Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Sometimes you just have to agree with the Tories

It surprises me how often I find myself agreeing with Conservatives on the hard Brexit wing of the party.

I should add that the agreement is partial and there are nuances of difference in why we hold similar views. Sometimes those nuances are even fairly significant. Agreement, nonetheless, there is.

First I agreed with a sentiment of Boris Johnson, in the letter of resignation he wrote to his then boss, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, when standing down as Foreign Secretary. He resigned in disgust over the compromise Brexit approach she was proposing to the European Union.

As I’ve already pointed out, I felt he was entirely right in warning that Britain was opting for colonial status. The nuance was that I saw that status arising not just as a result of May’s compromise, but as a necessary consequence of Brexit itself: Britain would either have to accept dictation of its trade regulations by the EU, in return for a trading deal with it, or by the US, in pursuit – possibly a vain pursuit – of a trade deal – certainly a far smaller one – with the Americans.
Never self-satisfied: Brexiter Tory MP Bernard Jenkin.
And I agree with his Brexit case. If not for the same reasons
Now Bernard Jenkin, hard line Tory Brexiter, has spoken out. He told the BBC:

We had a referendum and parliament handed this decision to the British people.

Whether Parliament had the right entirely to abrogate its own authority to take decisions over legislation in this way is a question over which there is more than one point of view, but it’s certainly true that on this occasion it did and the vote went for leaving the EU. By a narrow margin, of 52% to 48%, but a Brexit majority nonetheless.

Jenkin went on:

Were the House of Commons to find itself in a position where we weren’t accepting the referendum result, we were determined to dilute it so much that it’s unrecognisable as a vote to take back our self-government, it would be rather like saying, wouldn’t it, ‘oh well, at the next general election Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister but actually business don’t like him and the CBI don’t like him and the civil service don’t like him so we won’t have him as Prime Minister even though he’s been elected’.

You can’t do that in a democracy. The referendum result has got to be respected.

Again, there might be a quibble over whether the Brexit decision really was a vote for self-government. If Britain now has to take its regulations from either the EU or the US, with no say itself, that feels more like a loss of control, than taking back control.

That, however, is a side u. The real point is the excellent parallel Jenkin draws between the referendum and a general election.

And he’s absolutely right. We do have to accept an election result, like it or not. So far, we’re in complete agreement.

However, and this is the nuance which separates us on this issue, what Jenkin doesn’t say is that accepting the result of a general election is a completely provisional matter. Jenkin would accept that Corbyn had won an election, if he ever did, but he’d be working immediately and energetically to reverse that decision. He would know that another election could be called in which Corbyn might be voted out, and he would be doing everything in his power to make that election happen as soon as possible.

Which means that I agree with his parallel, but that to me seems like a cast-iron case for a further referendum. If the electorate voted Corbyn into office, he would feel voters had made a mistake and call for a new election to force him back out. Well, I believe the electorate made a mistake voting for Brexit and everything that has happened in the so-called negotiations so far proves that.

So let’s have another referendum and give voters the chance to put things right.

Don’t you agree, Bernard?

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