The Richmond by-election is not a mandate to reverse Brexit

The Richmond by-election victory for the Lib Dems has got the remainers rather over excited. Sarah Olney said the outcome had sent a “shockwave” through Downing Street and paved the way for Parliament to “override” the EU withdrawal referendum result. This is a particularly baffling conclusion to make; a by-election mandate of 20,000 hardly compares to the 17.4 million who voted Leave.

At least it revealed the real motive behind the calls for a second referendum, and it isn’t a sincere desire for true democracy.

The calls for a second referendum from the likes of Tim Farron, Tony Blair and John Major are disingenuous to the extreme. Tim ‘nice but dim’ Farron is acting on the pretence of protecting democracy when he says the voice of the British people “must be heard”. They have been heard, loudly and clearly, yet he is insisting that the Lib Dems will vote against triggering Article 50 unless they are made to vote again.

The EU referendum took place after an intense campaign and a debate that has been taking place over four decades. The vote was the culmination of years of discussion, political fallout and national soul searching; there is now a mandate for the UK to leave the EU and for the Government to negotiate an exit settlement on our behalf.

A vote on the result of negotiation is a terrible idea, giving us a choice between the settlement negotiated, a hard Brexit or a last minute surrender where we beg the EU to let us stay and slink back in a weaker position than we have ever been. This would not settle the EU question, but it would degrade our democracy and kick the can down the road where a different kind of Euroscepticism would rebuild far more vociferously and bitterly.

As for John Major and Tony Blair, their sudden love for referendums says it all. It was the Maastricht Treaty that put rocket boosters under the Eurosceptic movement and set us on a path to leave, moving as it did towards a more explicitly political union. The Lisbon Treaty was another great advance for the project that deepened integration and exposed the anti-democratic tendencies of hardcore Europhiles.

Blair and Major didn’t give the public a vote on these constitutional transforming Treaties because they knew they would lose them. They did everything they could to avoid letting the public have a say and contributed greatly to the backlash that erupted on June 23rd.

The old Europhile boys club are a deceitful and duplicitous lot making a last minute rescue effort to save their rejected legacy of EU integration. Their modern-day equivalents are still in disbelief that they won’t be able to finish the job they started.

They want the UK to join France, Ireland and the Netherlands in the list of quashed rebellions against the EU. They have hit the height of delusion and they don’t understand that even if they achieved their desire for a second referendum the anger against their sheer shamelessness and moral bankruptcy would see the exit settlement endorsed comfortably.

The message of remainers is now that leaving the EU is too difficult, too complex and too risky. Our EU integration is irreversible. This portrays the EU as a prison; sure, it has home comforts and the facilities are good, but it’s still a prison. Is this really a good image? Is this the message they wish to convey? Reversing the referendum and keeping us in the EU would not seem like a glorious victory for them for long.

The consequences for our political culture would be dire and they’d soon realise that the instinctive Euroscepticism engrained in our culture will last as long as we are in the EU and won’t go away until we leave. The notion that we voted leave because of a slogan here or there is deluded nonsense, a great lie and over simplification from people who still can’t get their head around what is happening.

The man in the street who voted to leave has no time for these machinations. They voted leave and they expect that expression of democratic will to be honoured. If it isn’t the message is that voting doesn’t matter. That sentiment would pass onto the next generation and come back to haunt the political class in a very severe way.

We leave in a managed transition now, or toxify our politics for years to come and leave in a flurry of public anger a few years down the line. That’s the real choice.


Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Director of Online Communications.  Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty

Photo: Keith Edkins – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.