Brexit, Scottish, Northern Irish referenda

Brexit, especially the Hard Brexit being pursued by the government, has shaken the United Kingdom to its very foundations and it may not even survive.

It is somewhat ironic that many Leave voters are very patriotic, but all they may achieve is consigning the Union Flag to the dustbin of history and a new flag may have to be designed for what remains of the UK, possibly just England and Wales.

The SNP in Scotland and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland have called for referenda on the status of their regions. The Scottish one would be on independence so Scotland can remain in or re-join the EU, and the Northern Ireland one would be to unite with the Republic of Ireland, which is already an EU member.

Had Theresa May gone for soft Brexit and continued membership of the single market it would have been a compromise which would have avoided these upheavals, but would also probably be far from ideal in that we would still be bound by EU rules and regulations but have no vote or say in forming them.

However life outside the EU and single market altogether, which nobody voted for because it was not on the Referendum paper, is an as yet unknown territory depending on what deal, and it is unlikely to be a good one, May can get from the 27 remaining EU members. If they gave UK a good deal, then other EU countries might be encouraged to leave and negotiate similar terms.

Whatever happens in the referenda in Scotland and Northern Ireland, if they happen, UK leaving the EU will cause immense problems which I am sure people voting Leave in the EU Referendum never even considered: the status of the border in Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement, the status of British nationals in other EU countries are just two of these uncertainties. If there is ANY sort of control of the border in Ireland the Good Friday Agreement will collapse, risking the Troubles with the IRA starting again. If the border is left uncontrolled, then there will be an open border with an EU country where EU nationals many Leave voters are so anxious to keep out can stream in. If Scotland leaves the UK there will be another border with an EU country which either has to be controlled or again, an entry point for immigrants to stream in uncontrolled. We will have completely lost control of one or two borders whichever way the referenda go, except in the unlikely event Northern Ireland unites with the Republic but Scotland remains in the UK. The open border(s) would be easy entry points not just for EU immigrants. Anyone who gains entry to the Republic of Ireland could cross the border into the UK and similarly with an independent Scotland. Net result of Brexit: no control whatsoever over immigration from any country because of the open land border(s).

All this is just the beginning of the Pandora’s Box which Leave voters have opened, but for which David Cameron and Parliament are entirely to blame. Thresholds are usually required for Constitutional referenda like this. A two-thirds majority to change the status quo is not an uncommon requirement. It would have also have been sensible, in order to keep the UK intact, to require all four countries of the UK to have a majority vote to change the status quo for it to be effective. Plus the fact that those who will be most affected by leaving the EU were barred from voting yet 16/17 year olds were allowed to vote in other referenda. The end result is just 27% of the British population are dragging the remaining 73%, many of whom although they will be most affected were not allowed a vote, out of the EU. This is hardly democracy, it is a travesty of democracy. Even of the eligible electorate only 37% voted to Leave the UK. I can think of no other Constitutional change anywhere where such a low margin of voters have altered the status quo with unforeseeable consequences.

Finally, at a General Election the electorate get a chance to vote again in 5 years. With the EU referendum anyone demanding a second one to confirm the biggest Constitutional change in recent years once it is known what it will actually mean is greeted with accusations of being undemocratic because Brexit is the ‘will of the people’. Correction: it was the expressed will, apparently, of 27% of the people on one day in June 2016. Some were just registering protest votes against the government, some may have changed their minds since, and the other 73% either were not given a vote or might like to vote when the actual terms and consequences of Brexit are known. How can that be undemocratic? You might as well say once we’ve had a General Election the party who got the most seats in Parliament rules forever!

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