Our Parliament, in its wisdom, decided to give the British people a referendum to let us decide whether or not we remain in the European Union. The country decided – albeit narrowly – to leave the EU. Our political leaders must now accept the view of the public and work to build a bright strong future for our country.
We were told, by the cross-party pro-EU campaign group, that chaos would follow a vote to leave the EU. But they were talking about the effect on big businesses and multi-national companies who would consider moving from the UK because the future would be uncertain. They were not talking about their own chaotic behaviour.
We were told, by the cross-party pro-leave campaign group, that everything would be find following a vote to leave the EU. Despite calling for change, they assured us that “nothing would happen overnight”. They didn’t tell us that this meant they would call for a delay to the triggering of Article 50 – the legal method for kick-starting negotiations with the EU about our way-out of the bloc.
We are now in a situation that both campaign groups – those advocating we left and those advocating we stay – are now falling over themselves to try to ignore the will of the people.
I’m aware that the British people are split on this issue. The margin of victory for the “out” campaign was incredibly small. But regardless of that, they won the vote. Of that, there can be no doubt. In the UK we have a first-past-the-post system where we recognise a majority of one as a majority. In the EU referendum, the “out” campaign won with a majority of 1,269,501.
But our politicians don’t want to accept the result. David Lammy has been reported saying that Parliament should have a vote to overturn the result; and Seema Malhotra has called for a second referendum. Over three million people have signed a petition which, in effect, calls for the referendum result to be annulled because it obtained such a small majority.
This cannot happen. Firstly, it is somewhat arrogant of MPs, having asked the British people for their view, to say that their view should be ignored because the result was not as they wanted. And those signing the petition need to understand that rules of conduct for elections need to be set before the election. They can’t be changed because the result isn’t what we wanted.
The country has spent a fortune – money that we don’t have – on a plebiscite. The nation has spoken and our politicians should now implement it.
Instead, David Cameron has gone back on his commitment to remain in post regardless of the outcome – a commitment he made numerous time during the campaign. So the Conservative party is now in political limbo – a rudderless ship with focus on internal politics instead of the good of the country.
And seven, sorry, eight, no nine, er, make that 10, no, 11 shadow cabinet members have gone in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. A motion of no confidence has been tabled and will be discussed tomorrow with a possible vote on Tuesday. This means that the Labour party is also focused on internal politics instead of the good of the country and may, too, soon be in political limbo.
So that’s the two largest parties in the Westminster Parliament in turmoil with senior figures focused on crazy self-serving internal issues rather than the good of the country. Thank goodness that the third largest party is united. It is just a pity that the SNP seem to be living in cloud cuckoo land.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is said to be heading to Brussels this week to hold discussions with EU officials about how Scotland can remain in the EU once the UK leaves. Er, it can’t. Not as long as it remains a member of the United Kingdom. And that question was decided by a referendum just two years ago. Yet another politician who wants to ignore the will of the people.
Failing that, she says that the Scottish Parliament can veto the UK’s succession from the EU by denying the necessary legislative consent motion from any Westminster Bill. But such legislative consent motions are only required when the Westminster Parliament is debating a Bill which touches on a devolved matter. The UK’s foreign relations are not devolved. They are firmly the domain of the UK government in Westminster and so no legislation consent motion will even be requested.
Nicola Sturgeon’s position is that Scotland decided to remain. Scotland wasn’t asked. The UK was asked. And Scotland’s voice – important as it is – is a part of the UK voice. It is not a separate voice any more than any other electoral area within the UK.
So we have had a referendum; and the nation has decided – but our three largest political parties are acting like spoiled school children.
We do not need grand-standing and politicking and a focus on our political parties right now.
What we do need is statesmen (a gender neutral term which includes women) to act for the good of the country and to ensure that we pass the rocky road we have turned onto and come out stronger on the other side.
The EU Council – the heads of state and government of the 28 EU nations – will meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday. The UK’s referendum and our future relationship with the EU is the main item on the agenda.
And yet while the rest of Europe is ready to begin talking about what our future relationship with the EU might look like, David Cameron can only say “not me guv”, or “watch this space.” This is not good enough. The UK may not be ready to begin planning for our future relationship with Europe, but Europe is. And we’re not going to be at the table – not in any sensible sense.
Already, we have lost our voice on the Commissioner. The UK’s EU Commissioner Lord Hill has resigned saying that he can’t remain in post setting the EU’s policy on the financial industry when any regulations established by the EU now won’t apply to the EU in the future.
And MEP Ian Duncan has resigned from his position as rapporteur of the committee looking at regulations on an EU emissions trading scheme, saying “it would be sensible for the dossier to be taken forward by a member who can steer the important reforms to their conclusion.”
Pressure is being placed on other British MEPs in positions of authority in the European Parliament to step down.
And during next week’s EU Council meeting, the 27 remaining heads of state and government will have a private meeting to which David Cameron has been told “you’re not welcome” as they discuss their position on the UK’s exit.
Europe is planning for its future. It is a future that doesn’t include the UK. The UK needs to be part of those negotiations.
This isn’t a Conservative issue, or a Labour issue, or a SNP issue. It is an issue that involves the whole of the UK. And we cannot wait for the political parties to sort their internal politics out. Our politicians need to accept the result. And work to implement it.
What we need now is a government of national unity. Forget day-to-day political discourse and the usual passage of Parliamentary Bills and business – existing bills have all be written based on EU law. Once we leave the EU we will no longer be part of the EU and not subject to EU treaties, directives or regulations. The only thing that matters now – the primary thing that matters now – is our relationship with the EU and our extraction from that body.
When David Cameron goes to Brussels on Tuesday he should invoke Article 50. It sets a two-year timeline for negotiations to conclude. Two years is long enough – if our political elite can focus on this issue. Article 50 allows for the timetable to be extended if necessary. It requires the unanimous approval of the remaining 27; but if the negotiations are being handled properly the 27 will agree for it to continue – it is in Europe’s interests for an amicable separation.
The only problem will come if Britain isn’t focusing its efforts on the negotiations. But if they are, a conclusion can be reached well in advance of a two-year deadline.
We need a government of national unity because the negotiations need to be conducted on a cross-party basis in which party interests and party-political infighting are put to one side and the interests of the nation put front and central.
The people who voted “out” did so because they wanted the UK to take back control of our destiny. If we’re not careful we run the risk of the EU deciding the terms of our future relationship – giving control back to Brussels – because the UK is too busy navel-gazing.