Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, it’s barely been out of the media. The election of a racist misogynist billionaire to the White House has provided some light relief on occasion, but you can’t turn on a TV, listen to the radio or open a newspaper in the UK without encountering some kind of Brexit debate.
Ok, that isn’t strictly true, obviously there are myriad TV channels which don’t feature any kind of political debate, I can’t recall ‘Heart Radio’ featuring too much in the way of topical news shows, and who on Earth reads newspapers anymore?
But my point is that Brexit is kind of a big deal.
It’s a big deal because, it actually is, legitimately, quite a big deal – the economic, legal and security ramifications of Britain leaving the EU are confusing and will almost certainly mean significant change and long periods of uncertainty.
It’s also a big deal because not everyone voted for it. It was a pretty good turn out at the polls and 52% of voters were in favour of Brexit, meaning that 48% were not. That’s a pretty close call, and those of us who voted to remain are rightly irritated by claims that Brexit is ‘the will of the people’. At best it is ‘the will of some people’.
But I’m ok with losing a democratic vote because obviously the proponents of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign had a plan. I might not want Brexit, but handled correctly I suppose, in the longer term, it might not be that bad. There may even be aspects of it that are quite good. Because they absolutely had a plan.
Except that , apparently, they didn’t.
And this is really why Brexit remains a big deal. Because, just over a year and half on from that fateful vote, no-one has the slightest idea what Brexit actually means.
Our beloved Prime Minister did coin a phrase when she first came to office, which was, if I recall, that ‘Brexit means Brexit.’
And I’m sure that is true but, and maybe I’m missing something obvious, it doesn’t actually tell us what Brexit means at all.
Some ‘Remain’ campaigners (hilariously dubbed ‘Remoaners’ by the right wing press) have suggested that there should be a second referendum.
Others have suggested that a second referendum flies in the face of democracy.
And I can see their point.
Because obviously giving people an opportunity to vote on the future of Britain’s relationship with Europe is all well and good, but giving the public two opportunities is completely undemocratic because…
…nope can’t see how that is undemocratic actually.
Having said that, I can’t see that a second referendum would go any differently to the first one. Indeed, such is the regular anti-EU fervour stoked by sections of the British media that I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a second referendum produce a result that was more emphatically in favour of leaving the EU than the first vote was.
But the problem remains that we still have no idea what it is that people did actually vote for back in the golden summer of 2016.
So perhaps a second referendum would be useful just to drill down into what it is that the British people actually want. Perhaps a referendum with a range of choices rather than the straight dichotomy of Remain or Leave.
Here are my suggestions:
Option 1: No Brexit – or ‘this all seems a bit too complicated and it’s better just to keep things the same as they are now’.
Option 2: Soft Brexit – or ‘leave but don’t actually leave. Like say we’ve left so we can stick two fingers up to Europe, but actually stay part of the Single Market and Customs Union because actually leaving properly seems a bit scary.’
Option 3: Hard Brexit – or leave and cut all remaining ties. We’re British and we’re awesome. Even if it looks like economical suicide it definitely won’t be. After all a stiff upper lip and traditional family values will see us through any problems.’
Option 4: War – or ‘this has always been about hating foreigners and we’ve always been pretty good at wars. That’ll definitely show those European bastards who’s boss. Plus war time is brilliant – remember the good old days of the Second World War when everything was black and white and Britain was great? Let’s go to war again!’
There we go, a referendum to reunite Britain.