Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Last week, 25 Conservative MPs voted to give themselves and others the power to stop Brexit. After first voting to hold a referendum, and then standing on an election manifesto to deliver on the result of that referendum, these MPs have concluded that their collective wisdom is far superior than that of the 17.4 million who voted leave, or the 13 million who voted for the Conservative Party on the understanding that Brexit would be delivered. Labour MPs who voted for the same motion have also reneged on their manifesto pledge to take Britain out of the EU.
They truly believe, that of the millions of people living and working in Britain, it is only they – the few hundred who sit in Parliament – who are of sound mind and judgement to decide what happens in this country.
The motion in question about a meaningful vote – which seeks to give MPs the ability to stop or delay the Brexit process if May loses the vote on her deal next week – isn’t legally binding. But it would be politically difficult for the government to ignore. It also provides the rest of us with a list of MPs who is trying to stop Brexit.
Since the election last year, MPs have been sheltered in Westminster, surrounded by friendly Remain-supporting Londoners, comforted by the pro-Remain bias in the media, all patting themselves on the back about just how much smarter they are than all those deplorable Leave voters. They’ve convinced themselves that, even after a majority voted leave in 2016 and for pro-Brexit parties in 2017, it didn’t really mean to.
The establishment view, as it stands, is that the majority of the population are too stupid or uneducated to stake a claim in Britain’s future. They are there to work hard and provide tax and wealth to the state – but their opinions must not be heard. This view was characterised best in this interview with Guardian writer Howard Jacobson. “You can’t trust the people…you can be certain the people will get it wrong” he says, before expressing his profound horror that “the people (have been) given this new confidence in their own opinions.”
Whilst MPs who voted for Grieve’s amendment would never admit to being that arrogant, I am sure that some would find themselves nodding along in agreement. In order to justify ignoring the expressed will of the British people, anti-Brexit MPs express profound concern for their wellbeing and proclaim to be their saviours.
If Theresa May’s deal is voted down this week, politicians have threatened to seize control of the process and, if needs be, postpone Britain’s exit from the EU. Democracy hangs on a knife edge. What is decided this week could determine whether Britain’s proud democratic tradition is restored or destroyed.
Vote Leave was successful because it mobilised a desire for change that has been brewing in this country for decades. We were outspent by millions of pounds, we were up against the UK Government and entire civil service, the OECD, the IMF, the EU-funded CBI, the Treasury, the Bank of England, the cultural elite, Barack Obama – and yet the majority of voters heard our call to take back control.
Vote Leave’s vision was global, practical, positive. Taking back control of law-making powers, a skills-based immigration system, trade deals around the world, taxpayers’ money spent on the things that matter. This vision was popular and the country voted for it. It was a blueprint for change.
We proposed that the UK Government should not commit to the Article 50 process, which was designed to stop countries leaving the EU and that triggering Article 50 before having a plan and before making preparations would be ‘like putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger’ (read Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave’s campaign director, on this matter here).
The Remain-voting Prime Minister and Chancellor did the exact opposite of all of these three things – and now they tell us we’ve got no choice but to surrender because they totally failed to prepare to leave without a deal. A second referendum would not be about Britain’s membership of the EU, or about the final deal. It will be about Westminster.
Anti-Brexit politicians seem to think they’ll be able to persuade the public that Westminster’s failure was inevitable because ‘Brexit is impossible’. These politicians have no idea about the wave of contempt that will smash them when they make this argument, just as they didn’t understand England outside the M25 in 2016.
Make no mistake – Vote Leave Two would be every Remain politician’s worst nightmare. Our argument is made stronger by every vote against democracy, and every MP proclaiming that people didn’t know what they were voting for. You are confirming Leave voters’ worst fears.
It’s not just the European Union that makes a mockery of democracy: its British politicians. Vote Leave Two would be career-ending for those who promised to respect the referendum, promised 2016 was ‘a choice for a generation’, stood on manifestoes to leave the Single Market and Customs Union – then completely betrayed all of these promises.