I’m sure everyone will agree that the question of Brexit has been dominating British daily life for too long. It is now well over four years since the European Union Referendum Act was voted into law by parliament in June 2015, ensuring that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU would take place. In February 2016 David Cameron announced the date of that referendum, and it’s now three and a quarter years since it took place on the 23rd of June 2016.
Yet, having come this far down the line, we’re still no closer to knowing what one of the two options on the ballot paper actually meant. That situation is utterly ridiculous and defies belief. It should have been clearly spelled out before the vote, rather than squabbled about for years afterwards. How can you operate a democratic process when nobody knows what they’re actually voting for?
The leave campaign had many different voices promising many different things. Terms such as soft Brexit, hard Brexit, Canada option, Norway option, Norway+, continued Customs Union membership, and continued Single Market membership were bandied about and voters may have been attracted to any of these different options. However, Brexit can only take one eventual form, so many of the people who voted in expectation of the options listed above will be disappointed, especially if they didn’t anticipate a no-deal Brexit.
On top of that, the leave campaign was proven to have lied about some of the financial figures concerning Brexit, not least the famous number on the side of the bus, and they broke spending rules during the campaign, so in my view the result should probably have been declared null and void on that basis.
However, the result stands and, as a supporter of democracy, I respect it. Question: What is even more democratic than a referendum? Answer: two referendums. I think that the only was to fairly resolve this mess is to hold a second referendum. The so-called People’s Vote. If ‘leave’ wins again then so be it. This time, the leave option needs to be clearly defined in a way everyone can understand before the vote.
We could have three options of Remain, No Deal, and Deal and a single transferable vote system, or, perhaps just the two options of Remain and Deal if it’s decided that parliament’s ruling out of no deal really is legally binding. It is paramount that any deal is negotiated before the vote, so that we know exactly what we’re voting for, and if Theresa May’s deal is the only one on the table then that is the one that must be put before the people.
What is also important is that the people most affected by Brexit are given the chance to vote on it. British citizens living abroad are likely to be most affected by it, so they should all have the right to vote on it, including those who have lived abroad for more than fifteen years. EU nationals living in Britain are another group highly affected by Brexit. They pay taxes here and contribute to our economy in may ways and do valuable jobs here, so they should all be allowed a vote in the referendum. Finally, young people are a third group that are highly affected by the result. They will have to live with the consequences of Brexit for years to come, so sixteen and seventeen year olds should be allowed to vote on it. This affects them far more than it does anyone in their eighties or nineties, who might not still be around when the full effects of Brexit start to bite.