Wednesday , June 19 2024

What would be the outcome of a #PeoplesVote?

How Remain will win

If my recent local Labour Party meeting is anything to go by, Leave has no chance in another referendum. The vote on whether there should a referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement was passed overwhelmingly. The motion on changing “the” to “a” Withdrawal Agreement was defeated, but the minutiae of Labour Party conference motion-setting was not the main take away. What really mattered was that it exposed the mind-set of ardent Remain for which Leave is wholly unprepared should another referendum ensue.

Leave voters have naively laboured under the impression that they won the referendum in 2016. Yet Remain has made little or no effort to persuade Leave voters.

This isn’t normally how you win elections. When Labour lost four elections in a row they didn’t go to Court, demonise the voters or stretch the boundaries of parliamentary sovereignty almost beyond recognition to overturn the result. They listened. This cut no ice with my democratic socialist colleagues in the meeting despite Leave voters being predominantly working class – Labour’s core constituency, the reason the Party exists. That’s when it hit me – Remain has no intention of seeking to persuade Leave voters to change their minds.

I had assumed Remain were simply in deep denial about the 2016 result and felt obliged to keep campaigning as if the votes were yet to be counted. I was wrong. Remain was shaken out of its complacency by the shock of the referendum result. In effect, the Remain campaign started on 24 June 2016 and has carried on ever since.

Remain was 1,269,501 votes short last time. That’s 634,751 Leave voters to persuade. Instead Remain intends to win with the most effective Get Out The Vote campaign in history. The students who didn’t get round to voting will be first in the queue when the polls open. The complacent middle class who believed the Remain lead in the polls on 23 June won’t be fooled again. The disenfranchised 16 and 17 year olds who had their future taken away are now 18 and 19. They want their future back.

Remain doesn’t need to persuade, it has already inspired its existing support to guarantee an extraordinary Remain turnout if they get another chance.

This explains the unceasing vitriol against Leave voters and of the Referendum itself. Rather than simply being rude and counter-productive, it has in fact been highly effective in reinforcing Remain righteousness. Voting Remain in another referendum thus becomes a moral duty.

Leave voters, now suitably cowed and sullen or dead, are the ones in denial. Remain remains angry and, as 29 March 2019 approaches, increasingly desperate to overturn the Referendum result. Leave is relatively relaxed about the prospect of no deal – as the 5th largest economy in the world, we are well placed to transition to WTO. Remain cannot conceive of the UK actually leaving without a deal.

Leave isn’t expecting another campaign. If a People’s Vote ensues, Remain is likely to win even if no voters changed their minds.

How Leave Will Win

The problem for Remain is that if Leave gets its act together, it will not withstand the scrutiny of another campaign.

  1. What is the question going to be? In theory, a vote strictly about a/the “Deal” would be Accept or Reject. Under the Article 50 process, Reject would result in WTO, not Remain. This confused our recent local Labour Party meeting no end. Half-way through they came up with a 3-option vote (Remain, Accept Deal, Reject Deal/WTO) with each to be listed in preference. Good grief! Remain is the only option already rejected by the British people. Why would Remain even be on the ballot paper?
  2. But we are told this is not a re-run, it’s a whole new referendum – a People’s Vote – now we have all the facts. Is it not self-evident that No Deal would make us permanently poorer and no-one voted for that? Therefore Remain must be on the ballot paper. However, if the substance of another referendum is Remain or Leave then it is a re-run, pure and simple. The question will be worded differently (perhaps, Do you prefer to Accept the EU Withdrawal Agreement or Remain in the EU?) but the options and debate will be the same. We should be honest about this.
  3. Indeed there are more facts – the economy didn’t collapse as Project Fear predicted, we now understand the key elements of the divorce bill and presumably we either will know if there’s a Chequers-esque deal or if there isn’t a deal. But that’s it. We won’t know the future economic implications of any of these options. We can only speculate. We look forward to the next avalanche of economic forecasts to bully Leave voters. There are no facts about the future. Even if there’s no deal, there’s no guarantee that a great deal won’t be concluded in a few years’ time that solidifies our prosperity for generations to come.
  4. In a democracy, people can change their minds and it’s their right to be given the opportunity to vote. Correct. There’s a well-established mechanism in our democracy – a general election. And it may come to that, but according to the recent report by the Constitution Unit of University College London, polls over the last 13 months have consistently shown a majority opposed to another referendum rather than in favour. Again, it’s about being honest with voters. The British people are not stupid. They will see that the sole intention of those demanding a new referendum is to overturn the result of the old – to render the voice of Leave voters in 2016 mute; they are unlikely to be grateful.
  5. We have had three votes in two years on all this – 2015 (should there a referendum), the 2016 vote itself and the general election of 2017 when the option of a People’s Vote was presented to all. If the country wanted another referendum all they had to do was vote Liberal Democrat. They chose not to. How many of those now demanding a referendum actually voted for this proposition when they had the chance to do so in June 2017? Await the deluge of excuses, but telling people to do as you say rather than do as you do is not a good look.
  6. The demands for a new referendum are invariably from prominent Remain supporters. They claim that Leave voters were misled about the money for the NHS, the ease with which a deal would be agreed and that no-one voted to become poorer in the inevitable economic meltdown of No Deal. Yet what authority do they have to speak for Leave voters at all? Remain wasn’t misled or miss-sold. They didn’t buy the product. If another referendum is genuinely required to correct the imperfections of 2016, then its advocates should only be aggrieved Leave voters.
  7. And what is the vision of a new Remain campaign? To stay in the single market and customs union, of course. We will also have our seat at the table once again. Given how the EU has acted thus far – we apparently haven’t been punished, but for some reason bespoke deals available to Canada, Japan etc. aren’t available to us – it is stretching credulity that we will have any influence if we do indeed Remain. Having played our trump card of threatening to leave only to have bottled it, our influence will be on a par with the Spotted Owl Society.

Another referendum will exacerbate division, not heal. Holding referendums without consent (a mandate) subverts rather than supports our democracy. It isn’t right that losers get to hold as many votes as it takes until they win. The precedent a People’s Vote would set on whether future referendums will likewise be ignored or overturned is not lost on independence supporters in Scotland despite Nicola Strurgeon’s recent conversion. We are in danger of sacrificing our democracy on the altar of the EU.

By deciding not to listen, Remain has failed to appreciate that Leave voters simply prioritised sovereignty over economic certainty. They are entitled to do so. It’s not just about taking back control, it’s about the freedom to take back control. Put simply, the essence of Brexit is liberty. Even in the worst case scenario, you are as unlikely to have convinced a humble American farmer amidst the economic chaos of the nearly-formed United States to renounce his independence for the economic certainty of the British Empire as expect another barrage of economic forecasts to persuade Leave voters to Remain.

Whilst the #PeoplesVote campaign continues to risk tearing the country apart on whether we should revoke Article 50, not one of its advocates can even confirm if the UK can revoke Article 50. The case asking this question will not be heard until 27 November with judgement unlikely before Christmas or the New Year! Would it not be prudent to postpone all debate on this 3rd referendum until 2019?

The British people are done. It is time for reconciliation and respect. They are long overdue.


About John Hartigan

John Hartigan is author of Betrayal of Britain: How politics failed Great Britain in the early 21st Century now available on Amazon. Founder of the AskBritain movement to restore voters' rights to consent to constitutional change. He is a member of the Labour Party and candidate in local elections. His postgraduate research on the World War One volunteers was published in Midland History. He is an investment director and former bank manager.

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  1. Patrick RIGG

    An excellent rationale, thank you.