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Brexit: let the choice be based on facts

Today, 1st October 2019, is, potentially, the first day of the last month of Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Whether you view that as cause for celebration or lamentation is, of course, up to you. I’m a Remainer, and proud of it; but I do respect that others have the right to take an alternative view.

But to my mind, the case for a second referendum on the issue becomes ever stronger, day by day.

Not because I don’t like the result of the first one. I mean, I don’t; and actually, I fear that a second go at it could produce a similar outcome, so entrenched are people’s positions. No, there needs to be a second referendum because the people were lied to in the run-up to the first one, plain and simple. It’s not about democracy, not really (though I would argue that at this stage a second referendum would be the least undemocratic option); it’s about making a momentous decision (whichever way it goes) based on facts, not mendacities.

Of course anyone with half a brain takes campaign pledges with a healthy pinch of salt; it’s sad, but a fact, that politicians distort the truth to suit themselves. Particularly in a democracy, as it happens (a column for another time, perhaps: The Plus Points of Dictatorship). But the whoppers peddled by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings et al in the lead-up to 23rd June 2016 were of a different stripe. The sunlit uplands of prosperity. Remember that? Trade deals galore. Remember that? £350m a week for the NHS. Remember that? The Turks will join in 2020, and invade our shores. Remember that?

And the people, 52% of them, went along with it. Whether they knew that these statements were falsehoods is, I think, a moot point. Personally I’m of the opinion that there was, probably, a widespread suspension of disbelief; but let’s not disappear down that particular rabbit hole.

The last three-and-a-half years have seen a nation convulsed as it seeks to find a way out of the resultant mess, against a lazy but growing chorus, from thickoes on both sides of the debate, to “just get it done”. Guys, the reason it can’t just be got done is because it’s really bloody complicated, and reducing the arguments to yes-or-no, black-and-white binaries (as the Prime Minister and his cronies are attempting to do) risks sending us back to the economic and societal dark ages.

So, how to resolve this? There is talk of a general election, which, given PM Boris Johnson’s (or, more accurately, shadowy, unelected strategist Dominic Cummings’s) ability to play the parliamentary system, appears fraught with risk. Also, in the unlikely event that the Conservatives lost (which, sadly, I don’t think they would), Labour (the main party of opposition) is in such disarray, fighting its own internal, ideological Brexit battles, that the Liberal Democrats could emerge as winners. Now I like the Lib Dems, but they have already pledged that, if returned to office, they would immediately revoke Article 50 (the 250-word clause of the Lisbon Treaty that serves notice on the EU that a member state wishes to withdraw) – now and for all time. Which might on the face of it suit us Remainers, but would be rightly seen as a slap in the face of the Brexiteers, and of democracy, and would surely cause the already deep divisions in our society to deepen still further. Outright civil war, anyone?

No, the least-worst option is an extension of Article 50, and a second referendum. Imagine the Leave campaign’s sloganeering! From “Taking back control” to “We’ll get through this, somehow”. Not quite such a persuasive message…

Although actually, as I say, I fear it may not make a decisive difference to the result. But at least we can no longer claim to be ignorant of what Brexit really means. And if, in possession of most, if not all, of the facts, the outcome is the same – well, I suppose one positive is that people like me will have to shut up.

I said in an earlier submission that Drum and Monkey doesn’t do politics. I lied. But then, so have so many others.

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