I Voted Remain But Fear A Blocked Brexit Could Tear This Country In Two

Earlier this week I wrote a piece titled –

Dear stupid Brexit voter – a patronising open letter from Brexit blocking Labour MPs .

It provoked a strong reaction, both good and bad, and got people talking and thinking which was my intent. Unfortunately, one friend who passionately believes that Labour should block Brexit, wrongly presumed the letter was my way of saying that anyone who wants to overturn the referendum is a metropolitan elitist, arrogant snob who looks upon all leave voters with disdain. That’s why I want that friend, and anyone else who feels the same to know, I do understand why some of my fellow remainers want to block Brexit. They may well feel uncomfortable about going against a referendum result, but in their cost/benefit calculations, blocking Brexit, or at least aiming for a second referendum, wins. Those who hold that view are, more often then not, people of integrity and as such I respect them. The point I was trying to make was not so much about them, as about the way leave voters feel about them. I’ll explain more about that later.

For my part I wish a referendum had never been called in the first place. I fret about what Brexit means for my three children – one whose partner is Polish – my little granddaughter, and the country as a whole. And I often feel anger toward those who stoked up anti-immigration sentiment for their own selfish ends; and I include some Labour MPs in that number (ironically often the same MPs who went on to become passionate Remain campaigners and who now say we must not leave the single market).

But greater than all these fears are my very deep fears over the possible repercussions if Brexit was to be blocked. Why? Because rage and political disaffection would be an inevitable by-product of a blocked Brexit. That rage and disaffection would be manna from heaven for far right parties, who would, in my view be the greatest beneficiaries of it.

image

If the arguments for blocking Brexit were more compelling I might be swayed. But the argument I’ve heard most often to justify the blocking of Article 50 is that the leave campaign told lies…or that people were not implicitly advised that a leave vote would mean a hard Brexit. And both are true. However, which General Election campaign hasn’t involved some major truth spinning? Or outright lies? All of them. But we don’t re-run General Elections on those grounds.

Had the probability of a hard Brexit never been mentioned at any point throughout the campaign I’d say, yes, this whole campaign was based on lies which voids the result. But the risks and possibilities were discussed at length, over and over again. People who voted Brexit knew those risks (though for those voting to regain control over immigration I’d suggest they saw the risk as a gain). To suggest otherwise is to patronise them in the extreme.

The final argument used to justify the blocking of Article 50 is that Brexit will hit the poorest hardest. That may well be true, but the same can be said of Tory governments. Again we don’t block the General Election result on that basis, tempting as that is. Working class people, like my Tory voting nan for instance, often vote against their own interests. It’s frustrating, but that’s the imperfect world we live in. I just happen to believe it will be a lot less perfect if we start to turn our backs on democracy whenever it fails to serve up the ‘right’ result. That rings too much of tyranny.

One of the ‘blessings’ of not coming from a purely left wing family is I often get to hear from people who see things very differently to me. Sometimes it leads to heated shouting matches, but often it gives me food for thought. For instance one of my relatives voted Brexit, predominantly to reduce migration. She is ‘disgusted’ with Labour MPs who are, and I quote, “acting as if I’m too stupid to know what I was doing.” That was the inspiration behind my open letter.

I’ve since explained that the majority of Labour MPs will not vote against Article 50, but the die has been cast. My relative, who always used to grumble about ‘posh’ Labour MPs like Blair, who has voted UKIP, but quite likes Jeremy Corbyn, now swears she’s done with Labour for good.

I can imagine some readers reaction to this. They may well be asking themselves why we should pander to people who voted Brexit on racist grounds. But that over simplifies things. Even Brexit voters who cite immigration as the primary reason for voting leave are not necessarily racist. Many, like my elderly relative, simply see things getting worse for ordinary people, including their children and grandchildren, and have been sold a very simple solution, which is to reduce the number of people applying for jobs, using the NHS, schools, council housing etc.

These ideas are deeply entrenched. Trust me, as someone who has tried over a number of years to uproot them, I know. Trying to compete with the scare stories in the right wing media is no mean feat.

image

So I’m not denying for a moment that a fair number of Brexit voters voted leave misguidedly thinking, like my relative, that a reduction in migration would mean a greater share of the pie for everyone here already. Labour’s failure to challenge that narrative adequately in the past means they have to be held partly responsible for Brexit. Even during the referendum campaign I heard several Labour MPs insisting we would get tough on immigration if the public served up a Remain vote, which simply reinforced support for Brexit because people knew you couldn’t square the circle of tough controls on immigration with membership of the single market. So even if it’s true that people who voted Brexit were misled, how can that be grounds for blocking Brexit when that process of misleading has been going on for many decades, and Labour played a significant part in it?

img_20161006_013650

I hope people will now better understand what motivated me to write my open letter. I wrote it in the hope that Labour members calling on Jeremy Corbyn, and indeed all Labour MPs, to block the triggering of Article 50, got to stand for a moment in a Brexit voter’s shoes and ask themselves is that really how they want leave voters to feel? Because that’s how many would feel…patronised and held in contempt because they voted the ‘wrong’ way. If people were misled into voting Brexit, they won’t think that of themselves and they won’t be filled with gratitude toward their Brexit blocking ‘saviours’.

Instead they will be filled with justifiable rage; rage that will be looking for a home. For many, populist right wing and far right parties may well become that home. Many others will never vote in a General Election, or any election again. They will hold democracy in contempt, understandably so. It’s no good saying now to leave voters that the Referendum was advisory when that genuinely was one of the least discussed facts in the campaign. Regardless of the good intentions that lie in the hearts of those who want to block us leaving the EU, if Brexit is blocked, it would open wounds that would NEVER heal.

I’m not saying I’m right on all this and people who disagree are wrong. Brexit has thrown all the dice in the air and no one knows how they’ll land. I’m simply sharing my perspective and my very genuine fears.

Advertisements

16 comments

  1. ID Smith · January 26

    I agree with you and Corbyn. By opposing Article 50, Labour could end up blocking a Brexit for jobs, the NHS, and migrant workers. Corbyn’s clear. We want a socialist Brexit, not a UKIP/Tory Exit.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Deborah · January 26

    I entirely agree with you and Corbyn. (Just a small point. I think you meant ‘the die is cast’ as in singular of ‘dice’)

    Like

  3. Jane Macarthur · January 26

    Your comparison between Brexit and General Elections doesn’t quite work. You’re right – we don’t re-run General Elections when it’s discovered the winning party’s manifesto was based on lies (even though I am not alone in thinking this should carry more serious penalties) – but the results of the GEs only last for a maximum of a few years. Brexit is (most likely) permanent, and – even if the final outcome is financially ‘beneficial’ – its implementation will be hugely expensive and time-consuming. It permanently alters our status as citizens, and permanently and radically changes the philosophy of this country. I agree that blocking Article 50 or running a second referendum aren’t ideal solutions. But Brexit is not the same as a GE.

    Like

  4. Florence · January 26

    There is a great deal of merit in the arguments here. However, there is a third way that would please all the Brexit voters, wouldn’t pander to the far right abd would be easily justifiable for all sides of thevargunebt. Find a way to limit EU migration, legally and decently, and stay in the EU. This compromise is politically sound. It also means the number of variables and costs, as listed in the Tax Questions for Brexit would melt away.

    All the best solutions are political ones, and involve compromises. Its the only way to end wars, and I think it is a huge mistake to allow the Brexit referendum to degenerate into a war of attrition that will only end with political solutions and compromise, after much damage has been done.

    Like

  5. Sue Murphy · January 26

    I agree with you. I voted to remain but that didn’t happen and therefore we can’t be seen screaming about democracy on one hand and blocking article 50 on the other which would be undemocratic! It’s like freedom of speech it has to be universal we won’t always like what we hear but we have to defend people’s right to say it, it’s very difficult to draw a line!
    Now you can call me a conspiracy theorist but I believe that the likes of Louise Ellman, a known anti Corbynist, will have no problem blocking article 50 just to discredit Corbyn. I truly believe they would sell out working class people to bring down a truly socialist labour party and that scares me!

    Like

  6. Mark Catlin · January 26

    Reblogged this on Declaration Of Opinion .

    Like

  7. @pplswar · January 26

    But Labour doesn’t have the votes to block Brexit…

    Like

  8. Tarl Koroban · January 26

    I am a big JC supporter but if Brexit is blocked by Labour MPs I will relinquish my membership of the party and that will be me finished (for the second time) with the party. A DEMOCRATICALLY reached decision was made. It is what the people by a large enough majority decided and that is what they should get. Hard soft or medium Brexit is irrelevant. The people have made up their minds. They want out of Europe, period. Trump keeps saying to the Americans ‘You will be ignored no longer’. If you don’t want a Trump figure here then listening to the people is advisable.

    The French will have Le Pen, the British Farage, the Americans Trump. Tread carefully remainers.

    Like

  9. Peter H · January 26

    The way to avoid ‘rage and disaffection’ which might fuel the far right is to set out clearly the democratic justification for a referendum to ratify – or not to ratify – the final proposals put to the country at the end of the negotiation process. This would not ‘block’ the Brexit process – the first referendum result would be accepted in that negotiations would commence towards achieving the UK leaving the EU – but the second would allow everyone a chance to decide whether the final proposals corresponded with their aspirations. People who voted ‘Leave’, who may have had a wide range of reasons and emotions for their choice, would have a second chance to confirm that they accepted the detail and all the implications – and of course some would continue to be strong supporters of ‘Leave’ regardless. However, others may frankly have had second thoughts and the second vote would give them a chance to say ‘this was not what we imagined or what we wanted’. .On the other side of the coin, there could be some former ‘Remain’ voters who will now say ‘it’s not as bad as we thought – we’ve changed our minds’. The point is that a second referendum should be seen as something that opens up democracy for everybody rather than shutting it down.

    That’s why that I believe that Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats are right to make a second referendum, on the final proposition, a condition of supporting the triggering of Article 50. Given Labour’s support for EU membership over many decades, and their official endorsement of the ‘Remain’ campaign, I am disappointed that Jeremy Corbyn is not prepared to support this. I am even more disappointed that he is imposing a three-line whip on his MPs to support an unconditional triggering of Article 50.

    Like

  10. Susanna Chapman · January 26

    I also voted Remain, and I don’t think Article 50 should be blocked, but I think that before it is triggered we should get agreement (from all the EU countries) that we can have another referendum on the final agreement. I don’t see this as going against the result of last year’s referendum, but I don’t feel the government have a mandate for a ‘hard Brexit’. If the result of a referendum on the agreed conditions was still to leave, then they would have this mandate. If the conditions were rejected, they would have to renegotiate.

    Like

  11. Faraz Khan · January 26

    …the only force tearing UK apart is fake-austerity …rich-poor ; north-south ;old-young ; rentiers-tenants
    … facts are – recent history – riots fomented by *income divide* ( london , toxteth ): bosses vs workers ( coal-miners era ) .. race riots also have their roots in destitution – brixton , southall …

    “The structures are maintained by a system of justice that tends to favour those who have over those who have not. From time to time this unfairness, and that system, become repugnant, occasionally intolerable.”
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/london-riot-history/

    Like

  12. Patricia O'Reilly · January 27

    What do you mean by “ordinary people” (para 9)?Immigrants are ordinary people.

    Like

    • chelleryn · January 27

      Of course and I’m a daughter of an immigrant. What makes you think I am excluding immigrants?

      Like

  13. mikephipps2012 · January 27

    Very much agree with this article. It’s a pity that The Canary, Global Justice Now and all sorts of other good people don’t get this. My view is this, if I may quote the latest Labour Briefing editorial:
    “The EU referendum exposed huge divisions which many people clearly felt had not been addressed. But it also unleashed a constitutional crisis on several fronts. There is a crisis of representation where many believed that voting in elections had not enabled them to express fully the anger or despair they feel at their marginalisation, which did not begin, but intensified with the 2008 crash. There is also a crisis of the UK state: Scotland did not vote for Brexit and its leaders will feel legitimised to push for a second independence referendum. Notwithstanding May’s assurances, the issue of the northern Ireland border also threatens to unravel the 1998 Peace Agreement.

    Crises attract vultures and the conditions are being created, partly consciously, for disaster capitalism. This is inherent in much of May’s discourse: “taking back control” means rolling back workers’ rights, environmental protections and the welfare state. Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right when he characterised this as making Britain an offshore tax haven, a refuge for plutocrats and an island of cheap labour.

    We can’t rerun last year’s referendum, but we can reject this version of Brexit. Labour has an opportunity to show it has broken with its past of taking working class voters for granted and standing by while neoliberal economics, initiated under Thatcher but continued under New Labour, destroyed jobs and hope. Now is an opportunity to show solidarity with these communities.

    This is what Jeremy Corbyn did in his response to May’s Brexit strategy. He spoke for
    a Brexit that works not just for the City, but in the interests of all, that puts health and social care, decent jobs and living standards first, together with a better deal for young people and areas of the country that have been left behind for too long.

    Access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs should be part of this. But we must also press to repatriate powers from Brussels for the British government to develop a sustainable industrial strategy, putting power, resources and investment into local communities where needed, so that none is left behind.

    The Tory vision is low taxes for the rich, low pay for the rest, under-funded public services in preparation for their further privatisation and finding someone to blame – the EU, migrants, claimants, whatever. It’s a ruthless, brutal, failed model that Labour should expose for what it is – while seeking solutions to problems, not scapegoats.
    .
    Our leaders should argue that the Brexit negotiations enable us to intervene decisively to prevent workers, from here or abroad, being exploited to undermine pay and conditions at work. On border controls, we should stand proudly by our international obligations to refugees fleeing wars and persecution. EU citizens who are already here should have their rights guaranteed and international students should continue to be welcomed. While the Tories prefer to surrender access to the single market – and thus lose vital export markets and destroy jobs in order to pursue UKIP’s agenda of cracking down on immigration, Labour should make access to the single market, without tariffs or encumbrances, its priority, recognising that this entails a commitment to free movement.”
    http://www.labourbriefing.org

    Like

  14. Alex · January 28

    A very interesting article, and just as interesting comments. One thing worth mentioning, often overlooked: not all Brexiteers voted because of immigration. Some lefties, like me, voted out because they would rather leave and start again rather than support an undemocratic, unaccountable, and yes, elitist system.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s