Brexit and the decline of debate | Lewis Frain

I would like to address something that I feel has gone largely unnoticed in recent months and should it continue this way it could have potentially serious consequences. Theresa May’s speech firmly shows that she will pursue a so called “Hard Brexit” which includes Britain’s withdrawal from, amongst other things, the single market. This I can finally welcome as an indication of some form of strategy on Brexit from the Government as previously we were treated to such informative soundbites as “Brexit means Brexit” and “I want a red, white and blue Brexit”. What I do not welcome however is the submission of the other side of this debate. Jeremy Corbyn announced that the Labour party will not get in the way of the Government’s plans as they respect the result of the referendum. Whilst the result of the referendum was clear, Brexit does indeed mean Brexit, there is still much to be determined, not least the terms of our future trade relationship with the European Union. However, despite May announcing that parliament will be consulted before Article 50 is triggered, only because the courts ordered her to, there is an increasing attitude that those opposing the government’s plan should suck it up and move on. Corbyn’s announcement shows a complete neglect of the responsibilities of the opposition, to at least scrutinise the actions of the Government, and perhaps more significantly in the long run the notion that opposing the side of the argument that won the referendum is in some way undemocratic. This issue is beyond Brexit and includes several major political matters across the West. For example, beyond our shores in the USA where anyone, even beloved icons like actress Meryl Streep and prominent civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, who oppose the incoming President Trump are branded as a loser, overrated or, again, undemocratic.

It is obviously an easy rebuttal to arguments that are pro-EU, pro-Scottish Independence or pro-Clinton that those who insist on maintaining their arguments despite losing a referendum or an election are simply opponents of democracy, how dare these people not just give up on their passions, opinions and motivations and accept that they lost. Except this very notion is absurd and goes against the very principles of a democratic state. Yes, the UK voted Leave but that does not mean the opinions of the 48% are irrelevant now, it means that we have to approach exiting the European Union on a more united consensus. That vote should only be the first in a series of debates. Some people may well have seen the referendum result and moved on but by no means should they be compelled to shelve their opinions just to favour the winning side. I am not calling for a reversal of Brexit nor attempting to critique the actual debate of whether Britain should remain in the single market or not, simply I am addressing that a trend can be seen in Western politics where opposition to the powers that be, especially in the aftermath of a vote, is seen as a bad thing. The Liberal Democrats have called for Britain to remain in the single market and are presently campaigning for Theresa May to at least consider negotiating a new position within it. However, this has been criticised by several Leave supporters as another case of so called Remoaners failing to get over the fact they lost the referendum and see fit to interfere in the democratic will of the British people. The same people call the Supreme Court’s decision to allow parliament a say in the negotiation plan an intrusion on democracy despite it clearly expanding the number of people who have a say on the matter to all of the elected representatives of the people, rather than a select few. This is once again a showcase of the winning side trying to quickly shut down the opposing argument rather than engaging in a proper debate.

It is not undemocratic to propose an alternative strategy for leaving the EU nor is it undemocratic to call for a second referendum under changing circumstances. It may not be the opinion of those in power and it may not even be the will of the people but the freedom of opinion and the ability to debate such significant issues of state are vitally important aspects of democracy. I feel for the sake of short term gain for those in power wherever they are in the West, the nature of free debate is truly at threat. Of course nobody wants to be seen to go against the direct wishes of the people but branding opposing arguments as undemocratic or just the complaints of sore losers is dangerous when the issues at stake are not as black and white as the winning side want the people to think. Brexit means leaving the European Union but how that happens, the relationship with the EU and the Britain that comes out of the whole process is very much still up for debate despite what the government desires. This is not sports, the day we take a loss and give in the debate entirely will be a sure sign of the failing mechanics of a democracy.

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Brexit and the decline of debate | Lewis Frain Brexit and the decline of debate | Lewis Frain Reviewed by Student Voices on 21:06 Rating: 5

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