DRUGSTORE CULTURE: We back a People’s Vote
16 September 2018 22:48
Our exclusive YouGov poll on Brexit, commissioned in collaboration with the People’s Vote campaign, provides compelling evidence of a demographic shift that nobody with a sense of civic responsibility and democratic fairness can reasonably ignore.
Since the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, hundreds of thousands of teenagers have become eligible to vote, and their opinions are strong, urgent, and deserve a response from those who govern Britain – or, to be more accurate, are flailing in office.
Two years ago, voters aged 18-24 opted for Remain by a margin of 71 to 29 per cent. Today the gap has widened: it now stands at 78 to 22 per cent.
As evidence mounts that the Brexit galleon is heading for the rocks, more and more young voters are demanding a voice and a change of course. According to YouGov’s analysis, the Leave majority – 1,269,501 in 2016 – is now shrinking by 1,350 a day. This means that, on present trends, Britain will become a Remain country on January 19, 2019: two months and ten days before it is officially set to leave the EU.
The arguments against a People’s Vote – a final say on Brexit – must be confronted. It is true that the populist Right would seize upon a fresh referendum as no more than the metropolitan elite seeking to overturn the 2016 mandate and manufacturing an excuse not to implement the original result. But the threats of bullies are not sufficient reason to avoid doing the right thing.
It is also true that the use of a referendum to break a parliamentary impasse reflects poorly upon representative democracy. The core responsibility of Parliament is to resolve hard cases and to negotiate difficult straits on behalf of the electorate. What a pathetic pass we have reached where MPs are so bound up in ideology, party leadership squabbles, and faction-fighting that they are unable to plot a way forward.
But, as has become painfully clear in the past two months, that is precisely where we are, and it is time to accept the consequences of this disgraceful political and institutional failure.
Theresa May’s Chequers plan is as dead as John Cleese’s Norwegian blue parrot, nailed to its perch only by the Prime Minister’s insistence that this is the best option available. The hard Tory Brexiteers gathered in the European Research Group claim otherwise and will be peddling their much tougher plans at the Conservative Party’s conference in Birmingham between 30 September and 3 October.
The Labour Party is hopelessly divided – its leadership stubbornly maintaining that the 2016 referendum must be respected, its members and most of its MPs longing for a re-think. In Sunday’s Observer, Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, became the latest senior Labour figure to back a People’s Vote publicly.
The practical perils of our present trajectory are becoming daily more apparent. Ministers now talk freely of preparations for ‘no deal’ with Brussels – including the stockpiling of medicines to keep the NHS working (remember when the health service was promised a £350 million per week Brexit dividend?); emergency measures to prevent traffic gridlock at and around ports; and central planning for food supplies. The question of the Irish border is nowhere near resolution (in spite of Boris Johnson’s mysterious assertion that only political will is lacking). If this is ‘taking back control’, it is certainly not what we were promised.
In theory, the EU summit on 18-19 October is the deadline for May’s divorce offer to Britain’s 27 partners in the EU. That deadline may slip, forcing an emergency meeting in November. But what sort of a deal can May possibly hope to get past Brussels and Parliament?
Assume, hypothetically, that she does jerry-rig an agreement of sorts with the EU, full of loose ends, ambiguities and unresolved issues. The threat of a general election might, just conceivably, force enough MPs to back shoddy goods in a vote rather than risk their political careers.
Yet what sort of constitutional, economic and social outcome would such a pitiful process yield? So far distant is this shambolic prospect from the simple and glorious outcome pledged by Leavers in 2016 that even those who voted for Brexit would be entitled to ask if they had been sold a pup.
At present, Britain is faced with a pound-shop Hobson’s choice: no deal or a useless deal. Why should we settle for that? Posterity will not be kind to those who allow complacency, partisanship and inertia to eclipse their manifest democratic duty. Heed the wisdom of the young: there must be a People’s Vote.