Firstly, declarations of interest. I studied for three months on the ERASMUS scheme in Florence funded by the EU. While there I attended a few days course on the New Professionalism in Teacher Education in Europe with students and academics from across Europe. It was summer term 1993, the time of the second referendum in Denmark on the Maastricht treaty. We spent an evening discussing Europe and the EU, everyone in the room believed in a free and democratic Europe that cooperated for the good of its citizens, but no one was a fan of the EU. The friendships leaves probably a deeper mark than anything else.
On holidays when young I visited the war cemeteries of France and Germany, looking at the gravestones and reading the names on the walls. I worry about the rise in nationalism. We have to cooperate and trade with Europe. However, I also understand the arguments that we are an international nation, and it is not that we are little Britain, but that Europe is too small.
The Brexit that Boris is currently proposing is a half-way house. We lose our voice in Europe but are still subject to its laws, and we put a line through the UK – the worst of all worlds. It is a temporary solution, but again the economic damage of crashing out without a workable long term deal may mean that we stay in this worst of worlds for a longer time – ever heard of an extension?
If countries, including the EU, were queuing up with brilliant trade and cooperation deals I would be pro-leave. They are not. Boris may not worry about what will happen to ordinary people if our economy crashes, I remember Coventry in the 80s with mass unemployment. I don’t want to leave for Ghost Town.
While we are an important trading partner with the EU, offering us a very good deal would be suicidal for the EU, others would want to leave. Norway has been proposed as a model, but Norway is subject to EU trade rules and free movement and is estimated as currently paying net approximately 75% of the UK net contribution per head. (https://fullfact.org/europe/norway-eu-payments/ ).
Churchill said. “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Offer me a genuinely better deal and I will take it. However, it could be that our current EU is the worst deal, except when compared to the alternatives.
The last referendum was close. If the referendum was 50 people 26 voted leave, 24 remain, except it was actually closer than that (result out of 50 was 25.9 leave 24.1 remain). I believe the Coventry South results were even closer. If one person switched from leave to remain, that’s one person in 50 changing their mind in a certain direction, it would have been a tie, except in reality remain would have won . It was not an overwhelming majority. If the campaign had been glorious I would state that we must honour the result, fair fight and all that. However, there were some pretty big pork pies.
So what do you do? Another referendum now the facts are clearer? Another referendum risks more attempts to mislead. I propose an elected constitutional assembly (say 60 elected representatives), chaired by a judge who would fact check everything, and ensure that the truth wins. The assembly would be able to negotiate with Europe and would free parliament to be parliament. The final outcome would have to go to a referendum for the people to sign off. However, if people voted for a leave deal it could get to that final deal faster. If the people decided for remain, again that would be the democratic choice of the people.
The right deal is more important than a quick deal. Our futures depend on it. A fair process matters, so that people can say I may not agree with the outcome, but I agree it was fair and I accept it and unite.
So what would I vote on Brexit, if returned to parliament and offered Boris’s half-in-half-out deal? I don’t see the point in an interim deal that is worse than the current deal, lets work out the full deal and then vote on that. Boris’s deal in the short term is Brexit in name only, it may lead to a car crash if we cannot agree a deal.
People should not be put the same question twice. The majority have expressed the desire to leave, but the amazing trade deals for the UK queue appears to be empty. The NHS is not going to gain an extra £350m a week. This deal is not what people were offered in 2016, and therefore the new proposal should be put to the people. A referendum is not ideal, but I would support it as better than nothing. In the referendum I would campaign for calm heads and full facts.
I would like the best cooperation with Europe and our world partners, but politics is the art of the possible. I am not going to commit to voting either way on any deal that has not yet been presented. However, by sharing my thinking, you can see how I would make that decision.