“For the last three-and-a-half years this country has been trapped by Brexit – like some super-green supercar blocked in the traffic. We are stuck in a rut. We have been paralysed by a broken parliament. Like Tantalus in Hades, we can see the opportunities in front of us – the luscious grapes, the refreshing stream – and yet every time we reach out to grasp them we find they are whisked away, with yet another delay, and yet another pointless parliamentary manoeuvre. ”Boris Johnson, 5 November 2019 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/11/05/deal-oven-ready-get-brexit-done-take-country-forward/
Boris has railed against Parliament and the way that it has delayed Brexit. So obviously Boris has never voted in a way that has delayed Brexit?
Not true. Boris voted twice against the meaningful votes on Theresa May’s Brexit, and of course he has a right to, which I would not dispute.
Boris pushes the narrative that the people causing the delays are those who voted remain, but he himself has voted in ways that have not “got Brexit done.”
In the referendum in 2016 51.9% voted leave, 48.1% voted remain. Remain is a single option, but Brexit has multiple flavours. If the remain voted stayed static any Brexit deal would have to be acceptable to 95% of Brexit supporters to have an overall majority in the country.
While Brexit overall had support finding any actual deal that is popular is much more difficult. Yet to pass any actual Bill you have to make that choice, that is the challenge of getting Brexit done.
Boris attacking others for voting against Brexit and delaying Brexit, when he himself has done so, is dishonest and a fundamental attack on democracy. It is the job of parliament to scrutinise legislation and get it right.
Some argue for a second referendum to put the specific deal to the people and see if they back it. Does the real deal have support? I can see the argument for that. Politics is the art of the possible, and a second referendum would check with people that because what is possible is not what was promised, if they still want it. If parliament has to honour the will of the people then it is worth parliament asking what the people actually will.
This is not about denying Brexit but about honouring what people actually want. As a student with history the phrase the will of the people worries me. It is used by too many dictators and demagogues, who push their own agenda at great cost to the people.
Some people obviously would support whatever Brexit. The hard line Brexiters drive the narrative, but the only way to find out what Brexit people actually want is to ask the people.
The last referendum was not a glorious fact driven calm thoughtful exploration of what is best for Britain. The last referendum was driven for distortions, half-truths and emotion, and while more is known, it seems naive to me to think that the second referendum will not suffer the same fate.
Therefore, I propose the creation of an elected constitutional assembly to determine the future relationship with Europe. This would be empowered to negotiate with Europe, but would be presided over by judges who could rule the lies out of order. At the end the Constitutional Assembly would put a simple recommendation to the country, which if accepted would become law.
The ballot paper would have a second question to come into play if the first question was unsuccessful to rate in order your preferences for the other options. The least popular of these options would be eliminated until a single option had more than 50% of the votes, which would then become law.
This would take time, but it would get it right. The Conservative government has ineptly squandered the last three years without a proper plan, they blame that on others, but they are the government. That time has been wasted, and the reality is little progress. Boris’s current proposal is a half-Brexit. It removes the country from the institutions of Europe while leaving to a future day to sort what the relationship with Europe will actually look like when the interim arrangements finally finish – and it is quite possible that these will keep on being extended. Millions of jobs depend on trade with Europe, we need to get this right. An elected constitutional assembly could work towards a full Brexit, and by doing so demonstrate what Brexit would actually look like and provide people with a real informed choice.
The failed process of the Brexit referendum has divided the nation. However, an informed decision with a clear outcome through a robust and fair process, could unite the country around the process – a fair fight – even if people still fundamentally disagree with the decision.
This is too important to do badly, and it has been done, and is still being done, very very badly. Therefore, I believe a constitutional assembly is the only way.