Tag Archives: referendum

Just Say No…

Ben Johnson, Olympic sprinter, had to give his gold medal back. He had won by the narrowest of margins but had cheated. He had gained an unfair advantage and the result could not stand. 

Boris Johnson has recently celebrated the narrowest of victories. You can see where this is going already….

It is not just Boris. Gove, Hannan, Grayling, Duncan-Smith and the rest of the Leave campaign misled the public. From the moment the Leave campaign crested the tape at the finishing line they have let slip their vision of Brexit. Hannan has made it clear that immigration will not significantly be reduced. Duncan-Smith turned promises into visions of possibilities. 

Johnson made the position clear in his Telegraph column. It is worth quoting substantially from it:

“I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be. There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment. EU citizens living in this country will have their rights fully protected, and the same goes for British citizens living in the EU. 

British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down. As the German equivalent of the CBI – the BDI – has very sensibly reminded us, there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market. Britain is and always will be a great European power, offering top-table opinions and giving leadership on everything from foreign policy to defence to counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing – all the things we need to do together to make our world safer. 
The only change – and it will not come in any great rush – is that the UK will extricate itself from the EU’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation: the vast and growing corpus of law enacted by a European Court of Justice from which there can be no appeal. This will bring not threats, but golden opportunities for this country – to pass laws and set taxes according to the needs of the UK. 
Yes, the Government will be able to take back democratic control of immigration policy, with a balanced and humane points-based system to suit the needs of business and industry. Yes, there will be a substantial sum of money which we will no longer send to Brussels, but which could be used on priorities such as the NHS. Yes, we will be able to do free trade deals with the growth economies of the world in a way that is currently forbidden. “

Putting together everything the Leave Campaign have said after the result shows that the campaign was based on lies. Their pledges/promises/possibilities could not represent their vision of the future for the UK after a withdrawal from the EU. 

Instead of “taking back the £350 million we send to the EU every week and spending it on the NHS” the pledge should have been “still sending money to the EU as the price for membership of the single market and probably getting little change out of £350 million pounds per week but if we do we might spend the bit we get back partially on the NHS. Maybe.”

The pledge “taking back control of our sovereignty, our laws being made by our sovereign parliament” just needed the caveat “apart form the EU regulations necessary for free trade, which are quite a lot.”

And the big one, the taking back control of our borders. The end to freedom of movement. But look at what Boris says above. He is talking about freedom of labour movement and pledges we will still be able to live, work and settle down in the EU. So we are taking back control of our borders, save for what we have to agree to to allow you to have freedoms which will probably mean agreeing the same rights for our trading partners. So they can come here to live, work and settle down….

Far from being free of the EU, Boris, Dan, Michael, Iain and Chris intend to pay money to the EU, be subject to EU regulations that relate us to trade and allow significant freedom of movement. 

What they have done is taken back control of reality. Their campaign was turbo-charged by the steroid of deceit. The reality has all the honour and pride of a failed urine test. 

Am I just a whinging Remainer wanting another Referendum? No. 

The Remain campaign were guilty of equally galling hyperbole. This was a two horse race where everyone was cheating to one extent or another. The sort of race where you just nullify the result, award no medals and ban the participants. 

I do not ask for a second Referendum. Had the Leave campaign been more honest about their vision, my choice at the ballot box would have been more difficult. I can perhaps live with their vision of the future, if it is allied with the protection of fundamental rights currently only protected by EU regulation. 

I may have decided that the economic impact was not worth the tinkering that that grand Brexit plan actually represents. I may have taken the view that incredibly complex process of extricating ourselves from the EU and then grafting ourselves back on to it is a waste of time and resources. Look at Boris’s words; “the only change”. Independence Day became As You Were Day. 

I am pretty certain that there were more Leavers disappointed by Boris’s vision of post Brexit life. I would not be surprised if one or two of them exclaimed “is he on drugs?”. Only the drug of PR and the lure of easy, populist policies. 

I bet I don’t feel half as cheated as the Leavers do….

I Remain

Remainers are terribly bad losers, so we are told. Repeatedly. 

I confess I hoped that, had the vote been to Remain, we would have seen the last of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and they would have disappeared from public life. I never once, in even my wildest dreams, thought it would actually happen (those are not actually my wildest dreams but this is a family blog). In fact a tiny piece of me would have been a bit disappointed had Farage packed it in. That is hardly a hallmark of commitment to the cause.

It would not have been an affront to democracy for UKIP to carry on; to carry on campaigning for what they believe in, for a withdrawal from the EU and for controls on immigration. This would not be to ignore the Referendum, it would not be the antithesis of democracy. In fact it would have promoted democracy. Opposition to the majority view, opposition to Government policy is vital to keep the public informed and to keep the policiticans honest (reasonably so). 

As time moved on I would not expect every change made by the EU to have been meekly accepted. I would expect to see and hear Eurosceptics be true to their beliefs and point out the failings of the EU at every opportunity. 

So why do Remainers have to be good little boys and girls? Victorian boys and girls at that, seen but not heard. Repeatedly I see and hear Remainers, who are only expressing reasonable views, being told to shut up. Many seem to be of the view that the Referendum was the definitive and last word on the subject. It very much is not. 

I am not calling for or suggesting a second referendum. The course of action that the referendum set is the course that the country should follow but there is a long road to travel. Despite the headlines, we remain members of the EU. We have not given notice to quit and we have not begun to address the legislation withdrawal requires. Remainers are entitled to have and express a view about the nature of our changed relationship with the EU. Being on the losing side is not a gagging order. Inevitably that view is going to include a repetition of arguments tendered in advance of the referendum. The answer is not “you’ve said that once and lost”. The debate still continues. 

So, I believe access to the single market is vital. I said so prior to the referendum and continue to say so now. Boris Johnson seems to agree with me. Someone with a contrary view is entitled to express that view, but not to try to shut down my view because I was one of the 48% and not the 52%. 

We also need to recognise that the referendum is not law. It is advisory. I stress, it should be followed by the Government. I am afraid it has not locked us into that course of action. This process will take time. There will be many a bump in the road. Circumstances may change, particularly economic factors. 

As a Remainer I will make my case for what should happen. I will continue to make my case for the benefits of the EU. I will do so to persuade others who may have a different view. Where appropriate I will point out the lies that were told to mislead people into voting one way or the other. I will argue for why what is happening is wrong. 

The first step towards unity is not shouting people down, it is listening, engaging and debating. That is the conversation that the nation needs to have. And a conversation has to have more than one voice. 

Why I Am In Not Out

There are one or two things I am sure of when it comes to the EU Referendum. The first thing is that all media outlets should be banned from playing or referencing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash. That should be verboten or, as our European colleagues would say,….errr….verboten. The second thing I am sure about is that the Referendum is a very bad idea. 

We should never let the Conservative Party forget that this Referendum is simply a device to enhance their electability at the last election. It was a political decision to try to woo UKIP sympathisers and paper over the ever present deep cracks in their party. That is why we are being asked to vote on the EU, not because the Tories believe in self-determination, but because they need someone else to make the decision about what their policy on EU membership should be. 

That in itself does not make the Referendum a bad idea. The problem is that the question we are going to be asked on 23rd June is both too simple and too complex. It is too simple because it is, as the zeitgeist is anxious to make most things, a “binary” choice. What is best for our future is not as simple as “In” or “Out”. The “In” camp could range from full on, federalist Europe, Esperanto speakers to the “EU needs drastic change” reformers. The “Out” brigade could range from all out xenophobic block-up-the-channel-tunnel types to all out Xenophobic block-up-the-channel-tunnel types. 

Sorry, my little joke there, the Brexiteers could also encompass those that want out of the EU but very much want to be part of the single market with everything that may entail, including freedom of movement. And with that you have the problem with the Referendum. You can have someone who does not want some aspects of the EU but wants our relationship to be like Norway or Switzerland voting in the same way as someone who wants the British Empire back. Two very different world views answering a question in the same way whilst dreaming of mutually exclusive futures. 

It is too complex because we are being asked to make judgements based largely on economics. And not many of us are experts on economics. Not many of us are even enthusiastic amateurs. So we rely upon others who profess expertise. So both sides wheel out their experts. And both make cases for what our future would look like. Both sides tell us how much profit and loss there is in staying. And going. They cannot both be right. How am I to know?

So how do I make my decision? In fact it has been relatively easy for me. “Remain” had me the moment Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage suggested that the UK would have £350 million per week to spend on the NHS if we left the EU. This was a case of wanting to have your cake and promise someone else that they could eat it, when in fact you fully intended to eat it yourself. Let us leave aside one moment the fact that the £350 million figure is so obviously wrong. Who are these disparate band of free market, small government types to make promises about spending the money on public services? If they win the Referendum they are not suddenly in control of the Treasury. Even if their coup was to be so successful there is no way that they would divert £350 million per week into the NHS. That is just not going to happen. A movement which treats my intelligence with such disdain is not worthy of my vote. 

In fact that little quartet of politicians are part of the reason I could not support “Brexit”. Anything that Chris Grayling supports has to be a bad idea. Boris Johnson is in it for the chance to be Prime Minister. Michael Gove is tying himself up in knots over the impact of EU law on this nation. And Nigel Farage is a braying example of the very worst type of politician. That these four represent themselves as being the antidote to the Establishment is laughable. Throw Iain Duncan-Smith into the mix and the Brexit BoyBand would make make me want to fill my ears with concrete. 

I read a lot on social media from supporters of Brexit and Remain alike. I have never seen anyone supporting Remain utter anything remotely racist. I have seen them saying some pretty daft things, have seen them being unnecessarily insulting, but racism? No. I have seen Brexiteers being racist. And I am not just talking about leftie liberals like me reacting to everything said about immigration by playing the race card. I mean actual racism. Hate. Hatred of people because they are different. A belittling of others on the ground of the colour of their skin. A belief that we (white English) are somehow better than them. I cannot throw my lot in with them. 

The three paragraphs above are reasons I could not vote for Brexit. Have I anything positive to say about Remaining? I am afraid I do not know the answer in terms of economics. I do not know that coming out of the EU is going to solve problems with immigration (is a Syrian man, prepared to risk his life in a boat across the Mediterranean and by clinging to the chassis of a truck going to say to himself “if they are not part of the EU, I am not going to chance it….”?). I can only hope that, if they lose this vote, it will be the end of Boris and Nigel.

So what are my positive reasons for wanting to stay in Europe? I think of what I would do if I could design the world afresh. What would I hope for? And I don’t mean moving Vegas closer to Manchester. I mean society. And I would want to live in a world where the citizens of every nation co-operated in harmony. I would want less war and more stability. I would welcome more understanding and less self-interest. I would cherish anything I could put in place that would promote a universally held protection of the rights of the individual. 

This Utopia does not exist. The European Union has lots and lots of faults. When it comes down to it, however, being part of the EU seems more like being part of something which is positive. It seems far more like the co-operation between nations that we should all aspire to. Negotiated harmony means there has to be some give and take. The advancement of one nation’s interests over another has never led to peace. Benefits are counterbalanced by responsibilities, the protections of rights comes with the commitment to duties. The secret of co-operation is that you can’t always get what you want. Maybe the Rolling Stones should be the band du jour…..

The Westhoughton Question

Deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Justice this conversation has not happened, it is completely imagined….

A young civil servant bursts into The Lord Chancellor’s office. He clearly has news….

Civil Servant Minister, I have news. (see I told you he had news) The Northern Circuit has just voted in favour of independence.

Lord Chancellor What are you talking about?

CS The lawyers. Up North. They have voted to go independent. They want to break away from the MoJ, the LAA, the lot.

LC I’m sorry?

CS They reckon they have had enough of decisions being taken in Westminster and the Temple that impact upon them. They began the “Bugger Off” Campaign.

LC What makes them so special? Anyone would have thought that the Trade Union movement and Socialism had its roots up there.

CS Err, it kind of does. They have always been a bit, well, awkward. And the lawyers are no different. What with their “No To QASA” meetings and badges.

LC We’ll judicially review it….

CS I’m not sure we can.

LC Why not? I always have my decisions overturned by it.

CS I think you need grounds. Like lack of consultation. And it looks like they consulted a lot before they made their mind up. They consulted, they revealed all the evidence and they voted. Fairly.

LC That sounds a bit….. amateurish. Much safer to make your mind up first.

CS Well they have consulted and they have decided they want to go it alone.

LC How do they think they can survive without us? What have they contributed to the legal scene?

CS Leveson.

LC What’s that?

CS Lord Justice Leveson

LC What about him?

CS He came from up that way. The North.

LC Well okay, other than Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and famed for the press thingy, other than him, what have the North ever contributed to the legal scene?

CS Mr Justice Edis. He prosecuted the phone hacking case. You’ve just appointed him to the High Court Bench.

LC Okay, other than Lord Leveson and this Edis fella who prosecuted one big-ish case, what has the North contributed to the legal wealth of this country?

CSMr Justice Henriques, retired now. He prosecuted Shipman and was the Judge in some pretty big trials.

LC Okay. Stop. I get it. I’ll just say they seem like a pretty sexist lot up there with all there Mr Justice this and their Lord Justice that…

CS Well they also produced Dame Janet Smith who did the Shipman Enquiry and then, if you think about it, there was Rose Heilbron who was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead in a murder case, the first woman Recorder, the first woman judge to sit at the Old Bailey and was also the second woman ever to be appointed a High Court judge….

LC Other than a few Judges what have the Northerners ever done for us?

CS Viaducts.

LC Sorry?

CS Viaducts. They have good viaducts up there. I suppose you could say that was actually the Romans…..

LC You’re not helping now. I’ll have to send Jeremy to sort them out. He is from up that way.

CS Jeremy?

LC You know, the new A-G. He’s from the North.

CS He is from the Midlands, isn’t he? I am not sure that counts as the North to Northerners…

LC I’ll send Buckland then. He has an accent.

CS He’s Welsh….

LC Is he? But he’s in Parliament here. With me. In England.

CS And?

LC And he’s foreign.

CS I am not sure that is going to placate them.

LC Right, make them all Judges.

CS What?!?

LC (The Lord Chancellor enunciates his words slowly and deliberately) Offer… to… make… them… Judges. It usually works to quell trouble.

CS There is over a thousand of them. A thousand members of the “Bugger Off” Campaign. And you want to make them all Judges?

LC Well maybe Judges of the First Tribunal Tier or Parking Adjudicator. Anything. With a pension. They love a pension.

CS Well it turns out that it isn’t just the North….

LC What else is there?

CS Well this morning, outside Newcastle Crown Court, there was a horde of barristers, with woad on their faces and one was giving this speech, “dying in your bed many years from now,” he was shouting at the collected lawyers, “would you be willing to trade all the briefs from this day for one chance to stand here as middle aged hacks and tell our enemies that they may take our uncontested divorces but they will never take our red corners!”.

LC That bloody Ian West….

CS But what are we going to do?

LC Make them a lot of promises. Of stuff that we can’t do until after the election. Then either we will have lost the election and it will be someone else’s problem or I’ll be in the Home Office and it’ll be someone else’s problem.

CS Yes Lord Chancellor.

LC The last thing I want to see is an independent Bar….