It’s called “Biased finality”. Vote in favour of Brussels, and that’s the issue settled, in effect, forever. Vote against, and you’ll have a second referendum straight away. Keep voting till you get it right. The anti-Brussels answer simply can’t be accepted. We saw this in Denmark, and twice in Ireland, and it shows a massive contempt for democracy.
We’re seeing it here already. The whingers, the bad losers, are out in force. They’re trying to change the rules, and the score-line, after the referee has blown the whistle. It was only a small majority. Voters didn’t know exactly what the new arrangement would be. The Leave side didn’t have a plan. Voters ignored the “facts” from Remain. The markets are in chaos. Promises made by the Leave campaign are falling apart. We must renegotiate new terms with Brussels, says Michael Heseltine (very generously allowing that Boris, Gove and Nigel Farage might do the negotiations), and then the new deal must be put to a new referendum.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Heseltine that in these circumstances, Brussels will offer nothing, in order to ensure an “IN” vote, as the only way to protect current trading terms. They will only negotiate seriously if we’re definitely out. I was on BBC Three Counties Radio following Heseltine this morning. The presenter read out several messages from listeners, most pro-Brexit and anti-a-second-referendum. But the last one was from a woman who said she had tears in her eyes at Heseltine’s wisdom and concern. I introduced my remarks by saying that I too had tears in my eyes listening to Heseltine – but for rather different reasons.
“It was only a small majority”. Yes, but that’s democracy. As Winston Churchill put it “One is enough”. Cameron was clear: no second referendum. And the outcome, regardless of the majority, would determine our future for a generation. (He also promised to invoke the Article 50 process immediately – a promise he has already broken, choosing to resign instead).
“Voters didn’t know what the new deal would be”. True. But this was “a known unknown”. They voted in the knowledge that our new trading relationship with the EU would not be finalised for at least two years.
“The Leave side didn’t have a plan”. Yes we did. Vote to Leave. Invoke Article 50. Negotiate a free trade deal with the EU (which we can certainly do, given the economic imperatives). And resume our place as a great global trading nation. An open, global trading nation – not a narrow regional one. Of course Remain offered us all sorts of specific predictions. But they chose to make all the most negative assumptions, to look only at downsides not at up-sides, so they came up with ludicrously bad scenarios. Much more honest to outline the programme, as we did, and explain why it would lead to prosperity, rather than coming up with spuriously precise forecasts based on implausible assumptions.
“The markets are in chaos”. As I write, the Footsie is at 6024, well within the limits of the last six months. The Pound has weakened considerably, standing at $1.32 as I write. Who is responsible? Surely the Remain side, which has spent months talking Britain, and our economy, down, with apocalyptic predictions. But as Peter Hargreaves of Hargreaves Landsdowne pointed out on the Today programme this morning, Central Banks around the world are desperately trying to reduce the value of national currencies in order to help their competitive position. In global trading terms, a weaker pound has as many up-sides as downsides (remember “Golden Wednesday” when a drop in the exchange rate ushered in a sustained period of economic growth). A lower pound will be a boon to exporters, like the car industry and pharmaceuticals. A lower pound makes UK manufacturing cheaper, and is therefore an attraction to inward investors. Former Bank of England Governor Lord (Melvyn) King has just said on BBC WatO that we should have needed a lower pound anyway, even without Brexit.
The fact is we always predicted a period of market volatility around the referendum. Soon the markets will notice that the sky has not fallen, that trade has not stopped, and they will settle down. I was asked this morning on the Stephen Nolan show whether the moves in Sterling didn’t prove we had made a wrong decision. But we’re looking at the medium and long term, at future prosperity and jobs in a year, or five or ten years, and indeed for freedom and prosperity for our children and grandchildren. To panic over a couple of days’ figures would be absurd. If the FTSE goes any lower, it’s a buying opportunity.
Promises from the Leave campaign are falling apart?
“£350 million a week for the NHS”. “Leave” was a referendum campaign. It was not standing for election as a government. So it could say “There’ll be a £350 million a week Brexit dividend which can be spent on things we want, like the NHS, or taking VAT off domestic fuel, or whatever”. But we could not and did not say “We’ll spend this money on the NHS”. That is a decision for the government and the Chancellor of the day.
“We can’t cut immigration”. It was put to me this morning on the Stephen Nolan show (I was up against Alistair Campbell) that Dan Hannan had said that we cannot cut immigration after Brexit. They played me the clip. He said that we wouldn’t be sending home EU citizens from Britain. He said we wouldn’t be pulling up the drawbridge or stopping immigration entirely. That’s exactly what he, and I, and other Leave campaigners have said throughout the campaign. He did not say that we couldn’t cut immigration, He did say that we would be able to control it. Right on both points.
It takes at least two years: Let’s also be clear that promises on immigration and spending are conditional upon actually leaving the EU, and under the Article 50 process, that cannot be until June 2018, and maybe later.
The great Constitutional question – to stay or to leave – was rightly put to the British people, and we have their answer. Leave. It is now the job of the government of the day, and of Parliament, to give effect to that decision in a timely and positive way. It would be a constitutional outrage if parliament sought to frustrate the outcome of the referendum – for that is the sole objective of demands for a second referendum.