Democracy

I’ve mostly avoided writing about Brexit, as it’s a pretty depressing situation. There are many aspects of this issue that I find frustrating, but something I find particularly irritating is when politicians claim that not leaving the EU would be some kind of threat to our democracy. The suggestion is that the people have spoken and our democratic principles require that we enact the will of the people.

One immediate problem is that the referendum was advisory, not binding. On top of that, the leave vote may have won the referendum, but it’s wasn’t exactly a resounding victory. The result was 52% (17,410,742) in favour of leaving, while 48% (16,141,241) voted to remain. The turnout was 72%, so almost 13 million people didn’t even vote. The idea that our democracy requires fundamentally changing the nature of our country because 37% of the electorate voted for something seems a bit much, especially given that 35% voted against this, and 28% didn’t even bother voting at all.

In fact, if you go the 2015 election manifestos, only one party (UKIP) explicitly campaigned on the basis of leaving the EU. The UK is a parliamentary democracy; the party that wins the most seats typically forms a government and tries to enact their preferred policies. If we like the way they’re running the country we can vote for them again at the next election. If not, we can vote for a different party.

UKIP has only ever had one member of parliament. We’ve essentially allowed a political party with virtually no parliamentary representation to shape the future of the UK. This seems like a much greater violation of our democractic principles than parliament deciding that it can’t enact the referendum result in a way that doesn’t do much more harm than good, especially given that making decisions on our behalf is why they were elected in the first place.

I realise that most of the “threat to democracy” rhetoric is hyperbolic, but I still find it irritating, especially coming from those who are embedded in our democractic process. I realise that many people are not going to be happy if we do stay in the EU, but a similar number (maybe even more) are going to be very unhappy about leaving. I also realise that staying in the EU will be politically very difficult. This doesn’t mean, however, that parliament deciding to do so will be some kind of fundamental threat to our democracy.

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91 Responses to Democracy

  1. verytallguy says:

    According to polling, a large majority of voters think May’s plan is worse than remaining.

    Nobody seriously suggests that it would have won the 2016 vote if offered against remain at the time.

    It is, therefore, the “will of the people” that it should be enacted, and the “solemn duty” of politicians to do so.

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    H.L. Mencken

  2. dikranmarsupial says:

    Extremely well summarised. I think it would be a greater indictment of democracy to go ahead with brexit on the basis of the referendum, when it is obvious that most of the information we had at the time was wrong. We need to take the best course of action based on what we know now.

  3. Mitch says:

    I find it interesting that certain politicians think that one vote is all that’s necessary to commit to Brexit. In all major decisions in a person’s life there is always the opportunity to question if the original decision is correct.

    In this case especially, people were not aware of the implications of their vote. Now that one can winnow down the field of options to the May compromise, hard out, or to attempt to renegotiate, it would be wise to get a new advisory referendum.

  4. AndyM says:

    What I saw with the Leave campaign was not the exercise of democracy but electoral fraud. That is not surprising when the Leave campaign contained people who tried to convince us global warming stopped in 1998.

  5. Magma says:

    “I’m sorry,” said the waiter, “but you did order the Chef’s Special You can’t send it back simply because you’ve now decided you don’t like rat. Why, if everybody did that, where would we be then?”

  6. BBD says:

    Until somebody determines where the £8.2 million came from, I think talk of threats to democracy is missing its mark.

  7. BBD says:

    We’ve essentially allowed a political party with virtually no parliamentary representation to shape the future of the UK.

    I called it a rightwing coup in comments here in 2016 and see no reason to walk that back.

  8. OPatrick says:

    There are a lot of transferable skills acquired from years of discussing climate change that perhaps aren’t being fully applied to discussion of Brexit. We have to look at the situation we are in and not some idealised version of what is ‘right’. The reality is that there is a large minority of people who would be so incensed by us remaining in the EU that the risks of doing so look to me to outweigh the costs of leaving at this stage. It seems to me that this should be the starting point for any analysis of the politics. It isn’t a discussion about rational decisions, which is something anyone involved in the climate change arena comes to realise sooner or later.

  9. Cerridwen says:

    I agree. I don’t think that it would be undemocratic to put the question to citizens again, once all the options have been pursued, especially given the misinformation and potentially dodgy dealing around the Leave campaign. However I’m afraid that doing so does risk damaging the democratic process in the future, as it could potentially alienate leave voters (including working class, left-leaning voters) who will, with some justification, feel betrayed and ignored and will be reluctant to engage with the whole democratic process ever again. The whole thing has been a divisive and very expensive mess, whatever happens next, but personally I hope that is: extend the deadline, renegotiate for a “softer” Brexit (without Ms May’s “red lines”) so that it is transparently clear that all available options have been pursued, and then have a second vote on all those options.

  10. OPatrick,

    The reality is that there is a large minority of people who would be so incensed by us remaining in the EU that the risks of doing so look to me to outweigh the costs of leaving at this stage.

    Yes, I think this is indeed an issue. However, what are the actual implications? Are you imaging some kind of civil disorder?

  11. BBD says:

    The threat of civil disorder could be interpreted as the hard right menacing the rest of us into silence and compliance with its agenda – or else. Not exactly democracy in action.

  12. Cerridwen,

    However I’m afraid that doing so does risk damaging the democratic process in the future, as it could potentially alienate leave voters (including working class, left-leaning voters) who will, with some justification, feel betrayed and ignored and will be reluctant to engage with the whole democratic process ever again.

    Indeed, I agree that this is an issue. I think many people do feel justifiably disenfranchised, both politically and economically. This probably did contribute to the leave vote. However, I don’t think that leaving the EU is going to somehow solve this, and may in fact make it worse.

  13. Joshua says:

    However I’m afraid that doing so does risk damaging the democratic process in the future, as it could potentially alienate leave voters (including working class, left-leaning voters) who will, with some justification, feel betrayed and ignored and will be reluctant to engage with the whole democratic process ever again.

    If it is as I suspect, and anything like it is with a similar voting block in the States, the feeling of resentment and being betrayed are far better explained by a host of factors that were in play well before Brexit.

    Assigning casualty there would be rather lkke saying that “skeptics” are “skeptics” because Real Climate moderation.

  14. Joshua says:

    It always galls me when people quote Mencken. He was an elitist and apologist for racism and slavery of the worst order.

  15. To go back to the whole disenfranchised issue, my impression (apocryphal, of course) is that some of the leave vote was more a statement of discontent, than based on a serious expectation of winning. I think many people do justifiably feel that our political landscape is not really taking them into account much; they’re being ignored. A close vote, but with remain winning, may have had the advantage of politicians realising that they’ve got to start thinking of the people who feel as though opening our borders and having free trade is impacting them negatively. Some are benefitting greatly, but some are not. Unfortunately, the leave vote won, and now it seems that we may go ahead with something on the basis that it’s what people wanted, when it may end up impacting these very people even more negatively than has been the case so far.

  16. Joshua,

    the feeling of resentment and being betrayed are far better explained by a host of factors that were in play well before Brexit.

    Yes, I agree.

  17. Tony Banton says:

    “In this case especially, people were not aware of the implications of their vote.”

    This is said a lot.
    I’m sorry but I disagree … and fully realise others don’t, with strong views involved..
    Brexit is stirring polarisation and discord.
    Which is actually the problem with having another vote.
    For myself I was fully aware that there would likely be a period where the country would struggle.
    Seems blatantly obvious, but I considered it worth it the long term.
    Actually my beef with the EU was the lack of democratic accountability of the likes of Tusk, Junker et al and the lack say the UK voter had to get rid of them, or influence policy in any realistic way.
    One size does not fit all, especially so with such varied cultures and economies.
    The referendum did not ask about the terms of exit.
    It asked stay or leave.
    I think it is very arrogant to assume that people did not know of the implications, with no evidence to back it up.
    ‘Spins’ were played by both sides.
    Those squealing for the “people’s vote”, are those that wanted to remain.
    The consequences of overturning the referendum decision are to horrible to contemplate (in terms of damage to democracy and faith in politicians, not to mention civil unrest). May is quite right to stick to her guns on that.
    I would support another one that asks leave on May’s terms or leave with no deal (but that would not get through Parliament).
    But not a rerun of leave or stay. Or the three-way of May’s deal, no deal, or stay.
    The EU was always to screw us with it’s leave terms. They do not want any country to be seen to do better on leaving than staying an a better deal will not be offered.
    The decision has been made with the Referendum.
    It’s not the best of 3.
    2 years down the line of a 5 year parliament, those that lost don’t get to have another go because ‘they were lied to’.
    It’s just tough.
    “It’s the worst system, apart from all the others we’ve tried”.
    BTW: I’m a moderate through and through and have voted for all 3 major parties at General elections.
    But if somehow the referendum result is ignored then I’ll be on the first train to London with my placard.

  18. Joshua says:

    Anders *

    I think many people do justifiably feel that our political landscape is not really taking them into account much…

    I’ve seen some pretty convincing evidence that leave votes were associated more with resentment toward improvement of the lot of “others” in contrast to not having their own plight taken into account (iow, it wasntassociated with economic deprevation, but a decline in economic status relative to the economic status of other groups) .

    Again, if that is true, it parallels a similar phenomenon in the US. That isn’t to say that there aren’t people who have legitimate grievances, but that we should look carefully at how those grievances arise, and how the good for the many is best affected by addressing those grievances.

  19. jamesannan says:

    The correct approach at the outset (and it remains so even now) would have been to recognise that the 48% are basically a block, albeit with some diversity of opinions, whereas the 52% are a highly disparate group with radically different complaints and incompatible (even where not impossible) solutions. Therefore the intelligent solution would have been to try to split off some of the 52% onto the remain cause, rather than treat them as a fixed object and pretend it was possible to satisfy them all simultaneously.

    There never was majority support for Brexit, when Brexit is interpreted to mean an actual specific achievable Brexit plan.

  20. OPatrick says:

    Not exactly democracy in action.

    Indeed, but my point is that this is hardly relevant. Yes, we are facing an increasing threat of right-wing populism and insular nationalism. Likely, very uncivil disorder. There are are strong parallels to the climate ‘debate’, where the drivers behind the various forms of denial are not directly connected to the facts or reality of the situation.
    This is going to be a long, slow process if we are going to avoid a potentially catastrophic outcome one way or another. Compromising on the language without compromising on the message is a skill that many have tuned to high degree in these climate discussions and one that I think needs to be used more in the Brexit debates. Particularly if we ever do manage to get to the point of a second referendum.

  21. OPatrick says:

    Glad to see Joshua here – I was consciously trying to channel his arguments and I suspect he will do so far better than I.

  22. Tony,
    I appreciate that it’s insulting to imply that people voted without thinking about the implications, but do you really think people fully appreciated the implications. Not even the government seems to have understood this, and still doesn’t really seem to know quite what to do. There seemed to be no proper planning for a Brexit, no real understanding of how complicted the negotiations were going to be, and no sense of the implications of leaving with no deal.

  23. BBD says:

    Indeed, but my point is that this is hardly relevant.
    […]
    Compromising on the language without compromising on the message

    I’m not really clear why it’s not relevant. Concerns about civil disorder are a component of Brexiteer rhetoric. A

  24. BBD says:

    Whoops. Cont…

    And the language and message are essentially anti-democratic: don’t go there, we are told. Or else. This is not cool.

  25. OPatrick says:

    There seemed to be no proper planning for a Brexit, no real understanding of how complicted the negotiations were going to be, and no sense of the implications of leaving with no deal.

    All that is true, but largely irrelevant. Things won’t change if we run the referendum again – the result will be the same, more vicious perhaps, if we don’t put huge effort into understanding the motivations and base messaging on this.

  26. OPatrick,
    I wasn’t suggesting it would be different. I was responding to Tony’s comment about it being insulting to suggest people didn’t really know what they were voting for. It seems many people didn’t appreciate the implications of this, including most of those in government.

  27. entropicman says:

    BBD

    “Concerns about civil disorder are a component of Brexiteer rhetoric. ”

    For you, maybe.
    I live in Northern Ireland, which will probably be more disrupted by Brexit than anyone else in the UK.
    The rump of Republican terrorists also see Brexit as an opportunity.
    It is not a coincidence that we had a car bomb in Derry/Londonderry on Saturday.

    I

  28. OPatrick says:

    I’m not really clear why it’s not relevant.

    I think worrying about whether it’s democratic or not is largely irrelevant – except perhaps in holding to account some (and there aren’t many) of those who employ this rhetoric to their own ends but are capable of being shamed. It’s certainly worth pointing out, in a measured way, but I don’t believe it’s going to have any meaningful impact in the debate.

  29. verytallguy says:

    The first problem is that Brexit supporters will be betrayed whatever happens next.
    2nd ref, May’s deal, no deal. None will remotely be close to what was promised.

    The second problem is that people think there’s a solution to the first problem.
    2nd ref, May’s deal, no deal. Any of these will be a total disaster.

    How to best manage a disastrous situation is the question. There is no good way forward.

  30. OPatrick,
    Yes, I kind of agree that it’s necessarily worth worrying about. I just find myself irritated listening to people who are embedded in our political system claiming that something is a threat to our democracy, when this isn’t true. It’s just part of the political discourse, but it’s still irritating.

  31. vtg,
    Yes, I don’t think there is a good way forward. We shouldn’t have had a referendum in the first place, but it’s rather pointless saying this now. We had one, now we have to deal with the outcome.

  32. OPatrick says:

    Anders:

    It seems many people didn’t appreciate the implications of this, including most of those in government.

    I don’t disagree with that. What I’m attempting to say is that the sort of tiptoeing around the truth that we’ve all got used to in climate discussions equally needs to be applied to Brexit discussions. In fact, probably to an even greater degree, as there isn’t anything like the same sort of hard scientific evidence underlying it.

    When we say things like people didn’t understand what they were voting for there’s surely the risk that this will entrench people’s views.

  33. OPatrick,

    When we say things like people didn’t understand what they were voting for there’s surely the risk that this will entrench people’s views.

    Yes, I agree. I wasn’t really suggesting that we should promote the idea that people really didn’t understand what they were voting for. I was more just simply making the case that it’s not such a terrible thing to consider, given that it appears few people really appreciated the consequences.

  34. JCH says:

    Is anybody trying to negotiate a stay deal with the EU? Why wouldn’t either Scotland or Ireland, or both, be huge winners if they were to do so?

  35. JCH,
    They can’t negotiate such a deal. They’re part of the UK so can’t negotiate to stay in the EU. Another Scottish referendum on independence is not out of the question, though. Others might be able to comment on the implications for Northern Ireland.

  36. Harry Twinotter says:

    The way I look at it is it would be undemocratic not to go through with Brexit – what is done is done, it was lawful. Do the Brexit, see how it goes for say 10 years and if it is a total disaster rejoin the EU again. BTW I am not saying I understand British politics (I don’t even understand the politics in my own country), but I do muse at a high-level “process” point of view.

  37. David B. Benson says:

    Watching from a third of the world away, Remain!

  38. Jeffh says:

    The biggest flaw imho in the Brexit vote is the profound disparity in the age demographics of those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain. Call it agism (I am 61 years old so I am getting there) but the younger the voter was, the more likely they were to vote remain. The problem is that it was the younger voters who didn’t get to the polling booth in significant enough numbers, otherwise the remain vote would have triumphed easily. Again, I may be hypocritical here, but the younger people have much more stake in the future than the elderly do, but Brexit ignores them. I also believe that a significant proportion of those who voted to leave the EU barely considered the economic aspects and instead were driven by false nationalistic considerations. This is typical human behaviour.

    Finally, one needs to remember that the main protagonists in driving the Brexit vote are wealthy right wing businessmen like Nigel Farange and Boris Johnson. These guys are not remotely interested in the welfare of the British people imho but in furthering alternate business agendas and the interests of the ruling elite. Farange adores Trump and the kleptocracy currently unfolding in the United States. I find him risible, and now he is even threatening to set up his own UK party to run in the next general election, with large swathes of the British public already swooning at his feet.

  39. Harry,
    There are a number of complications. What does “going through Brexit” mean? If we leave with a deal, there’s the Irish backstop issue (i.e., to keep the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland open, there would be customs checks on goods coming into the mainland UK from Northern Ireland). This is very unpopular, but it seems that a better deal isn’t possible. If we leave with no deal there’s a general agreement that this would be a disaster. So, there isn’t even a simple way to simply “go through with Brexit”.

  40. andrew adams says:

    It is absolutely the case that a lot of the people who voted (and not necessarily just those who voted Leave) didn’t understand what the implications of leaving would be, I heard many people complaining during the referendum campaign that they hadn’t been given the necessary information on which to make an informed decision. This isn’t entirely their fault, there was a massive failure by the media in this respect – the broadcast media, especially the BBC failed to properly distinguish between informed opinion and partisan nonsense, putting “balance” above seeking the truth (I wonder if we could think of any other issues where they have done that), while large sections of the press told outright lies to their readers, and in fact have been lying about the EU for years.
    Leave campaigners made all kinds of claims which were either outright lies (£350m for the NHS) or just incompatible, ignoring the inevitable trade-offs which have to be made between things which are desirable economically and politically, and ignoring or glossing over the issue of the Irish border which has proved to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks.
    You only have to look at the arguments made by vocal leave supporters now to see that they are still making patently untrue claims, so either they don’t understand or they are lying. Look at the number of people who still claim we could walk away with “no deal” and it would be either painless or cause minimal disruption, and the nonsense spouted about the WTO.
    As for the implications of not going through with Brexit, you absolutely cannot allow the threat of civil disorder to dictate what we should or shouldn’t do, that is the most undemocratic thing possible. I agree the problem of disaffection with the political system is a real one, but you have to balance that against the negative consequences if we go ahead with it. I think that the whole Brexit saga has increased this disaffection anyway, and people will be disappointed one way or the other if we go ahead with Brexit and it inevitably fails to deliver what was promised. The last three years have highlighted huge problems with our democracy and political system and we will have to fix these anyway.

  41. verytallguy says:

    TonyBanton,

    there’s a lot in your comment, I hope you’ll forgive me if I pick out a couple of things that stuck out to me

    Those squealing for the “people’s vote”, are those that wanted to remain.

    You rightly point out that Brexit is being extremely divisive. This kind of language is typical of that division (and comes from both sides)

    2 years down the line of a 5 year parliament, those that lost don’t get to have another go because ‘they were lied to’.
    It’s just tough.

    Why? Why should it be “just tough”? In the same way that the 2016 referendum was campaigned for and won a vote in parliament to go ahead, why should the same be wrong now?

    It seems to me that there is one reason only that leave campaigners fear a 2nd referendum: because they fear there is no support for any actual plan to Brexit.

    But if somehow the referendum result is ignored then I’ll be on the first train to London with my placard.

    It may be worth noting that last Autumn’s “People’s vote” demo was the second largest ever in the UK.

    I actually agree with you that a 2nd ref is a terrible idea btw. I just can’t think of a better one.

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    VTG “How to best manage a disastrous situation is the question. There is no good way forward.”

    Start with being honest about the situation, rather than double down with ever more BS (e.g. “threat to democracy”). I wish the political parties were less worried about their chances of being elected next time round, and more concerned with doing the right thing today.

  43. verytallguy says:

    Start with being honest about the situation

    Yes, that would be good.

    Brexit has been characterised by outright dishonesty right from its very inception:

    When David Cameron said he believed we were better off out unless we renegotiated our terms, he was lying to appease his right wing.

    When the Labour party voted mainly to support the referendum, they were lying to try to attract UKIP voters.

    When David Cameron said he had successfully renegotiated our terms, he was lying to try to make his case more convincing.

    When Boris Johnson came out in support of Brexit, he was lying to further his career.

    When George Osborne promised a “punishment budget” in case of a yes vote, he was lying to try to save his skin.

    When the leave campaign put the £350 million on the side of the bus they were lying to appeal to working class voters.

    When Michael Gove said 77 million Turks were coming, he was lying to appeal to xenophobes and racists.

    When Theresa May said No Deal was better than a bad deal she was lying to appear tough to her right wing.

    When Liam Fox said it would be the easiest negotiation ever (well, he might actually be stupid enough to have believed that one).

    When Jeremy Corbyn says he can negotiate a better deal, he’s lying to avoid making choices and splitting his party.

    When Rees-Mogg says there is nothing to fear from no-deal he’s lying because he doesn’t care about those who will feel the impact, only about his own ideological zealotry.

    All of these were, or are absolutely blatant, bare-faced lies.

    So many lies.

  44. BBD says:

    And £8.2 million of funding that cannot be traced back to its origin.

  45. paulski0 says:

    All the stuff about being an advisory referendum and margins of victory I don’t think really work as arguments. Yes, technically it wasn’t immediately legally binding, but that’s just the default for referendums in this country because parliament is the lawmaking body. It would be unprecedented for the UK not to act on the result of a referendum. On turnout, 72% was about as high as it’s ever been. We can’t really get into a position where we’re ignoring the result of a vote because not everybody participated. On margin of victory, I do agree that making such a fundamental change on such a narrow margin is ridiculous (e.g. a US constitutional amendment requires two-thirds approval) but that was what was understood by everyone to be the rules from the beginning.

    We can’t just retroactively change the rules because we don’t like the result. Whether that would be a threat to democracy I don’t know, but it’s certainly an affront.

    But I think this might be irrelevant anyway. Even if in the short term article 50 is revoked, which I think is a possibility, that isn’t the end of the story. Just like time doesn’t stop at 2100. The people who voted to leave are still there, and the conditions which caused them to vote that way still exist. Leaving aside fears of civil disorder, come the next general election (which would probably be triggered by revocation of article 50) both Labour and the Conservatives will know that they have to appeal to leave voters if they want to win, so both will campaign for reopening the Brexit process for fear of losing vote share to UKIP.

    A second referendum I don’t see being anti-democratic, particularly given the stalemate in parliament. I do think there is a major practical issue if remain is on the ballot though: the form of referendum many have proposed has two or three leave options and only one remain. Pretty obviously this will result in splitting the leave vote and remain will receive the largest share, but probably still with more people having voted for one of the leave options. How would that be interpreted? Or maybe there would only be one leave option – e.g. May’s deal – against remain. If May’s deal loses does that mean no more Brexit or just no more May’s deal?

  46. Dave_Geologist says:

    Is anybody trying to negotiate a stay deal with the EU? Why wouldn’t either Scotland or Ireland, or both, be huge winners if they were to do so?

    As ATP said JCH, the Scottish Government doesn’t have the power to negotiate internationally. And the Northern Ireland Assembly isn’t even functioning at the moment. The Scottish Government did put forward a detailed proposal (rejected by the UK Government) which amounted, in today’s jargon, to Norway-plus. Or maybe just Norway (Scotland doesn’t have much just-in-time integrated manufacturing to worry about, and EFTA has reciprocal agreements with the EU which would cover most of the Edinburgh financial-services industry, so Single Market is probably more important to Scotland than Customs Union). With Scotland’s separate health, education and legal systems, and the ring-fencing of National Insurance numbers to accommodate separate tax-raising powers, the administration within Scotland would have been easy. The border could be an issue, but there are far fewer crossings than in Ireland and it wouldn’t be the same terror-magnet. But that’s water under the bridge now. I suspect that, unless there is a change of course in Westminster, we’ll need a border anyway in the not-to-distant future
    .

  47. dikranmarsupial says:

    @paulski wrote “All the stuff about being an advisory referendum and margins of victory I don’t think really work as arguments. Yes, technically it wasn’t immediately legally binding, but that’s just the default for referendums in this country because parliament is the lawmaking body.”

    I think political parties treat general elections as little more than advisory referenda on policy direction and don’t feel compelled to deliver on election promises or manifestos. ;o)

  48. andrew adams says:

    @paulskio

    I’m reminded of the famous joke about the guy who, when asked for directions, says “Well I wouldn’t start from here”.

    The referendum was a bad idea in itself, designed badly with no serious thought as to what might happen if Leave won, and the result has been implemented in the most incompetent and bad-faith way possible. As a result we’re in a situation where there is absolutely no way forward which will not damage the country economically (possibly seriously so) and/or leave a large number of people feeling betrayed. All possible options have their downsides so we have to consider what’s the least bad.

    Having said that, I do think that leaving with no deal should absolutely be ruled out, the consequences would be far too damaging and, despite what some people dishonestly claim, it does not represent what people were promised by Leave campaigners.

    May’s deal looks dead in the water, it’s hard to see how she can possibly overcome a 230 vote deficit in parliament and the EU absolutely won’t budge on the “backstop” or any other part of the Withdrawal Agreement itself. They might agree to change the Political Declaration outlining the intended future relationship but that would mean her softening her red lines, especially on freedom of movement.

    So as I see it the only way she can get it through in its current form is to put it back to the public in another referendum – say to them this is the reality of Brexit, it’s the only version on offer so choose whether to go ahead or scrap the whole thing. And if people vote to remain, well we remain.

  49. Dave_Geologist says:

    paulski0, I believe the only concrete proposal in Parliament so far is the Plaid Cymru offer to support May’s Deal, provided Article 50 is extended and it goes up against against Remain in a referendum. I suspect the SNP would buy that (indeed it would have made more sense coming from them as they have 35 votes to offer). As would the LibDems. On reflection I suspect they’d had behind-the-scenes talks and decided anything coming from the SNP would be seen as a gambit in their push for a second Independence referendum, and the LibDems would be untouchable as they’re so strongly pro-Remain. It’s least toxic coming from PC.

    I quite fancy that one as a dark horse, although that may be wishful thinking and it would require Labour support. Obviously neither May (who looks like she’s time-wasting at the moment, and will come back tomorrow to say Plan B is Plan A but with another attempt to renegotiate the backstop) nor Corbyn would bite on that now. I had dismissed May’s Deal after the heavy defeat, and thought you could only entertain No Deal or Remain. But if it had a Parliamentary majority behind it, albeit as a choice in a referendum, it would be back in play. Something like that would let everyone have prizes except the ERG and DUP, who have fewer than 150 MPs between them, while satisfying the 500 MPs who abhor No Deal. May keeps her deal alive and gets to campaign for it, Corbyn can bow to the will of his party and wash his hands of the decision, the Nationalists either get to point to a Leave decision as evidence of irreconcilable differences, or get kudos for being power-brokers, and the LibDems can campaign hard for an issue they’ve been consistently in favour of.

    You heard it here first! 😉

    Oh, and of course we should have another referendum. The idea that asking the voters what they think is somehow undemocratic is absurd.

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    The only question is how many more votes do you want to call?
    1 referendum
    or the best 4 out of 7?

  51. andrew adams says:

    Assuming there’s another referendum with the choice of May’s deal or Remain then if May’s deal wins the deal gets signed and we leave on those terms. Of course people could then campaign to re-join the EU, which would almost certainly require another referendum, but it wouldn’t be the same question and my view is it wouldn’t have a change of happening for a generation.

    Equally, if Remain wins some people would no doubt carry on campaigning to leave, and would be perfectly within their rights. But again this whole process would be so toxic I can’t see it happening again unless something drastic happens to provide a specific trigger.

    There’s already a law that would require any further transfer of powers to the EU to be approved in a referendum.

  52. Dave_Geologist says:

    Just the one Steve. Today’s electorate, on the offer which is no the table today (or whenever the politicians get their act together). Really, according to both EU and UK referendum guidance, the previous one was flawed. You’re supposed to have a concrete, deliverable pair of choices. Not one concrete, deliverable choice and a pig-in-a-poke. Assuming May’s Deal can be wangled onto the ballot, we have two concrete, deliverable choices.

    BTW you’ve probably heard claims that the EU just keeps going back with the same question until people change their minds. They don’t. Changes are made. Ireland, for example, got opt-outs on Schengen and, crucially given their strong tradition of neutrality, on military integration. Changes have been made – no unicorns. The other thing that makes this decision a bit different from the likes of Ireland is the time that has elapsed. Three years by the time another vote could be organised. Almost as long as an election cycle. Longer than some – e.g. longer that Trump enjoyed full control of Congress. A democracy where you can’t change your mind is not a democracy. That way lies Presidents-for-Life.

  53. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The only question is how many more votes do you want to call?”

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a referendum on whether we want to leave the EU and another on whether we are happy with the terms on which we would be leaving (as the consequences are very substantial). I rather doubt the majority of those who voted for leave in the first referendum would have voted to leave with no deal or with Theresa May’s deal (as has been pointed out up thread).

  54. Joshua says:

    The only question is how many more votes do you want to call?

    Ad absurdum and slippery slope never lose their utility.

    Maybe THE only question is which applies in this case?

    Seems to me that the question of Brexit has become a depository for a vast array of intersecting issues, that people are trying to cram into a binary outcome choice. Hmmm. That looks to me like a systemic problem.

    Looking systemically, it would seem (to me) more likely that a less sub-optimal outcome would be reached through a series of decisions, which might better allow a structure for dis-aggregating the components of the dilemma at hand.

  55. paulski0 says:

    andrew adams & Dave_Geologist,

    What you’re saying about a May deal referendum doesn’t address my last sentence: ‘If May’s deal loses does that mean no more Brexit or just no more May’s deal?’

    Given that the people who campaigned to leave largely don’t support May’s deal, and opinion polls suggest leave voters don’t support it, what legitimacy can it possibly have as the Brexit option. You’ve pointed to some parties who would support a referendum on May’s deal but all of them campaigned to remain.

  56. andrew adams says:

    paulskio,

    That’s a fair point, but that’s a problem with Brexit itself – I’m not sure there is a deal which could be realistically negotiated which would actually satisfy most Leave voters because their expectations are unfortunately not realistic. So that question of legitimacy arises anyway, whether parliament votes to approve the deal or it’s put to the public in a referendum.

  57. Dave_Geologist says:

    paulski0, The scenario I outlined would be an alliance between Leavers and Remainers, with the people making the final decision, so it would inevitably include parties who campaigned to remain. Reaching across the aisle, as it were. And also honouring the fact that the 2016 vote was narrow (52:48, and only two of the four nations). There has after all been a lot of (mostly disingenuous though IMHO) talk about “bringing the country back together”. Refusing to compromise with 48% of those who voted is a funny way to do that.

    It’s in the nature of the 2016 campaign that the Leave campaign leaders would be the most ardent Leavers, given that they were rebelling against their party’s policy to remain. To them are now added people like May who want to follow through on the 2016 vote anyway. It doesn’t follow that the most ardent 2016 Leavers represent all of the Leave vote. For example, if only 10% of Leave voters wanted a softish Brexit (May’s deal, Norway, whatever), and you assume Remainers want the softest Brexit they can get as a fallback, then there would be a 53:47 majority for May’s Deal or something softer. That the ERG faction doesn’t even represent a majority of the Conservative Party was shown by the failure of their attempt to oust May. It would be a mistake to assume that they represent all of the 52%.

    There are other options of course: some sort of three-way referendum (Single Transferable Vote?), a series of indicative votes in Parliament, citizen’s assemblies, whatever. That’s why I presented it as a dark horse. Everything is probably a dark horse at the moment. Many of the players are in their final Act. May has said she won’t contest the next election, there are many Labour MPs who know they’ll never get promoted under Corbyn and are expecting or already under deselection pressure, ditto moderate Tories who know the next leader will be from the hard right, the Speaker was expected to stand down this year but may hang in for the Brexit endgame, Cable has announced he’ll be standing down, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of hundred MPs stand down at the next election. That’s a large pool of people with nothing to lose but their reputation, who may do something surprising if they think their duty or their legacy demands it.

  58. Jeffh says:

    The Brexit vote highlights massive flaws in our managed democracies. Whereas 52% of those who voted wanted to leave, 48% wanted to stay, yet Brexit is not supposed to be any sort of compromise but a full scale withdrawal from the EU. And again, as I said above, a significant number of those who voted to leave didn’t have a clue about the economic factors but instead did so on the basis of pure xenophobic nationalism. It’s telling that the age breakdown of the yes and no vote is perfectly linear, with a negative correlation between age and the remain vote. The old wanted out and the young wanted to remain. The British population is therefore deeply divided.

    It’s the same elsewhere. A majority of Americans did not vote for the current right wing blowhard as POTUS but the entire population has to swallow the corporate friendly, deregulatory, borderline racist policies of the current incarnation of the Republican Party. Here is the Netherlands the country is almost evenly split between right wing and center-left parties, but the right has a marginally greater share, forms a coalition and we get extreme business-friendly policies thrust upon everyone. Democracy clearly means ‘winner take all’. When elections are separated by a knife-edge it doesn’t matter; in most instances the victor acts like they have a 100% mandate.

  59. Joshua says:

    Jeff –


    The Brexit vote highlights massive flaws in our managed democracies.

    FWIW, here’s a podcast that discusses some of the structural flaws that you’re alluding to.

    In particular, the problem that polarization and the zero sum nature of our party structure means that bipartisanship (and compromise) effectively works at cross-purpose with the success of political parties. Thus, it’s only logical that McConnell worked to undermine any bipartisan outreach that Obama might have made and for Pelosi to eschew any bipartisan compromise with Trump, in the unlikely event that he might get hit by lightening and show some interest in reaching out beyond his base.

    Seems this is only worse in the States given our two-party system.

    (insert here my standard plug for stakeholder dialog, BBD’s antipathy notwithstanding).

    https://player.fm/series/the-ezra-klein-show/frances-lee-on-why-bipartisanship-is-irrational

  60. OPatrick says:

    vtg

    All of these were, or are absolutely blatant, bare-faced lies.

    How often we are reminded not to impute dishonest intent when we want engagement on climate.

    Sometimes it’s ridiculous not to. £350 million and 77 million Turks, for example. And perhaps Boris. Fill in your climate related equivalents.

    But with an impossibly complex, no-win situation, there is far more than blatant falsehoods going on. Perhaps May genuinely believes that holding the Tory party together is more important than anything and so doing what she can to that end is justified. Perhaps Corbyn thinks the cost to the country of the split that would be caused by going all-out to overturn Brexit would be so great that giving (false?) hope of being able to negotiate a better deal is justified.

  61. verytallguy says:

    OPatrick,

    I agree there’s a spectrum; you could call your two examples “spin” perhaps. Just about.

    But they are certainly not honest – neither actually believes what they are saying, for sure.

  62. OPatrick says:

    Saying something you don’t believe is not necessarily the same as not being honest. OK, I realise that reads rather like a definition of not being honest, but what I mean is that you can have honest intentions when choosing to take a line contrary to one you personally believe.

    I’d actually say that there is a divergence here between the optimal strategies in climate communication and on Brexit, given that the latter is playing out on a shorter timescale, with greater uncertainty about the underlying reality and much more immediately in the public eye. In climate, I can’t think of any examples where being selective with the truth has had a positive outcome in the long-term. But I can think of several reasons why it might be best to do that with Brexit, where the overriding need is to reduce toxicity.

  63. Steven Mosher says:

    So Dave if you have just one and remain loses again, then what?

    Seriously, what then will the argument be? I am sure folks will have one.

    I am not looking for predictions, or assurances, heck yall had them before the first vote.

    I’m asking how may votes will you demand and why

  64. Steven Mosher says:

    “Ad absurdum and slippery slope never lose their utility.

    Maybe THE only question is which applies in this case?
    ###########################################

    Hmm I’m not sure.

    What I am trying to get to is the rational folks use for having ‘do overs”

    Suppose the UK held a referendum to institute a carbon tax..( never happen maybe even not possible, but suppose.)

    And they agree 55% to 45% to do this.
    And then politicians, for a variety of reasons cant or wont get the job done.
    Maybe the proponents fudged some numbers, and yelled catastrophe
    Maybe a lot of folks stayed home.
    Maybe industries start leaving the UK in anticipation

    And in the end, the 45% called for a revote, heck maybe even more folks want a revote.

    I’m pretty sure folks here might argue that democracy is democracy and the politicians should just
    get the job done. Or not, that’s why I asked the question rather than pre supposing an answer.

    It does strike me odd that the brits did not require a super majority for a STRUCTURAL change
    and it seems clear that brexit was a structural change, a change to governance.

    (Example: in bitcoin we require like 95% agreement to make changes that are structural.
    Talk about being conservative and tradition bound! If people dont like it they just leave. )

    Can’t turn back the clock, but my sense is that democracies function better when structural
    changes regarding the rules of governance itself require very large majorities.

    Man, this is a effed up history.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_European_Union%E2%80%93United_Kingdom_relations

  65. izen says:

    The UKs exit from the EU if favoured by a coalition of three disparate groups.

    Left-wing anti-capitalists that see the EU as a undemocratic business club that has enabled regulatory capture by big business.
    Right-wing populists who resent the influx of ‘foreigners’ who come here and live off welfare and take our jobs and houses.(and you can’t even tell they are foreigners because they are the same colour..)
    The significant financial business sector that is dependent on the UK dependencies, channel islands, territories that provide secret banking at a level that dwarfs the Swiss banks. (Lord Ashcroft, Rees-Mogg)

    The only people in favour of the EU are those who want the status quo, despite its flaws.

    Democracy is the tail, wagged by the dogs.

  66. izen,
    Indeed, and it seems to me that the various groups’ motivation are inconsistent with each other. One group (Corbynites) seem to regard the EU as some kind of neo-liberal experiment and so want out because they want the UK to become more socialist. Another group seems to regard the EU as hampering our ability to make free trade agreements with other parts of the world and hence is preventing UK PLC from engaging in the global marketplace.

  67. verytallguy says:

    Steven,

    Man, this is a effed up history.

    And getting more so by the hour, currently.

  68. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM wrote “Seriously, what then will the argument be? I am sure folks will have one.”

    Really? I suspect there will always be a few individuals that might not accept it (just like there will always be a few that won’t accept the greenhouse effect), but that doen’t mean that society wouldn’t accept it.

    As I suggested, it depends what the second referendum is asking. If the original referendum had been for remaining or leaving with no deal, then I doubt the result would be the same. The problem is that the first referendum was about general intentions and the information we were given about the likely outcome was very, very wrong. Personally I’d prefer parliament just to decide it is a bad idea to leave on any of the terms currently available and rescind BREXIT and continue negotiating with the EU to see if there is a prospect of any deal that would be acceptable.

  69. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Man, this is a effed up history. ”

    Perhaps we should try rational discussion rather than soundbites and bullshit? The reason we have the politics we do is that the electorate treat politics as some sort of reality entertainment where they want sound bites, polarising bullshit and slap downs in parliament and the news.

  70. Dave_Geologist says:

    So Dave if you have just one and remain loses again, then what?

    I thought I’d answered that Steven. Leave of course. With a 50% plus one threshold, because the precedent is set. But we’d be leaving in the knowledge that the current electorate has made the decision on the current state of knowledge, as close as possible to the time of leaving. The first point is important because of the highly skewed age demographic. A million old people, who were more than 2:1 for Leave, have died. More than a million young people, whose age group was more then 3:1 for Remain, have joined the electorate. Since young people will be the most affected for the longest time, that would weigh heavily on my thinking regardless of my personal opinion. But that’s a moral argument rather than a democratic one. Had I voted Leave, there’s a good chance I’d at least abstain second-time-round, now I know about the skewed demographics.

    In another you-heard-it-here-first 😉 , I’d expect Scotland to be back in the EU or at least EFTA by 2025 or so. Grounds for separation: conscious uncoupling due to irreconcilable differences. Brexit didn’t make Scotland different from England. The very different Brexit results are a symptom of how far the two nations had already diverged. I’d expect that to be a two-stage vote. At least under Sturgeon, the SNP will only go for it when the polls are clearly for Yes. Under those circumstances, no British PM would allow a binding referendum. Cameron only allowed 2014 because he thought he’d win easily. So my expectation is that they’ll go for clear Holyrood and Westminster election mandates to give the bid legitimacy, then a referendum under Scottish Parliament competencies (which was rehearsed last time round and would be an instruction to negotiate with Westminster, so just adds moral authority). A binding referendum would follow the completion of Article-50-equivalent negotiations. It would be a drawn-out, contested process and I think the temptation to hold one of the referendums on the tenth anniversary of the 2014 one would be very strong. The dark horse in that race is that Brexit may generate so much outrage in her party that Sturgeon is pushed into jumping before she’s ready. Then it would be a crap-shoot. No is currently ahead but Yes moved the needle by ten points during the last campaign. A lot would depend on how disillusioned Scottish Labour voters get over the next year or so.

  71. Steven Mosher says:

    dk

    “Perhaps we should try rational discussion rather than soundbites and bullshit? The reason we have the politics we do is that the electorate treat politics as some sort of reality entertainment where they want sound bites, polarising bullshit and slap downs in parliament and the news.”

    read through that history and see if it sounds rational to you.

    honest opinion, you can’t govern yourselves. Germans will put you’all in order in a jiffy.

    But hey, I like daves approach. count the bodies. if those who voted for something die, well just count the dead bodies, why even hold a vote?

  72. Steven Mosher says:

    “Really? I suspect there will always be a few individuals that might not accept it (just like there will always be a few that won’t accept the greenhouse effect), but that doen’t mean that society wouldn’t accept it.”

    I see no argument for a second vote that wouldnt also apply to a third vote.

  73. Steven Mosher says:

    “And getting more so by the hour, currently.”

    well at least your government isnt shut down.

    being an ex pat has its challenges, but I can’t imagine being in the US right now.

  74. verytallguy says:

    well at least your government isnt shut down.

    A hard Brexit, if it comes to that, will have a much worse impact than the shutdown.

    I had a conversation with a US based colleague today, bemoaning the state of our respective politics. It’s informative to step outside and see how you are perceived from afar.

    Most non-Brits I speak to are appalled and aghast by Brexit, and simply can’t believe we are doing it, yet in Britain it’s mainstream, if divisive.

    Likewise, most non-US folk cannot believe you tolerate the level of gun violence that is prevalent, yet in the US, the “right to bear arms” is absolutely supported, albeit restrictions are a divisive issue.

    In both instances, I think those outside of the immediate debate have the clearer view.

  75. Argon says:

    Steve Mosher: “The only question is how many more votes do you want to call?”

    I would suggest one vote at the end. Vote either for the single, EU negotiated plan that passes Parliament (or No Deal if they can’t agree) vs. remain. Time’s up. Approve the final withdrawal agreement or stay in. Not that I could vote in the process, but that seems a reasonable option.

    After that I’d also require changes of that magnitude require a super-majority or two-stage vote in the future. The state of California has experimented with the “People’s Ballot” mechanism for a few decades with very mixed results. The plus side of representative government in contrast to purely democratic processes is that it slows changes and provides an ‘integrative’ response/assessment over time.

  76. Dave_Geologist says:

    The concreteness of the proposal is perhaps the strongest democratic-process argument for a referendum Steven, now there is a deal on the table. That’s how countries with a constitutional requirement for referendums normally do it. You vote to ratify the final deal, or not. With an option to keep the status quo ante if you don’t like the deal on offer. The European Court has confirmed that, if we so choose, we can unilaterally retain the status quo ante

    You don’t vote to send your representatives into negotiations and say “come back with whatever you like, we don’t mind”. That’s how it worked with the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, and the CETA trade deal. Ratification, not instruction to negotiate. And indeed with the Good Friday Agreement, which is a particular sticking point at the moment. It’s also best practice, as both EU and UK election authorities recommend that each side has a concrete outcome on the table.

    In cases where there is a reluctance to kick off the process (as with Brexit, and Scottish Independence), and Parliament needs a referendum to give them courage, it should be specified at the outset as two-stage. Instruction to negotiate, followed by ratification of the negotiated outcome. Or outcomes. There’s already precedent for a two-question referendum in the UK. The 1997 Scottish devolution one had a vote to establish the Scottish Parliament, and a vote as to whether it should have tax-raising powers. Both passed, but by 3:1 and 2:1 respectively. It would be harder to concoct a three-way vote on Brexit, but we have an impartial Electoral Commission to help with that.

  77. Argon says:

    verytallguy: “I had a conversation with a US based colleague today, bemoaning the state of our respective politics. It’s informative to step outside and see how you are perceived from afar.”

    It’s like this, as a US citizen with many ties to the UK: We saw the Brexit vote and said “WTF? That’s CRAZY! Gads, your politicians and voters f’ed up!” And then a bunch of others in the US said, “You think that’s crazy? Hold my beer…” And then ‘Trump’. And my colleagues in the UK ask, “Who’s crazy now?”

    Apparently, we share more than a common language… :^(
    I think it’s a combination of a very scared & upset middle class combined with craven political campaigns that appeal only to the lowest common denominator. Plus Rupert Murdoch. But YMMV.

  78. verytallguy says:

    Argon,

    I agree, but I was trying to make a wider point: that outsiders can often diagnose issues more clearly than those on the inside. Fintan O’Toole has been incisive on Brexit and its causes.

    The French have a penchant for tax, strikes and riots inexplicable to others. The Italians for unstable government. The Belgians for internal division. The Swiss for imposition of pointless and petty rules.

    Sweden is about the only country I can think of which is uniformly sensible. And you should see their solstice celebrations!

  79. Argon says:

    I agree.
    Sweden: If lutefisk is the extent of their “crazy”, they’re in great shape. Most of my Swedish colleagues seem much happier with their political conditions, given the contrast with the US and UK.

    I think a lot of the issues outsiders don’t see as reasonable or think are nuts can have something to do with the specific cases actually being a proxy for other strife. ‘Brexit’ is a proxy for other issues. Many, many issues. Likewise electing Trump. Neither of these are realistic solutions to their problems, It’s just that they have been confused or overloaded with other issues. They have become inseparable package-deals.

  80. Willard says:

    Freedom Fighters have an eye on democracy since at least the 70s:

  81. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    What I am trying to get to is the rational folks use for having ‘do overs”

    That’s one way to look at it. A pejorative frame. It works as a rhetorical device, just as do ad absurdum and slippery slope frames.

    Another way to look at it is that they held a referendum that was narrowly settled. So trying to make a vast on that basis is inherently problematic. That’s a lot of losers, a high percentage of the population, who are heavily affected, by a zero sum outcome. Further, while people knew in a sense what they wanted, they didn’t really have a good view on what the implications of their vote might be. Now, two years out, they have a somewhat better sense of the lay of the land. Their perspectives may have switched as a result.

    What do do about that. Say “Well, you voted for it, so tough nuggies?” Or say “Hmmmm. This looks a bit hairier than we originally envisioned. May\be, in light of more information, we should try to reconfigure for a better outcome.

    I can play the slippery slope, ad absurdum game as well. I can also propose hypotheticals.

    Suppose it were clear at this point that going with the original vote, virtually without any doubt, that Brexit would prove to be a complete disaster. Suppose all but a tiny minority agreed. With further information, some two years out, a very high percentage have changed their views. Should there be no societal recourse? Should everyone just say, “Well, we voted for it, so tough nuggies!”

    Or, suppose after some year henceforth, it is clear that the British economy has tanked. Maybe people will realize that pulling out of the EU wasn’t a good vehicle for expressing cultural grievances. In that case, would it make an sense to hold another referendum? Where is the theoretical point at which we go from placing saying that “In real life, there are no do-overs?” to saying that “In a democracy, the people have the power to vote in their best interests.” Should the tiny minority that actually wish to see a destruction of the state have the power to say “No do-overs” indefinitely?

    Suppose the UK held a referendum to institute a carbon tax..( never happen maybe even not possible, but suppose.)

    And they agree 55% to 45% to do this.
    And then politicians, for a variety of reasons cant or wont get the job done.
    Maybe the proponents fudged some numbers, and yelled catastrophe
    Maybe a lot of folks stayed home.
    Maybe industries start leaving the UK in anticipation

    And in the end, the 45% called for a revote, heck maybe even more folks want a revote.

    I’m pretty sure folks here might argue that democracy is democracy and the politicians should just
    get the job done. Or not, that’s why I asked the question rather than pre supposing an answer.

    I’m not so sure about that. But even if it were true, does the fact that partisans might switch sides on what they feel are the best policies, contingent on context, tell us anything about what’s right here?

    “Supposing” counterfactuals has some value, as do constructing ad absurdums and slipper slopes. But actually, IMO, their value have some important limitations.

    Embedded in your “suppose” scenario, baked in from the very start, is an important assumption: You’re assuming that people advocating for more voting on referendums are only doing so because they don’t like the outcome of the first referendum. I’m not sure that’s a valid assumption. Of course, displeasure with the outcome of the first referendum is an important element for many. But I would imagine also are concerns about the lack of a clear path forward.

    It does strike me odd that the brits did not require a super majority for a STRUCTURAL change
    and it seems clear that brexit was a structural change, a change to governance.

    There’s certainly an argument for a requirement of supermajorities for such sweeping structural reforms. I think that in balance, such a requirement lays the groundwork for greater compromise. I think that’s a good structural component that generally enhances group decision-making (I’m actually a pretty big fan of consensus decision-making).

    However, it isn’t without some downsides.

  82. Joshua says:

    I think I’ve posted these here before….but I thought some might find them interesting:

    osts/thoughts-on-the-sociology-of-brexit/

    https://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/looking-behind-the-brexit-anger/

  83. BBD says:

    Freedom Fighters have an eye on democracy since at least the 70s:

    Chicago School economist & Nobel laureate George Stigler (Ordo 1979) on tax competition [between the States of the Union] as the key strategy to override democracy & avoid redistribution

    Or if this is not attainable, go seasteading – or do a Brexit. The dosh is always greener offshore.

  84. Dave_Geologist says:

    Willard, setting aside the “removing the vote from people I don’t approve of” bit (the far right has always found democracy inconvenient – Europe and Latin America have had first-hand experience), the problem they’d have with that level of decentralisation is the problem EU States have in the Eurozone. Unless each US State had its own currency, you’d get freeloaders, big winners and big losers, and calls for cross-subsidy between states. Or depopulation of the losers. Europe is finding it needs more centralisation not less to make the Euro work, but is getting resistance from Europeans who are far more tolerant of centralisation than Freedom Fighters or even US Democrats.

  85. Dave_Geologist says:

    Re your Torsten Bell link Joshua, that accords with my thinking. Also in the US flyover states. The most Brexitty areas are where mining, steelworks, car factories and shipyards have disappeared. The big change from well-paid, unionised, semi-skilled manual jobs to low-paid, unskilled jobs happened in the 1980s. Partly by design (Thatcher’s wedding to Chicago School economics), partly through the process of automation.

    Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to that. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how I was struck by the numbers bandied about when the remaining UK steel industry was at risk. Production had halved since the 1980s, but the workforce had fallen from 120,000 to 10,000. Even if production was magically doubled, there are 100,000 jobs that are not coming back. Not unless we want the cheapest car to cost £100k and an iPhone £10k.

  86. JMurphy says:

    I think that the only solution, to try to satisfy as many people as possible, would be for the government to resign and an election arranged for May (the month). Then we would have plenty of time to discuss all options, encourage everyone to vote, the parties can lay out their plans, and people can vote for the party that has the plan they (more) agree with. Could be the best option, especially if all sides agree that the winning party (with the support of smaller parties, if necessary) then has the mandate to carry through it’s proposal.

  87. dikranmarsupial says:

    I don’t think that would work as both the Conservatives and Labour seem to be in favour of delivering a BREXIT as per the initial referendum, even though the politicians themselves not being in favour of it. It seems a mistake to elect a government on a single issue, without considering the other policies in their manifestos.

  88. davezawadi says:

    Some of the suggestions above are fairly horrifying to me because they fail to understand democracy, clearly following a tactic of the completely undemocratic EU. “If the peoples answer doesn’t match our (the elite) requirement, ask again until it does”. This has happened several times so far, but perhaps you don’t care. Parliament promised, by a huge majority, to enact the outcome of the referendum. Neither side explained much about possible outcomes, because at that time no one knew, although project fear and the £9m booklet from the “government” certainly did not help shape any reasonable discussion. If you ask again it is quite likely that, given reasonable discussion, leave will win again. Trying to fix the question so that the leave vote is split is popular with remain, but again is completely undemocratic. A general election would answer nothing as both main parties would leave anyway, and UKIP would probably poll enough votes to control the situation completely. Perhaps some would like to have elections until “their” result was achieved? That is not democracy and would lead to complete anarchy and unrest. Is that really what you want?

  89. Dave,
    Would be interesting to know which suggestions you regard as horrifying. My point in the post is that democracy entitles people to express their views, even if these views are different to the result of some referendum/election. Democracy doesn’t require that everyone agree with some kind of election result. Suggesting that people who express these views are a threat to democracy just seems like hyperbolic nonsense.

    A general election would answer nothing as both main parties would leave anyway, and UKIP would probably poll enough votes to control the situation completely.

    I don’t really understand what you mean. Are you suggesting that UKIP would win enough seats to actually govern?

  90. Dave_Geologist says:

    As one Dave to another, dave, I don’t think you understand democracy. You’re also clinging to a few tired old myths, so it may be that even you would change your mind if you sought out the facts and faced them square-on.

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