By: Fred Hicks
In the aftermath of the EU referendum result, we have seen more finger pointing and less planning for Brexit than we had hoped for. Much of this finger pointing is in regards to who should have come up with a post-Brexit plan.
Many remain supporters are frustrated with the leave campaign for not forming some sort of plan for how the government should approach Brexit negotiations. This poses the question; why should various grassroots campaign groups be the ones to come up with a complex plan Brexit, when we already have an elected government to do that?
Nobody can accuse the leave campaign of not having a vision for post-Brexit Britain – they repeatedly argued for controlled immigration, the supremacy of British courts and parliament, and the freedom to negotiate its own trade deals without having to go through an EU Commissioner. How these points are implemented was left to the interpretation of the voters – but would you really want the leave campaign to have decided the finer points of Brexit on behalf of the government? Some of the key leave camp leaders aren’t even in parliament. We elect governments to do this sort of thing for us, and when we elected a Conservative majority in 2015, we knew that it meant a referendum on the EU, and therefore, a potential exit from it. It was their responsibility to be ready for this.
For instance, let us cast our minds back to the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and how the Holyrood government behaved there. Whilst only our friends in Scotland could vote, nearly everyone in Britain who was paying attention knew what they were voting for. The SNP led Scottish government made their plan for an independent Scotland clear when they published ‘Scotland’s Future’. You can still find it online today, and it answers every question a Scottish voter could have asked of their devolved government.
Let’s be clear about this; the Scottish government had a plan. It wasn’t just the ambitions of the independence campaign, it was the elected Scottish government, the ones who would inherit power if they were to leave the UK. Obviously the Scottish government supported independence, but opposition to an outcome doesn’t excuse the failure to prepare for it. The SNP were ready for what was an undeniably risky move.
The same cannot be said of Westminster, who made no preparations for a Scottish exit from the union. Their reasoning? "We assume we will win the campaign" and that "it would undermine the credibility of our opposition to independence", according to sources quoted in an article for the BBC by Robert Peston in April 2014. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27145821)
The government’s official position on the EU referendum was that it was in favour of remaining. They made no contingency plans for a possible Brexit, and on the morning of the 24th June, the government discovered that their gamble hadn’t paid off. So why aren’t we holding them accountable for it? Why are we blaming the leave campaign, an entity which isn’t even a part of the governance of this country?
The absence of a Brexit plan from the government left space for some key figures in the leave campaign to occupy – this lead to promises that couldn’t necessarily be fulfilled, such as the famous ‘£350 million a week to the NHS’ pledge. There is a subtle but very important distinction between ‘this can only happen if we leave’ and ‘this will definitely happen if we leave’. If only the government had come out with their own direction for Brexit proceedings, we wouldn’t have had any of these pie in the sky promises from members of the leave camp.
Now, in the aftermath of the referendum, we find ourselves in a political maelstrom, where the Prime Minister without a plan has announced he will be stepping down, and has offered the very simple task of leaving the EU, something which no country has done before. In the eye of this storm, we face a potentially never ending series of referendums.
We have already had calls for a second EU referendum, which are unacceptable to leave voters and ludicrous to many remain voters who respect the democratic outcome, despite the result going against them. We have also had calls for a referendum on the nature of the deal that is struck with the EU, or on what approach our negotiations should take in the first place.
If the government had actually formed a plan, and the public knew what action the government would take if we left, there would be little room for the voices of those clamouring for referendum after referendum.
Let’s just hope that this shambles acts as a lesson to any future government that decides to put a question to the public.
The Government should have prepared for Brexit - Now we face endless referendums Reviewed by Student Voices on 11:43 Rating: