Bill Carmichael: Brexit has to happen for democracy's sake

IN two Commons votes this week Theresa May met triumph and disaster, and in the words of Rudyard Kipling she appears to have treated 'those two imposters just the same'.

Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after surviving a vote of no confidence.

Perhaps now, while the future remains perilously uncertain, is an apposite moment to review how we got to where we are – and also along the way to slay a few popular myths that have gained currency.

The biggest myth, much loved by Remainers, is that Brexit is much ado about nothing – a minor internal squabble in the Conservative Party that has been artificially blown up to become a national crisis.

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A quick glance across the English Channel shows this to be nonsense on stilts.

France is in the grip of a growing popular revolt that is leaving half a dozen cities ablaze, complete with riots, barricades and volleys of tear gas every weekend.

And the gilets jaunes, joyously trampling the EU flag underfoot, are not alone. Anti-EU sentiment is growing like wildfire right across the continent, from Sweden to Greece by way of Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Holland, Poland, Hungary and even Belgium.

Perhaps in the coming months we will see the flowering of a “European spring” – a continent-wide rebellion against undemocratic and authoritarian rule from Brussels similar to the celebrated Arab spring of almost 10 years ago?

This is what inevitably happens when the governing elites try to insulate themselves from the popular will, protect their unearned privileges and ignore the aspirations of ordinary citizens.

Another popular myth is that David Cameron blundered when he called for a referendum on EU membership. Maybe he did, but I am not sure he had much choice.

In fact such was the groundswell of anti-EU feeling among the people that at some point all three main parties promised referendums on membership – although predictably they all reneged on the pledge.

And let us not forget that Ukip topped the poll in the European Parliament elections in 2014 – the first time a party outside the big two had done that in a national vote for over 100 years.

Perhaps Cameron was forced into his pledge on a referendum, but it may have been the decisive factor in securing a wholly unexpected General Election triumph for the Conservatives in 2015.

Parliament subsequently decided to hand over the decision on EU membership to the people by way of a referendum by a massive Commons majority – 544 votes to 53.

The 2016 referendum represented the biggest exercise in participatory democracy in our nation’s history – and Leave scored a famous and entirely unexpected victory despite the determined opposition of the entire British establishment. Subsequently, in another massive majority – this time 498 to 114 – MPs voted to invoke Article 50, thereby triggering the withdrawal process from the EU.

In the 2017 General Election both Labour and the Conservatives pledged in their manifestos to respect the result of the referendum and leave the EU. About 84 per cent of voters backed pro-Brexit parties. In contrast the anti-Brexit, pro-EU parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the SNP – all lost support.

So you could argue that the citizens of this country have voted not once but four times against the EU – in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. How many more times have we got to keep on voting before the governing elite finally takes notice of what we say?

Instead the establishment have plotted and maneuvered in Parliament, and in Brussels, to thwart the will of the people.This is dangerous and irresponsible and it will be an unmitigated disaster for our country if they succeed in stopping Brexit.

If the ruling class betray the people in this way, then I predict the division and bitterness we’ve seen in recent months will increase by at least 100 fold.

For the sake of our democracy Brexit must happen, regardless of the toddler tantrums of a bunch of people who simply can’t accept that they lost a democratic vote.

I fear for our country in this time of crisis – I really do. And watching the shenanigans of the extremist Remainers over recent months I am constantly reminded of the famous quote of former US President John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.