Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Brexit has been blamed on so many things – on the ignorance of voters, on words on the side of a bus…even on the Russians! On and after June 24th 2016, there were many who were looking for someone, anyone, to blame.
But there wouldn’t have even been a referendum, or indeed a vote to leave, if politicians hadn’t signed us up to this disastrous political union in the first place.
When Edward Heath signed Britain up to the European Economic Community (EEC), there was no referendum. It was only years later that the public were asked their opinion. When John Major handed over more powers to Brussels by signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, establishing an entrenched political union, there was no referendum. When Gordon Brown surrendered even more sovereignty to Brussels by signing the Lisbon Treaty, there was no referendum.
These treaties were agreed by politicians behind closed doors, without the consent of the people. Now that the British people have finally had a say on Britain’s membership of the European Union, there are some politicians who are intent on destroying any hopes of bringing that sovereignty back to the UK. In order to justify this, they’re telling voters that it’s just too hard to untangle Britain from these EU institutions. But when they say that it isn’t possible to leave the EU without keeping a foot in the door, what they really mean is: they don’t us to leave at all.
When the overwhelming majority of MPs voted to have a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, I’m sure many would have simply assumed that the people would behave like good citizens, and vote how the political establishment expected. When that turned out not to be the case, many flocked immediately to either conspiracy theories or dismissive snobbery.
I can certainly understand why it would make pro-Remain MPs feel better about themselves by disregarding 17.4 million voters as misinformed or uneducated. It’s a lot easier than having to admit to being out of touch with the general public. But it’s unworthy of elected representatives and damaging to our civil discourse.
Instead of accepting that the general public looked at the evidence and made a balanced decision that Britain is better off outside the EU, we’ve seen several politicians – including some in the Conservative Party – berate voters as though they are naughty school children who didn’t do their homework. For the most part, leavers have accepted this gracefully. They’ve watched many in the political class attack their intelligence, their right to vote, their integrity, and even celebrate the passing of older leave voters.
Up until now, many in the silent majority have been quiet, patiently waiting for the Government to do what it said it would do, and deliver on the referendum result. But now that the Prime Minister has returned with a deal makes Britain a satellite state of the European Union, the mood is starting to shift.
Make no mistake. If the Conservatives fail keep the promises they made at the last general election, it will be a defining black mark against the Party’s name for a generation. Before the referendum, many people already feared that the political system was geared against them, and that politicians were ignorant of their concerns. Those Tory MPs advocating for a second referendum are proving them right.
Politicians shouldn’t threaten to stop Brexit in the event of a no deal scenario. We all know this deal is terrible, and that it doesn’t deliver Brexit. By refusing to consider the option of leaving without a deal, Conservative Ministers are essentially admitting defeat. The British people deserve better than a defeatist political class. We often hear of the dangers of ‘crashing out’ without a deal – but these are the exact same arguments that were made during the referendum.
Instead of betraying the electorate, the Government should look to the opportunities of leaving on WTO terms. If we leave on a no deal Brexit we can immediately begin to negotiate free trade deals around the world; we can take advantage of the growing markets in Asia and America.
We can take back control of our laws, borders, money, fisheries and trade immediately. We won’t have to be locked into European defence structures, or be ruled by technocrats. And we won’t have to pay that £40 billion Brexit bill, nor £20 billion or so in EU contribution fees for the next two years. That’s money that can be invested immediately in the things that matter to British taxpayers, as well as help to fund tax cuts for families and businesses to boost economic growth.
Politicians handed over sovereignty to Brussels without the consent of the British people. It’s not good enough for them to now shrug their shoulders and say that Brexit is just too difficult. Yes, Britain can thrive independently outside the EU. But if we fail to leave properly, it will not be because Brexit is impossible, but because our politicians have failed us again.