On the morning of Friday 24th June 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum, the shock of finding that Brexit had clinched the vote was for me eclipsed by only one thing – the ferocity of the outrage from remainers.
Perhaps insensitively many Brexiteers at the time dismissed these expressions of outrage and disappointment with a rather unfeeling “get over it”. And, unsurprisingly, the response was hardly an instantaneous “of course, you’re right, I will immediately change how I feel”, but rather a lot of strongly worded statements that summarised as ‘had the result been different you would be just like us right now’.
So for the immediate aftermath the demand from the quickly nicknamed ‘remoaners’ was that they be allowed to express their disappointment in the manner they imagined everyone would. And this puzzled me, because that was not how I had felt at all. Having campaigned hard for weeks for Brexit I had retired to bed at the end of referendum day firmly believing I would lose, that remain would win, but with a resolve to accept the democratic decision. I could hardly believe that all these remain voters had not done the same (it just wasn’t Cricket). It must not have occurred to them that they might lose – which would explain the huge backlash that followed. Even so, never, as far as I was aware, had the winning side of a democratic vote been held to such account, or been subject to such verbal abuse, by the losing side as on this occasion.
Still, many of us accepted that the others just needed a bit of space and time to vent, that ‘getting over it’ would, like a teenage-heartbreak, take a time to settle and then, as we Brits can do, we would rally together and make a success of independence.
But it has now been over a year since the referendum and there is still a core of ‘hard remainers’, approx 22% according to a YouGov poll in May, some of whom are far from ‘getting over it’. Quite the opposite in fact, they have devoted their energy into fighting the outcome of the referendum. To them the result cannot be allowed to stand. Those who supported it, if not racist or xenophobic, are too stupid, uninformed or duped. They admit dishonesty in the campaigns but naturally ascribe the ‘worse’ part to the Brexit campaign – what a coincidence. Now they apply every means possible from organised marches in the streets to special pleading to put Brexit on hold and re-run the vote.
This is clearly not about being given time to ‘get over it’, for these hard remainers there is no intention of ‘getting over it’. The democratic decision must be overturned, for them nothing less will do.
It is hard to reach such dogmatic determination with reason. The principle behind it is not democracy (that’s how they say we got into this mess), but rather ideology, that their favoured result must be selected (usually for a lot of reasons which were given ad nauseum before the referendum but which were unconvincing to the majority at that time). But we have seen this tactic before following various referenda at other times in EU history.
When Denmark voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 they ran the vote a second time to get the pro-EU result; when Irish voters rejected the Nice treaty in 2001 they too ran the vote a second time to get the pro-EU result; when French and the Dutch voters rejected the EU Constitution in 2005 they didn’t even bother running the vote again, instead the democratic decision was ignored and the EU ploughed ahead anyway; when the Irish voters rejected the Lisbon treaty in 2008 they again ran the vote a second time to get the pro-EU result; and when the Greek voters rejected the Euro bailout in 2015 they were simply ignored.
This is the anti-democratic, and anti-voter-sovereignty, behaviour of the EU – so we should not be surprised that hard remainers take exactly the same anti-democratic attitude. The principle of democracy and sovereignty is subordinate to whether the result is the one they wanted. So many (well meaning and not so well meaning) little tyrants.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I see many of the flaws in democracy. For my part there is far too much about democracy that allows the majority (or even the largest minority) to use the state as a club to impose on everyone things they did not support. My answer to that is to limit the scope of the state, so that even with a strong majority the state can only act within certain boundaries, while for the individual the proper scope to act for themselves is preserved. Not so the remainers. They see the same flaws in democracy, but rather than returning power to the individuals, the people, from whence the power legitimately springs and allow them to be masters of their own lives, they seek instead to hand the power of the state to those people and institutions they see as more fit and more proper wielders of it. Cleverer people than you. More informed people than you. Wiser people than you. More qualified people. More expert people. But not you, and not the people from whom the power comes. They are elitists. Benevolent and well meaning many of them, but tyrannically determined to get their way.
And so they want another vote. Not because they are great fans of the voice of the people (they blame the fact the people were asked at all, for their predicament), but because they hope to swing the majority in favour of their preferred outcome.
They clearly do expect some margin of success in bringing this about since every headline that suggests bad news about Brexit is reposted and shared while every headline of good news ignored. In very fact they really are still campaigning – in case of realising that slim chance of another vote.
Let us imagine for a moment that such a second vote is granted. There can be no basis in logic for that to be so, without then granting a third, a fourth and so on, as each losing side claims special pleading for having another go. It’s like ‘Bill and Ted’ playing games with Death, who on losing calls for best out of 3, best out of 5, best out of 7 and so on until (he hopes) he gets the result he wants, at which point there will be no further games. But it is transparent… regardless of the most careful presentation, or wording, of course this is what they want.
But there is no reason why it should be granted. The vote was taken, the question was clear, it was a binary choice, the decision was made, it is now time to get on with implementing it. There is no option for not achieving Brexit, a separation of the UK and the EU which returns all power back to UK institutions and removes all power of EU institutions from over and in the UK. It’s time to do the British thing, the democratic thing, and finally accept the decision and unite to make a success of Brexit that will turn the EU flag green.
I’m sure there is still disappointment, and for that I empathise (I expected to lose this vote after all). But for the intent of those hard remainers on overturning the democratic vote I have no empathy – over a year later it really is fair to say to them it’s time to get over it.