A recent YouGov poll asked the question, “How would you feel if Brexit didn’t happen?” Respondents were allowed to choose up to three options ranging from “Betrayed” or “Angry” to “Delighted” or “Relieved”.
As expected, the most common response among Remainers was “Relieved” with the majority of Leavers saying they would feel “Betrayed”.
What caught my eye, though, was the number of Remainers who admitted that they would feel either betrayed (3%), angry (4%) or disappointed (6%) if it didn’t happen. In other words, despite the fact that they voted to remain in the EU, they would not wish to see the government renege on its promise to implement the result of the referendum.
Personally, the very fact that this question is even being asked, makes me feel betrayed, angry and, despite it not being an option on the poll, fearful for the future of our democracy. For while it is heartening to see that a small number of Remainers recognise the fact that having a government that does what its electorate asks it to, is more important than seeing their own personal wishes implemented, the fact that the option of not implementing the Brexit result is even being discussed, should alarm everybody who genuinely believes that Britain is a democratic country.
Make no mistake – if Brexit doesn’t happen this will not only be the biggest betrayal by the UK government of its citizens and its democratic mandate, that I have known in my lifetime. It will also be a clear signal that our democracy is a sham, that our nation truly is a plutocracy in which the rich and powerful minority are able to exert their will over the majority in all matters.
Think I’m being hysterical? Consider the fact that the vote for Brexit was not only won via an absolute majority of votes (52% to 48%) but that, had the votes been counted in the way they usually are in a general election, i.e. on a constituency basis, the ratio of Leave to Remain votes would have been 69% Leave vs 31% Remain.
If the UK parliament can fail to implement a decision that was endorsed by 69% of constituencies, and 52% of all citizens, and doesn’t find itself overturned by popular uprising as a result, then why should it not take that as a clear message that all future general election results can be ignored?
Fast-forward to the 2022 General Election. Maybe Theresa May has managed to cling on to power. Maybe she’s been replaced by Boris Johnson, or Jacob Rees-Mogg, or David Davis, or, God forbid, Philip Hammond. Either way, unless something pretty drastic has happened in terms of Tory party policy in the intervening years, chances are they are even less popular than they are right now. Let’s now assume that the Labour Party, still led by Jeremy Corbyn, still making promises in opposition that he knows he can’t possibly keep, manages to secure a majority of seats in Parliament.
Oh, the celebrations among idealistic Corbynistas! I can just see it now – the street parties, the victory speeches, the chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” throughout the streets of Islington. Corbyn himself going to meet the Queen and agonising over whether or not to bow when he does so.
And then the crushing disappointment and aghast disbelief, as moderate Labour MPs join forces with Conservative MPs to hold an immediate vote of no-confidence in the new Prime Minister, and replace him with a more Blairite alternative. Not Blair himself, obviously – that really would be a step too far, and would be illegal given Blair is no longer an MP – but somebody who could be trusted to toe the centre-left line that the UK parliament has been treading for so many years.
“Centre-left?” – you cry. “Don’t be ridiculous – those right-wing Tory bastards have been in power for the past 7 years – we dream of centre-left policies!”
Well yes, notionally the Tories are in power, but they’re not really, are they? You only have to look at how left-wing all our public institutions are, to see who really runs the country. Schools, universities, the police service, social services, our national broadcaster – all are rabidly left-wing. Capitalism is evil, diversity is all-important and anything that could even vaguely be considered hate speech is to be rooted out and destroyed – these are the principles that drive our public services. In the meantime, government policy is dictated to by think-tanks and lobbyists dedicated to special interests – and funded by the rich and powerful. No wonder the country is so divided.
There is no question that the logistics of leaving the EU will not be easy, and that the process will take time. Negotiating trade deals with the EU and with non-EU countries, and agreeing which European institutions we wish to remain part of and which we wish to leave, are not processes that can happen overnight, nor should they be rushed. But the referendum to decide whether or not Britain wished to remain part of the EU, was legal, and those who voted, did so in good faith that their vote would be counted. The voting papers explicitly stated that the government would implement the decision of the British people. For the government to even suggest that the decision should not be implemented, either on the grounds that it is too difficult, or too risky to the economy, or simply “the wrong decision”, would amount to a betrayal of our democratic process the likes of which we have never before seen.
Our current democratic process is shaky at best. The extent to which public policy is decided by those lobbying on behalf of the rich and powerful, should not be underestimated. Whether or not our government implements Brexit, will be the litmus test – it is absolutely clear that the rich and powerful are lining up to defeat Brexit, and if they are allowed to do so, there can no longer be any illusion about who really runs the country. So while Remainers may cheer at getting their way on continued EU membership, their cheers will turn to bitter disappointment at realising just how little influence they have over how their country is governed. The day that Brexit is defeated will be the day any illusion of living in a democracy dies.