WHEN it comes to politics and political parties in this country, I have to admit to being a cynic of the first order, consoled only by the fact that I stand in a very long line.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that a second referendum on our exit from the EU becomes ever more likely in direct proportion to how often Theresa May says it isn’t going to happen.
It’s like when a Government minister has committed some serious transgression and the PM says “I have every confidence in them”. You know that at that very moment they are busy clearing their desk – and so it comes to pass.
By the day, this Government is making it abundantly clear that it has no intention of taking the UK out of the EU regardless of the referendum vote. What they are hoping to do, and working towards, is creating a situation where they can say “We tried everything we could but the EU have made it impossible for us and so we have no choice but to remain”.
And with that statement Mrs May will hope to “cover her backbench” (to use a polite euphemism) when she attempts to defend her oft-repeated mantra “Brexit means Brexit”.
Worryingly there is a precedent. Wasn’t it Ireland where the referendum process was repeated until the Irish government eventually got the result it had wanted all along? The “will of the people” is a great principle as long as it’s also the will of the government of the day.
We may not like the result of a General Election, but people don’t take to the streets to demand a second vote – we lick our wounds and we get on with our lives. When England were defeated in the semi-finals of the World Cup, people didn’t demonstrate outside of FIFA’s headquarters demanding that the game be replayed – we licked our wounds and we got on with our lives.
I may be entirely ignorant of the fine details of the politics and economics involved, but to this day I remain (no pun intended) convinced that the day after the EU referendum we should have walked.
Things surely couldn’t have been any worse than what we see going on with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier on a daily basis as they dictate to the UK in an attempt to bully and bribe us into doing what they want. And why should we have to pay a “divorce settlement” for the privilege of leaving? We should have walked.
Continuing with divorce analogy, what would life be like for a couple forced to return to living together despite having picked one another’s character to pieces in court and hating the sight of one another?
I may have to wash my mouth out with soapy water after saying this, but let’s say the Fates so directed things that it ends up that we remain. What a total waste of money and everything else that it has cost us so far in trying to leave, and exactly what will our relationship with the EU be thereafter? We will never be able to hold up our heads in Europe again, and we will never be respected by Brussels and the “United States of Europe” again (if we ever were) for being so weak. We really should have walked.
The reality is that on June 23, 2016, 52 per cent of the people voted to leave the EU. No minimum requirement had been set – the outcome depended on a simple majority. While the turn-out may have been only 72 per cent, decisions (as they say) are made by those who show up.
Everyone eligible to vote had the chance to do so, and on such a monumental matter – “a once in a lifetime decision”, as it was being called at the time – you might have expected the highest turn-out ever recorded. However apathy reigned as usual. Who is to say how that missing 28 per cent of voters might have influenced things – but they didn’t and therefore, like it or not, the outcome stood and we have to accept it.
Decisions are made by those who show up. It’s what we were asked to do and we did, and the democratic decision that was made must surely stand. Otherwise what’s the point?
Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.