• We Failed the Brexit Test

    It might have been thought that the decision made by the British people in the recent referendum that they wished to leave the EU would have drawn a line under that issue, and that we would now be addressing the many new challenges and opportunities that are now before us.  But, such is the arrogance of those who were sure they knew best that it now appears that the referendum was not so much an exercise in democracy and for determining the will of the British people as a means of testing whether their fellow citizens were really up to it.

    There was, in other words, only one right answer, and the failure to produce it means that the test must either be treated as a nullity or it must be taken again (and possibly again and again) until the right answer is reached.

    This determination to treat the referendum as an examination that has been failed has led one of the candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party to choose as one of the main planks in his platform a commitment to provide a second opportunity to achieve a pass mark.  And, in the expectation that such an opportunity will arise, a huge effort is being made to ensure that the delinquents who got it wrong and voted to leave must be re-educated and shown the error of their ways.

    So, we are subjected to endless stories designed to show how mistaken the decision to leave really was.  Even the most improbable link between the Brexit decision and some real or supposed misfortune is triumphantly reportedly; headlines along the lines of “Brexit Means My Ingrowing Toenails Will Get Worse” are now commonplace in the pages of such as The Guardian.

    There are, in addition to those whose superior brainpower and knowledge of the world enabled them to reach the right answer, others who are outraged by what they see as an irresponsible offence against civilised values.  For them, the Brexit decision was a denial of their European identity and a bar to their ability to enjoy European food, music, art and travel – as if those pleasures were dependent on a particular trading arrangement, and were not part of our European involvement and identity since time immemorial.

    Then there are those who profess to have been morally offended by what they see as the false prospectus which produced the Brexit decision.  Yet, in the chorus of condemnation that has greeted Brexit “lies”, there is little reference to what was surely the biggest lie of the campaign – the warning by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, no less, that Brexit would mean a £30 billion hole in the government’s finances and would necessitate an emergency budget.

    Many of those apparently angered by the democratic decision reached in the Brexit vote seem to believe that their particular sensibilities entitle them to ignore rational argument and the practical realities that membership of the EU has meant for so many of their fellow-citizens.  Indeed, the offence supposedly committed against those sensibilities should be treated, it seems, as just that – an offence for which they and we must be punished.  The greater the alleged penalties to be suffered for Brexit, in other words, the more satisfied the referendum losers are that justice has been done.

    They are even able to welcome the presence of an appropriately stern prosecuting counsel – not to say hanging judge – in the person of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.  This unelected official presumes to threaten retribution for the British people’s daring to reclaim some degree of self-government.  It is a measure of how little understanding there is of such issues in some quarters that Juncker’s autocratic (and probably illegal) ban on discussions taking place between British and EU officials is not recognised as a striking example of the democratic deficit which continues to handicap European integration and to alienate British opinion.

    There is, of course, a post-Brexit reality that demands all of our attention.  It is already clear that the dire predictions of calamity have not been realised – and even the most persistent of the supposed downsides, the weakness of sterling, has meant for those with the wit to see it, a boost to British competitiveness of which the inflow of tourists is just one immediate manifestation.

    Instead of looking back to an EU membership which constrained us in a straitjacket of austerity and the priority given to corporate interests and that precluded us from taking up economic opportunities on our own account, we should now be striking out for a new and dynamic approach to economic and trading policy.  The qualities that served us so well as a self-governing democracy over such a long period can now be brought to bear – as soon as we are no longer distracted by the prospect of going backwards rather than forwards.

    Bryan Gould

    13 September 2016




  1. Chris Tipler says: September 13, 2016 at 11:28 amReply

    It is a pity Bryan’s articles are not more widely circulated as he writes the most sensible analysis of the state of Brexit at the moment.

  2. James Murray says: September 13, 2016 at 11:40 amReply

    You seem to be a fair minded and straight talking (for a politician)person who at least recognises the democratic process and abide by the majority decision. Given that you’re a labour party politician I assume that possibly you actually posses some of the principles and belief in fairness that pre Blair your party used to represent. Go and have a chat with nigel Farage and ad part of something that will change this country for the working class

  3. Brian says: September 13, 2016 at 4:00 pmReply

    Britain won’t be leaving the E U any time soon.No politician is mentioning the 1972 legislation that got Britain into the E U in the first place.Scrapping that piece of legislation would be the first step to extricate itself from German/French dominance.Britain would the be in a position to renegotiate it relationship with Europe on its own terms.

  4. Vic Gill says: September 13, 2016 at 9:58 pmReply

    I have been waiting for some bright spark to suggest a Commonwealth trade pact or something along those lines. The Commonwealth has a huge population base and as an Empire the trade preference pact worked to the detriment it would seem of the US who certainly worked to undermine it.

  5. Tony McArdle says: April 12, 2017 at 9:21 amReply

    In 1972 we heard that the Commonwealth was in trade terms too small to be an alternative to the EEC as it then was. So that particular idea was dismissed out of hand.
    It is remarkable that simple ideas were so absent in London especially but in Ottawa, Canberra & Wellington too.
    No one championed the idea that C4 [Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK] could easily form a Confederation type trade arrangement & at the same time create a wider global trade group that the big Latin American economies [Mexico, Brazil & Argentina] would wish to engage with plus Japan, Korea, India & others.
    Call the global group e.g. APTA [Atlantic PacificTrade Association] & open the doors for global trade co-operation & see what happens.
    Look at how much Mexico imports. Twice as much as the larger economy of Brazil.
    There is still the same range of opportunities there for C4 countries to form their own inner trade group & form & lead a global trade group.
    Let Wellington, Ottawa or Canberra take the lead. Let any respected political name advance the possibilities [come on Bryan]. No harm will be done that`s for sure but much good can come of this. Who will move it forward?

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