Wednesday, 6 July 2016

My Letter to my MP George Eustice following the EU Referendum

Dear George

EU Referendum

I am aware that your preference for a referendum result on June 23rd was the one that was achieved. However it is important to me that you, my representative in Westminster, should be in a position to take my views into account in any debates on this subject.

The reason we had a referendum
You may remember a recent email from me in which I expressed the view that the referendum should not take place; that such decisions should be taken by Parliament. I felt that the referendum was promised for reasons internal to the Conservative party, and thus our position in Europe and globally was being put at risk for relatively trivial reasons.

The legality of the referendum
At least two experts have questioned the legality of the referendum, and a legal challenge is not out of the question. (This gleaned from press reports.)

The Campaigns
I believe that the two official campaigns (both led by Conservatives) and the one led by Nigel Farage, were to a greater or lesser degree based on finding fault with others’ arguments, instilling uncertainty and fear, making exaggerated claims, and deliberate deceit. Many of the ‘promises’ made during the campaigns have subsequently been rowed back from. There was no real effort, on either side of these campaigns, to point out strong, positive, factual reasons, either for remaining in the EU or for leaving. The Leave campaigners in particular made increasingly bizarre claims about what we as a nation on our own could achieve, making light of the immense difficulties which complicated trade deals can encounter. Politicians of other countries have already called these claims into question.

Voting patterns
Different parts of the country showed wide variations in the results. For example, Cornish fishermen were voting to leave, because they believed they would be allowed to catch more fish (an assertion subsequently thrown into doubt). Voting patterns among different age groups were significant. Those in my age group (OAPs) predominantly voted to leave, while the younger voters – those who will be most affected by the result – voted to remain. It was unfortunate, in my view, that a minimum voting age of 16 was not introduced, as was the case for the Scottish referendum.

The reasons people voted as they did
It has become very clear, since June 23rd, that many people regret the choice they made. Recent reputable polls suggest that about 1.3 million people have come to believe that they made a mistake. I read of a woman in tears because she thought that by voting to leave, she was voting to give the NHS 350 million GBP per week. Another thought that voting ‘Leave’ simply meant that immigrants would leave. Many people whose interviews were reported on TV were making a protest gesture, believing it would have no effect. Google has reported a spike in enquiries for definitions of ‘EU’ and ‘Brexit’ after the polls had closed, suggesting that many people had no idea what they were voting about. This must be considered a failure on the part of the campaigners to explain the basis for their respective positions.

Where we are now
The negative effects of the vote are becoming clearer. Until now I have not detected any positive effects. Indeed, speaking personally, I have not yet heard a sound factual argument for the benefits of leaving! It seems entirely possible that the knock-on results may include a new Scottish referendum, which may well succeed this time. There is a possibility that a referendum in Northern Ireland could ultimately lead to a reunification of the two parts of that island. The unraveling and disintegration of the EU over time is a likely outcome, and that is surely something we should rather fear than welcome, particularly with the current Russian regime waiting in the wings. We are likely to be increasingly a puppet of the USA, a prospect some may welcome but I do not. Current indications are that our economy will suffer for many years to come.

What should happen next
The primary duty of Government is to protect the interests of the Nation. I believe that duty is incompatible with the invocation of Article 50. There is significant pressure for there to be a debate in Parliament on the matter, which could well halt the process. The House of Lords is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. There is a petition signed by over 4 million people asking for a second referendum. The three options are these: for the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50, with the consequent backlash and legal challenges; for there to be a debate and vote in Parliament at which time the referendum result could either be set aside, or acted upon, depending on the result; or there could be a second referendum which of course would have to be followed through with appropriate action. In a second referendum, claims and counter claims should be factual and informative and should be subjected to independent scrutiny, to avoid a recurrence of the current uncertainties. Any one of these options is likely to result in some kind of backlash – the inevitable result arising from the original decision by the Prime Minister to hold a referendum.

It's not just me!
Can I ask you to take the time to watch this video put out by Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool Law School, who echoes, from an expert standpoint all my concerns about the ‘Brexit’ referendum.

In summary
I believe that the referendum result was won by deceit, exaggeration and some wishful thinking. I believe strongly that it should not be acted upon without, at the very least, a Parliamentary debate, in which the conduct of the campaigns, and the risks and benefits arising from a ‘Brexit’, are examined. I believe that the main reason for continuing unhappiness with the result of the campaign is the widely held belief that its legitimacy is open to question; I further believe that Parliament should act quickly to re-establish some legitimacy into the process.

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