Brexit still means Brexit
Brexit means Brexit. I know you’re sick of hearing that phrase, and that it’s essentially meaningless. But it sums up a simple reality – the referendum campaign is over, and Leave won. As is the question many ask, does it not matter that 48% of voters backed Remain? Well, simply put, no. Brexit is a zero-sum game. You cannot balance the two sides. They are mutually exclusive, and since Leave won, however narrowly, their wishes must be delivered upon. Nor should this seem so alien to us. We have had numerous majority governments, have we not, elected on a measly 36% of the vote? Nobody asked then, about the other 64.
Why it should be different for the referendum, where there was an actual majority, is unclear. The idea of solidarity amongst that 48% is equally false. Since the day after last year’s referendum, Remain’s support began to dissolve. A plurality of remainers have come to accept the result, meaning there is now an overwhelming majority in support of delivering the result of the referendum. The howls of outrage are limited to arch-remainers, and there certainly isn’t an overwhelming desire for a second referendum as the recent trouncing of the Lib Dems at the polls demonstrates.
Regardless of all of this, why harp on about it? Brexit is being delivered, no one is disputing this now are they? Well not in so many words no. Remainers are smart enough to know it would be patently undemocratic to be seen to be continuing to fight the referendum campaign. Instead, they have substituted Leave with ‘hard Brexit’ and Remain with ‘soft Brexit’, so they can refight the referendum campaign. The subtle shift in language allows them to simultaneously fight Brexit and claim to be respecting the result.
Now, you might argue that people voted for Brexit without any fine details. That is true, but so too with Remain. The EU is constantly changing. Treaty change is due in 2019, and had we voted to stay, the EU of 2020 would not be the EU of 2016. The world is not fixed. Despite remainers not knowing the future shape of the EU, and leavers not knowing the exact terms of our exit though, the broad parameters were clear. Remain meant single market, ECJ authority, EU budget contributions, and customs union. Logically, Leave meant the opposite and everybody understood this.
Leave suggested, for example, that no ECJ would mean a truly supreme British Supreme Court. Remainers countered with bureaucratic complications. Leave suggested, that no single market would mean trading on our own terms. Remainers countered with uncooperative trade partners. Leave suggested, that no EU budget contribution would mean more for our public services. Remainers countered with an economy so hit by leaving the EU that any money saved would become inconsequential. These are clearly opposing positions, and both sides knew what the broad strokes of leaving or remaining meant. These opposing positions were those on which the people voted.
Therefore, talk of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit is misleading. The simple truth is, there is very little to be debated about our negotiating position. If we aren’t out of the single market and customs union, as well as being free from the ECJ’s jurisdiction, we have not fully left and Brexit has not been delivered. This is not a ‘Brexitremist’ position (a wonderfully dramatic term), but simply what people voted for.
The group of remain MP’s – made up of the Lib Dems (naturally), SNP, Labour rebels and of course Ken Clarke – who voted for Britain to remain in the single market whilst proclaiming to respect the referendum result, were talking nonsense. Claiming they accept Britain must leave the EU, but can stay in both the single market and customs union is meaningless. It is remaining in all but name and they know it. In fact, worse than simply remaining it is doing so whilst giving up all of our power to vote and shape the laws of the EU, a compromise position that remainers and leavers alike can agree is the worst possible option available.
And so, we come full circle. Brexit must in fact mean Brexit. What Brexit entails is clear and it must be delivered in full. Should it not be, it would be a betrayal of our democracy. The furious vote against the elites, the experts, the EU and the status quo, which the referendum entailed, would lose its sting. In this case the main parties would be utterly discredited and the extremes that people may then turn to will show Farage and Corbyn for the relatively tame political beasts that they are.