referendum? There’s also a lot of talk of a second referendum.  I once thought we should have one but be careful of what you wish. We are a very divided country. Rather like the States. And who would win?  Not sure. I think we might get another very close result or another tie – see above for the link to that article.   But a referendum 10 years on? Yes – the youth of this country will want to return I’m sure.

And would we be let in again? I think the EU 27 must view us in many different ways: pity, irritation and, indeed, some anger as we are not the only ones that will suffer once we leave. But if we asked now, at this late stage, to come back in again I think we’d be seen as utterly untrustworthy.  We’d be pariahs. What a mess, what a situation for a nation to be in.

Btw, is there any opposition to all this? I despair at the Labour Party. Jeremy has never been keen on the EU consequently it shows with Labour’s rather weak opposition.  Because with the Tory Party riven with dissent around the question of Europe, Labour should be way ahead in the opinion polls, which it is not. The Lib Dems, btw, are actively opposing exit from the EU, but as the Lib Dems have never been forgiven for going into coalition with the Tories they are ignored by all and sundry. Mind you, there’s another story hidden away there, as the leader of the Lib Dems apparently missed the key vote on the Chequers White Paper because he was in talks about setting up another party – nope, me neither.

What is going to happen? Actually, nobody knows. Theresa May could be ousted, she could continue as PM.  A soft(ish) deal could be brokered, we could crash out.  If we do leave (well let’s be clear, we are) there are a few certainties of which one is that immigration from the EU will be restricted, which is both good and bad. I’ll just say that higher education, academic research, the NHS, and don’t forget the arts, will be impacted and not in a good way.

What is certain is that our economy will be irreparably damaged.  There are too many reports to note here (apart from this link and another from a US perspective here) but the broad consensus is that the UK will be poorer as a result of leaving the EU. Our own government’s analysis is that economic growth will be stunted by 2-8% for at least 15 years depending on how we leave with crashing-out and WTO rules leading to the worst scenario.

This is, by far, the worst decision made by this country for decades.

Penny Kocher 27thJuly 2018

 

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14 thoughts on “Brexit – a glossary

  • 27th July 2018 at 12:38
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    Spot on. I try not to think about it (Brexit) too much as I’m in despair, but like you I feel the opposition (both with a capital ‘O’ and a small one) are not doing enough. I keep hoping that it will all be dropped and the EU will allow us to stay on the same terms but somehow even if that were to happen I reckon they would fine us for the audacity of trying to withdraw. I’ll stop now as I feel worse. Sorry.

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    • 28th July 2018 at 07:46
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      Hello Scarlett and thanks so much for your comment. I also feel terrible about the current situation and our future, but I also think that I must pay attention to those fools in government. I want to know what they’re doing. And as this blog is read by people in the EU I want them to know that we are so not keen on our exit. I mean it doesn’t help the outcome but people have got to know that we regret the result – which was virtually a tie!

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  • 27th July 2018 at 13:28
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    I share your pain Penny. I despair of the Labour Party and have actually left the party. They need to grow a backbone and act like HM’s Opposition. I had hopes for Keir Starmer but I feel he is constrained by JC’s advisers.
    With regard to Rees-Mogg’s Hedge Fund, this isn’t just a Family Trust. It is a £multi-million business which he has recently moved to Ireland to take advantage of being able to do business within the EU; as you know business services remaining in the UK will not be able to operate the EU without a special licence.
    As you said, I think JRM & his ilk will be feeling less pain than the rest of us and their family finances will recover much faster.
    There is so much at stake – I hope we survive!
    Karen

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    • 28th July 2018 at 08:08
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      I too had hopes of Keir Starmer and not sure what his game is. They all seem to be toeing the party line which seems to be against but not by too much. I blow hot and cold with Corbyn, and think overall his leadership is weak, primarily because his personal opinion of the EU takes precedence over being a true opposing force against Brexit.

      I changed the hedge fund to having caps as yes, I did know his fund, Somerset Capital Management is a multi-million business managed (via subsidiaries) in a tax haven. He will never suffer hardship. Meanwhile we are in the dark as to what will happen, and it could be that on the surface nothing much changes except prices go up, or it could be….. . Thing is we just don’t know and that’s what I object to.

      Plus, there’s a lot more at stake than just our economy. I can’t say I remember the war!!! Being 72! But we forget that it’s good to keep those European countries talking round a table in one unit. We forget (or our short-term politicians do) that there are important political and security reasons for the continuation of the EU and there are those who are looking at our exit with some pleasure. It’s not that we are reduced by leaving, the EU is reduced. The challenging times we live in are not helped by Brexit.

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      • 31st July 2018 at 09:05
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        I think the problem for Corbyn is that so many Labour areas voted to leave. I despair over Brexit and the lack of a strong opposition although feel somewhat better that the want of a second vote is getting stronger with more than 50% of those questioned thinking it is necessary. Maybot is in denial over this and thinks more about keeping her party together than what’s best for the country.

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  • 27th July 2018 at 16:06
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    A very good piece, Penny, as always. Trouble is, will it reach the people that need to understand this and have their minds/attitudes changed? And – without being gratuitously rude about them – would they have the attention span necessary to take in a rational argument? This is the problem of trying explain why Brexit would be a catastrophe – and why the evil Dominic Cummings ‘Take back control’ line was so brilliant; it meant nothing, but played straight into all the petty resentments and prejudices that a certain kind of English person clings to.

    I only disagree with one thing you wrote. I think that a People’s Referendum could only be a good thing – specifically NOT a re-run of the 2016 nonsense, but a vote on the terms of any proposed deal (assuming the UK gets to one…) including an option to remain. It certainly wouldn’t reunite the nation – for a start the die-hard headbangers would solidly vote Brexit come what may – but I have growing confidence that it could produce enough of a majority to stay in the EU – say 55/45 – to justify the ‘will of the people’ claim. And as France has just indicated, the UK would be accepted back in on the current terms – the very best deal that could ever be achieved.

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    • 28th July 2018 at 08:41
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      Yes, I listened to the French minister saying we could come back in, revoking Article 50, any time. But I’m just not sure what the result of a referendum would be. Just like the States we are a divided nation with many people (especially in the urban areas) incredulous that we are leaving, as in why, oh, why? And they had no idea how the other half felt whatsoever, and I include the left in that. Who ever really took up the case of the people living in Lincolnshire and the ones who, a generation back, would be working in factories and heavy industry now long gone? Not Labour. But, setting aside the people left behind, there are the decent (yes, I do say that) middle of the road, middle England (who don’t go on Facebook!) who just don’t want anything other than to part from the EU, for quite a few reasons, not all fanciful or ill-thought through. Just outside Brighton and London is another England – and we should take note of that.

      Having said all that. I agree that we could go back and absolutely should, but when is another matter. The debate around another referendum would be poisonous, just not sure.

      And finally, I realised that I had to get out of my Facebook bubble where at then time of the Referendum I think I was talking to about 6 people who all agreed with me, you included! So that’s why I started writing about the EU and did several posts on who voted, where they lived and why. Also I feel that I am being read beyond my particular circle with yesterday’s post being seen in 8 different countries including the UK, the States, Canada, Australia and crucially France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain. And I do have debates with people who disagree. Don’t laugh, but on my cruise where I think 898 of the 900 passengers voted to Leave, I had some great discussions. Not that I changed their minds or they changed mine – see Chris – is there really going to be sufficient change of heart out there? I don’t think so, until people experience real change after a year or so.

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  • 27th July 2018 at 17:33
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    Well, Penny, you said you hoped someone would disagree! I voted to come out of the EU and admit being surprised at the referendum outcome. I don’t expect it to be quick or easy to disentangle ourselves from a 40 year relationship with the EU so I hoped the white paper would hold. Although not at all supportive of the Tory party I think Theresa May has behaved with incredible grit and integrity having been handed a poisoned chalice by the arrogant and ultimately cowardly David Cameron. She has been treated appallingly by her so-called colleagues whose personal ambition and inherent misogyny are more important to them than supporting her to get the best deal she can.
    The EU is playing tough because some other members are on the brink of leaving too and of course this has never been done before. It seems to be forgotten at times how much the EU has depended on UK contributions as well as our markets. The UK buys more new cars per annum than any other member state; can German manufacturers really afford to lose that income? It is a pity, but I suppose inevitable, that the negotiations are taking place so much in the glare of publicity where it becomes necessary for both sides to take ‘bullish’ positions. In the end something reasonable will be agreed to save everyone’s bacon.
    As to the legitimacy of the referendum outcome, the turnout was about twice what you get in a parliamentary election and we don’t question the outcome of that. ( I do because I think the voting system is unfair but it doesn’t get me very far!) Concerns about Sovereignty have been hugely overplayed by the venal Leave campaign. My dictionary defines it as ‘supremacy of authority of rule , especially as exercised by the sovereign body in a state’ – which is Parliament. However, you could say that having your own rules and laws superseded by another body or state could leave a country vulnerable. I understand that we agreed with the other members states to accept this jointly for the benefits it would bring. However, that was in the ’90’s and things have changed a great deal.
    One of my biggest issues with the EU (not to be confused with European citizens of course) is the rapid and inappropriate growth of the union to include as full members former eastern
    block countries who should have been supported until their economies and social systems were more developed. That is a process which takes long, hard work. I cannot see the point of us handing over money to the profligate EU bureaucracy so that it can waste a lot of it then hand it back in grants as they see fit . Surely the enormous process involved is in itself wasteful and unnecessary?
    I don’t accept the arguments that our government will behave like a naughty child as soon as the ‘parent EU’ is out of the way and decide to trash our environment, lower bathing water standards, further pollute the air etc etc. Even if it wanted to, the genie is well out of the bottle and the public will not stand for it. I don’t think the arts, Although I recognize the valuable work that has been done on theses issues, I find when I go to mainland Europe that standards of public safety, noise and air pollution etc are far worse than here. That must say something about our attitudes to these problems and it is not just because the EU dictates. We had high animal welfare standards, a National Health Service, social security benefits etc long before we joined the -what was then- the EEC.
    It’s interesting that you are concerned about the number of ministers at Chequers to try to come up with a proposal. Isn’t it much worse at the EU when 27 countries are represented and decisions need to be unanimous ? Those representatives attend meetings to promote their own countries interests, if necessary above others. It’s why they are there and we can expect nothing else. It’s amazing the situation has gone on so long without anyone leaving before now! That could be because most members gain financially from the arrangement , unlike us.
    I genuinely pay tribute to what the EU did after the war but I think it has now become too large, too bloated and just too expensive. If an organisation can’t agree where it’s headquarters should be located how effective can it really be ?
    As I said at the beginning, extracting ourselves is going to take time and patience but I think we can do it and it is in the interests of the other countries to help. Leaving the EU – a discredited and spendthrift administration – is not the same as cutting ourselves off from mainland Europe . Our universities, technologies and innovations are world class and we all need each other to solve the really big issues of our time, rather than the minutiae of much of our day-to-day activities.
    We will need to have continued cross-fertilization of ideas & expertise and these are bound up in people as much as hardware. I have confidence in the ability and enthusiasm of the young people who will be the future of not only Europe but indeed the world. There is much more that unites than divides us.
    What about another referendum? We who voted leave are considered by the Remainers to have misunderstood the issues and fallen for the blandishments of Boris, Gove etc. I plead not guily M’lud! I didn’t believe the lies and misrepresentations of either side. How would a new vote be any better? If we didn’t understand last time what is going to change that? Does anyone really think it would be a calm reasoned debate if we do it again? As most people are not interested in politics and are sick of it all , how would it help? We have a representative democracy and it’s the politicians job to see this through.

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    • 28th July 2018 at 14:51
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      Hello Lynda and thank you so much for your comment. It is just THE most important thing to look at issues from a variety of angles and that has to include Brexit. I think we’re more divided as a country than ever but that should never stop people sharing and discussing ideas from differing viewpoints.

      I shall answer some of your points; David Cameron was a first class idiot – a very superficial politician who set up a referendum to save his party and didn’t think of the possibility that it might not go the way he wanted which was to sort said party. Theresa May is someone I just cannot warm to but she is showing grit and is typical of a certain kind of very competent woman who you have to admire. I just wish I could say the same of the people in her government many of whom who are typical men who rise to the top not because they’re competent but because they can talk the talk. I mean take Grayling – no don’t!!!!

      It wasn’t the away-day’s numbers that I thought were too many (because I expect they broke up into groups – that’s the usual thing) but the number round the Cabinet table which always looks ridiculous to me as an ex-focus group researcher who knows only too well the hell of discussions with large numbers (because occasionally a focus group would be set up not by me but others who had to include … I had 18 once – awful!).

      RE: the lowering of standards – I would argue that this is on the agenda of the rabid Brexiteers who see any regulation as a barrier to profit. I trust that the country as a whole and Parliament would prevent this, as we all shudder at the thought of American food coming our way. Personally I’ll pay more for organic British food direct from farmers, but I acknowledge that this is not possible for everyone.

      Yes, the EU is a deeply flawed organisation and bloated with bureaucracy. Could it reform? It could if it wanted to. Maybe after all the work of Brexit it might, but I don’t hold out too much hope on that score. It will take a long time for us to extract ourselves (actually don’t you think that the negotiations should have been conducted by lawyers!)

      Yet, yet. I’d still rather be in than out. See above for a reply about remembering when Europe was at war. No I don’t think in simplistic terms that the EU has prevented war, but I’d rather see us all, the UK included, sitting round a table together, than how it was in Europe. But in the meantime I think our exit is just not the right thing to do with regard to the greater security of Europe. It’s important not to focus too much on the economy – there are wider issues that matter like the dangerous times we live in.

      Actually I’ll end here but thanks so much for your contribution which is much appreciated.

      Reply
  • 27th July 2018 at 17:44
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    Brilliant. Just loved this article. Reflects exactly my thoughts. The people who voted leave voted foolishly as they didn’t know what exactly the deal, consequences and more importantly the cost would be. Our students, manufacturers. Universities and service industries are all going to suffer. Lies were told on.the campaign and gullible people voted yes. Most young people didn’t understand and didn’t vote which is disappointing.

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    • 28th July 2018 at 15:04
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      Hello Rosemary and thanks so much for your comment. Well, no-one knew what the outcome of us exiting would be including the politicians. Actually I have to disagree with you (hope you don’t mind) because it wasn’t the people who voted to leave who were foolish, it is the politicians of the time and David Cameron in particular who were foolish and should take all the blame. We have a parliamentary democracy and David Cameron should jolly well have led us through the maze of negotiations with the EU and not said, let the people speak, because anyway, he didn’t expect to lose the referendum. Personally, I don’t think any ordinary people are to blame – we were pawns in the hands of a very poor Prime Minister and a terrible campaign on both sides of the argument.

      In the meantime I think the youth of our country will be our salvation. Thanks again .

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  • 28th July 2018 at 11:28
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    I wonder if any of the other contributors read what I wrote or just ignored it because they think I’m one of those they describe as gullible , lacking in attention span, ‘die-hard headbangers’ etc. This kind of language will not help. I suggest you look at , if it’s still available, a TV programme made by Grayson Perry about Brexit. He concluded that leavers and remainers have more in common than that which divides them.
    I’m reading all the comments respectfully, as I know Penny has read mine, because I realise that contributors care about this country and its people, like I do. I’m not making sweeping generalisations about their ability to reason or pay attention. They’ve just come to a different conclusion to me.
    I do wonder, however, why Scarlett thinks that the EU would ‘punish us for the audacity of trying to withdraw’ ? I thought it was supposed to be an assembly of equals, respecting and trying to accommodate different opinions and circumstances, not a punitive ‘parent’ of an organisation which comes down heavily on those who step out of line. Surely everyone has the right to leave a club that no longer meets their needs or feels appropriate for them?
    I understand that the EU has to take a strong public stance but I’m very disappointed that it appears to be obstructive and rigid. I’m not saying that I think that our rotten government has handled things well but of course none of us really know what’s going on behind closed doors.
    I certainly accept than when you leave the EU ‘ club’ you can’t expect to have the benefits of being a member of it. I’m just sad that people we were encouraged to think of as our friends seem to have become our enemies. On a personal level we may have friends who make decisions or act in ways we don’t like. Do we send them hate mail/troll them online or do we try to understand their position ? Perhaps this thought is not applicable to the current situation, unfortunately. This is my final post on this subject , I promise!

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    • 28th July 2018 at 15:16
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      Hello again Lynda. Actually I don’t think they read your comment because most commented a day earlier! It is ,as I said to you above, so important to have better discussions with people of differing views. Gosh in some arenas it is debate of the lowest kind – not worth replying to or taking note of what they say.

      I started writing these posts to get out of my Facebook bubble, and to reach out to others and it appears that this is happening. Also it keeps me sane, as I just can’t believe how some politicians behave. Anyway, I really enjoy reading your comments – thanks so much for all the effort you put into them. Btw, I haven’t forgotten the NHS. I have two half-written posts which will appear at some point.

      Thanks again, Lynda, all the best 🙂

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  • 1st August 2018 at 07:29
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    The very thought of Brexit is so depressing even the glorious summer can’t compesate.
    Every day new headlines suggest we’re moving closer to a no deal Brexit. I can’t understand why, in a democracy, we can’t have a vote on this. Especially as a poorly thought out and badly explained first referendum, has left us in such a mess.
    It seems that the government are afraid to ask if it’s still the will of the country. Surely to do this would be a democratic act and if it is still the ‘will of the people’, as is so often stated, those people won’t be thwarted. Everyone would be given a chance to look at the situation that actually exists rather than a hypothetical one, and vote on it with some real information rather than speculation, as was the situation in the first referendum.
    Thank you for writing this, we’ll researched piece.

    Reply

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