You might not still be able to hear it, as a noisy two years of wrangling reaches fever pitch, but the central idea behind Brexit remains very simple: to make Britain’s economy and its political system properly accountable by winning the country’s independence from remote, top-heavy European Union institutions designed to further the unpopular and unrealistic project of ‘ever closer union’.
The idea of democratic accountability has always been at the heart of Brexit. Fundamentally, it was why the electorate voted to Leave in 2016; it was why MPs – both Leave- and Remain-backers – overwhelmingly voted to trigger Article 50 in 2017; and yet, it is what 415 Remain-inclined MPs decided to frustrate last Thursday night.
With Brexit having effectively been delayed – providing the law is changed and the EU agree to an extension – it is now clear that in order for the country to win its independence from the European Union, it first has to win it from Parliament itself. The terrible irony in this is that Brexit, by definition, is not anti-parliamentary. In fact, quite the reverse.
As an objection to the imbalance of power between the UK Parliament and distant EU institutions whose accountability to the British public is dubious at best, Brexit has always been about increasing the power of UK law-makers over UK affairs – borders, money, business regulations, international trade and fisheries – and, consequently, increasing the power of the electorate over their representatives who make the laws which affect their lives. This is nothing more than should be expected from a healthy representative democracy.
On the other side, there were those who believed this level of responsibility and self-government to be above Britain. The real anti-parliamentary figures are these parliamentarians. By rubbishing the law they passed which still mandates that the UK leave the European Union on 29th March – with or without a deal – the majority of MPs (being Remainers) have refused to satisfy the result of the EU referendum, in which the majority of the public instructed them to re-empower Parliament.
If we are to learn from recent history, it is clear anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic activity only produces more of the same, on both the governmental and the popular level. On the continent, the result of lofty governance by europhiles in France, Germany, Italy and Greece, to name the most prominent examples, has been to produce a growing populist backlash which the establishment has either struggled or simply failed to contain. Yet too often the response of the establishment on the continent is ‘more Europe’, and accordingly, the response of the insurgents is ‘more populism’.
They are clearly not listening to each other, just as the Government in Britain is not really listening to the British public. At Get Britain Out, we and our supporters have done our best to frequently communicate with both the Prime Minister and MPs of all parties, but it seems to have made little difference. In the summer of last year, we hand-delivered a letter of concern about the Chequers Proposal to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, formally countersigned by more than 50,000 of our supporters. It was not even acknowledged by the Prime Minister, but simply ignored – i.e. the concerns of more than 50,000 voters were just disregarded!
The Prime Minister may have stated recently that she is carrying out the wishes of the people at the EU referendum, but she is not; all she is attempting to do by these repeated votes in the House of Commons is to attempt to force her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament, and it demonstrates that Mrs May is not listening to the people.
It may be going too far to suggest that Britain should brace itself for an equal share in continental Europe’s social and political dislocation. But one of the explanations for Brexit is that Britain’s history has given its people more faith in its own institutions than has the history of our continental neighbours. Accordingly, Britons are no longer willing to surrender sovereignty to a supranational organisation with which the majority do not identify in the first place.
Nevertheless, this very faith is now being sorely tested, and some form of Brexit backlash will be felt in Britain. The sabotage of Brexit by a majority-Remain arrogant Parliament in a majority-Leave country – especially considering the number of Remain voters who now wish to see the result of the referendum implemented – will do massive damage to trust in Britain’s democracy.
The question remains as to how this damage will manifest itself politically. The UK will now almost certainly have to participate in the European Parliament elections this May. Just as UKIP did in 2014, Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, formed to give British voters a democratic means of getting their own back, looks poised to sweep the board.
What we know for sure, however, is that the lowering of parliamentary and democratic currency in Britain will not be the fault of Brexit, but of the europhiles within Parliament. The only way to increase its value again is to Get Britain Out of the EU. After all, this was the point of Brexit in the first place.
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