Commentary by Derek Bateman
How British would it be if the people voted to come out of Europe and Parliament disagreed? (The creaking sound is Oliver Cromwell – minus head – rotating at Tyburn).
In my growing despair at the latest polls inching Leave ahead, I came across the BBC story quoting pro-EU MPs saying they would oppose measures to take the UK out even if the voters had demanded it.
So on the one hand you have democracy appeased through a fair vote but, because it doesn’t please the self-selected elite, the result is ignored. The people are traduced. There may well be the modern equivalent of a Cromwellian peasants’ revolt as a result but what does that mean when their elected representatives are securely bedded down at Westminster with, it seems, something approaching a 4-to-1 numercial advantage over the Brexiteers?
Whose side is democracy on? Obviously, the Outers. It was the same Parliament that voted for the referendum after all. It’s too late to change your mind now. But any amount of obstacles can be found in the Old Boys’ Club to obstruct the processes that are required to extricate the UK from 40 years of membership in Brussels. Nothing happens overnight and nothing actually changes on June 24 – except maybe the Prime Minister. But surely that too is doubtful as any mood for bluffing the exit really does require Cameron remaining to ‘see through the transition’. Removing the In figurehead would weaken the case the Remain MPs want to make. And what is that case?
I imagine they want to delay as the message of the vote hits home and the dolorous task begins of picking up the pieces while hearing the gloomy news from around the world…watching the currency lose its value, hearing major employers talk of uprooting their operations, investment dries up, wails of pain from Northern Ireland, tales of doom from the more than a million Brits living abroad and dire warnings of fading influence in the City. The game will be to bluff until the idea takes hold that there has been a terrible mistake and the only escape may be through a second referendum – an idea given daily oxygen in Brussels where there is much head-shaking and eye-rolling at the perfidious Brits. Still, Brussels is mature enough not to rush things. They can be patient, if there is a mood to reconsider in London. The exit process is defined as two years but it can be adjusted by a unanimous vote of the 28 so they could shrug and decide not to trigger the exit talks.
There would be external pressure from solicitous international friends querying our sanity. The news would bed headed by the American President expressing dismay at our isolation and doubting if any trade deal can be finalised within a decade. Maybe more.
In Scotland the noisome Nats would be agitating and opening channels direct to Brussels, probably in alliance with the Welsh, through which devolved voices resistant to Brexit can be heard. Stories appear suggesting the EU is revisiting its unofficial opposition to statehood and surprisingly, finds a little-known document it prepared earlier for a fast track membership.
In Westminster the government fires the Brexit ministers returning them to the backbenches where they form a cadre of 150 rebels who demand daily that the people’s voice be heard and their decision acted upon. Across the civilised world, heads turn away although Boris Johnson is interviewed regularly on Russian TV.
The Leave MPs sound increasingly angry. It’s pointed out to them that the turnout was low and the margin of victory miniscule. Is it really a basis on which to make a fundamental decision? Didn’t some Unionists argue a straight majority was no basis for Scottish independence? Meanwhile the opinion polls show large numbers who didn’t turn out to vote are shocked into supporting EU membership.
In Brussels there is an immigration summit where the rules on freedom of movement are qualified to allow some discretion for member states, some of whom are in breach of open borders regulations as it is. A dispersal programme for migrants arriving from Mediterranean boats is agreed with country quotas.
Eventually Britain begins talk of doing a Dublin and asking the question again. There is polite coughing in Brussels. A new mood grips the UK as the EU takes on a warmer feel in the public mind and the hysteria in the newspapers fails to dent the new optimism. We’re staying in…
The only down side is in Edinburgh where Sturgeon drops preparations for her own referendum…